I’ve been trying to make sourdough bread (again) the past couple of months. I’m referring to true, levain sourdough bread. That means the bread does not have added yeast. It’s only organic flour, water, salt, and levain (homemade starter culture).
My efforts last year were lousy, and I hung up my apron (temporarily), while I let the expert bakers do what they do best: bake sourdough bread and I do what I do best: buy sourdough bread.
But. I’m a “chop wood, carry water” woman.
And. I like to save money.
Back to the kitchen I went with determination to try try and try again. And … to eat my mistakes. Not a bad deal :)
I started with a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated that looked easy enough. I watched the videos multiple times. I read, reread, and reread (again and again) the directions.
Mom always said that was most of the success of making a recipe (read the directions, read them again, and then read them again).
My first loaf was not what I was looking for, but we ate it anyway. I called it sourdough bagel bread. Hefty and dense.
I took to the internet to compare recipes since Cook’s Illustrated had some unique variations (like not pre-heating the oven). Plus, our summers in AZ are hot as hell and I don’t waste money keeping a cold home like I used to. Hence, I had to adjust for that.
I kept to the main recipe but tried adjusting for temperature (like a shorter bulk fermentation time) and better “folding” techniques… but still my bread was coming out super dense and bagel-like. (Though, not so bad when toasted.)
I tried more. I kept studying and learning and considering tweaks. I rewrote my notes. I planned. I highlighted.
I even visualized.
I wanted my daughter to see me having the results I did (i.e., failures), and see that I kept trying. I persevered. I didn’t give up.
Finally, I decided to try a proof overnight in the fridge AND I tried a bake in a blazing hot pre-heated oven.
The moment I cut a slit in the dough before putting it in the oven, I thought I was going to have more success than previously, because the slit revealed an excited energy that looked eager to bake high for me.
After taking the lid off mid-bake, I gasped at the height. It was working!
When the bake was finished, I had a hot house filled with sourdough aroma, the sign of work and pleasure come together, from a loaf that was the most gorgeous I’ve made.
Then, I heard it.
My bread was singing to me.
“The singing of a crackling loaf as it cools.”
My eyes welled up with tears.
Then, I patiently waited a few hours for a full cool down before cutting into it.
I called Kamea over to participate. We took a deep breath. I cut the bread.
I did it.