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Starring in Your Life Lesson: Sourdough The Gateway Bread to Baking Bliss

March 1, 2013

It all started with a starter.

Starring in Your Own Life Sourdough Roll

Starring in Your Own Life Sourdough Roll

I Have No Class

It was only after I got notice of a free class on how to make sourdough bread that I realized that homemade sourdough was exactly what was missing from my life.

Malheureusement, I had to miss the class because of family responsibilities.

But that did not stop my longing. So what are your options when you can’t go in person?

You go virtual of course.

So I Googled and Youtubed my way to getting instructions on the most critical part of making sourdough. That would be the magic called the starter, which gives

the dough its sour, its oomph, its lift, its gas, aka  the leavening.

Clicking with Steve The Bread Guy

I clicked on the video of Steve The Bread Guy

And I ended up really clicking with him.  His instructions are very straightforward, plus I like the fact that he is not so very precise about measurements, so you don’t feel

as if you’ll blow the recipe if your measurements are off an ounce or if you knead 49 times instead of 50. I don’t  (turn away baking purists) have a scale, so for now I really appreciate the leeway. Plus, I like his Canadian accent, at least I think he’s from Canada. He is very much an instructive but gentle teacher. You get the feeling if you get something wrong, he won’t throw his rolling pin at you. I don’t even think he would mind that I use a mixer, not my hands to knead.


Wild  (Yeast) Things

Watching the video opened up a whole new world for me. The ingredients are simple and inexpensive enough. all-purpose flour, water, honey, potatoes, salt and yeast.

You actually use the water that is produced from boiling the potatoes.

The purpose of  jus de pomme de terre is to help in the souring process. I also found recipes that use apples, grapes, pineapple and even yogurt.

Who knew that critical ingredient for sourdough flies among us every day? Yes , there are buck wild yeast just waiting to be captured in order to provide sweet sourness to your dough. All you have to do is put out your starter to capture the bacteria for baking.

Okay, so I’m behind the times a bit. Ancient Egyptians knew it. Gold miners in San Francisco during the gold rush knew it. In fact Sunset magazine reports the Boudin Bakery brand has starters today that can be traced back more than 150 years.

Patience, My Dear, Patience

There are starters that never really  get started. They break bad. They are discolored.


I’ve seen a number of forums where wannabe sourdoughers have shared their tales of woe. If you suspect your starter has gone wrong, toss it and repeat. You also have the option of buying starter again.

The only thing wrong with my starter, at the beginning, is that I wanted to rush things along. On my first round of baking sour dough bread, I fast forwarded Steve The Bread Guy’s schedule and ended with dense slices. You are supposed to let the bread rise two times and I’ll confess in my haste to taste, I only let it rise once and ending up pain handling the bread too much.

Working with starters is a study in patience. A good thing. In fact artisanal bakers prefer breads to rise slowly, in order to develop maximum flavor.  Patience is just one of the things baking is teaching me.

Yesterday a Sourdough Loaf, Today Sourdough Pizza, Tomorrow The Bread World

Yes, I was a bit dense in the beginning, but every sourdough loaf, sourdough roll, and sourdough pizza I have made subsequently has been successful. So successful that it has inspired me to make other breads that involve starter-like components known as bigas, soakers and poolishes. Those extra elements simply involve mixing some combination of flour, water, yeast and sugar and letting it sit, in order to create complex flavors. Banging brioche. One hundred percent whole wheat yet light bread. I’m so in. I’ve made good bread and cake before, with success and with yeast. But this is a whole new world.

I’ve already been experimenting, using higher ratios of starter to dough. Every attempt has been successful, perhaps the best example was whole wheat pizza that relatives have confused with take out.  I almost fell asleep last night while taking to a chef student about the differences between active and dry yeast. I’ve made good bread and cake before, with success and with yeast. But this is a whole new world.

I love the creativity. The savings.  The bliss of bread making.

And it all started with a starter.

Starring in Your Own Life Lessons

What else is out there, flying around you that you can capture with the right ingredients and a cupful of your time?

Try something new. Do it until you score success. Scale up. Follow your bliss.

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