My Long Lost Sourdough

Giant three pound loaf of pain a la Suzanne–made two nights in a row–first night only unbleached flour with some starter, second night, added some rye and whole wheat, plus sour…

Mixed: 9:45 pm at night

Folded: 12:45 pm next day

Molded: 1 pm

Baked: 3 pm

Gave: first loaf to brand new neighbor across the street (she just moved in and already has her Christmas tree up!), second loaf to the Harris Family, who are much bigger and better givers than I’ll ever be…

After rising over night

Sitting for the two-hour rise

Hot and in the pot

I’ve already told you that I grew up as a baker’s daughter. The bakery was not a small artisinal shop on a corner, it was a large operation that sat on an entire city block in Venice, CA. Pioneer French Baking Company began in 1908–so bread was plentiful in our home, even when shoes were not.

Our family’s bakery made hundreds of different types and shapes of bread. From Squaw bread to classic French to sourdough. Our sourdough was famous all through Southern California–made the old fashioned way with only patience to allow the yeast to work, not commercial additives–and it’s the bread that my father brought home most days when he returned from work. I ate a lot of sourdough growing up.

Then, I left the house, and moved to the Bay Area. There was plenty of sourdough there to keep me happy.

But alas, when my husband and I moved to Colorado for an eight-year stint, despite the fact that we were in the “bread basket” of the States… we were in Wonder Bread heaven. It was depressing…

My dad even flew out for a two-day baking retreat to try and teach me how to bake sour in my own kitchen. We bought all the necessary equipment: wooden bowls for keeping the sour alive, special flour with high protein content, dough scrapers, etc… And yet, all I could manage to make were golden weapons. Beautiful baguettes that never rose properly, that weighed much more than I did–I would lean them by my front door to use as a weapon for bad guys.

Now, I’ve returned to California and have improved in my baking skills slowly. There’s plenty of good bread to choose from–all around me–not just coming out of my own oven.

Look at that delicious crumb!

But!!! I’ve finally been able to produce a loaf of sourdough that mimicks that amazing bread from my childhood. Made in an unconventional way–this No Knead recipe I’ve mentioned a few posts back that I’m calling Pain a la Suzanne–has me completely captured!

So, for you sourdough enthusiasts who live in Wonder Bread world… I urge you to give this one a go. You’ll need to follow the recipe here: No Knead Dough Recipe

and add a bit of sourdough starter to the initial mix (I’ve been adding about 1/2 cup). Despite all my excitement about using our ancient starter from France, you (really :)) don’t need all that nostalgia to make a good one. Just a bit of flour, water and time. There’s good information for making sour here: Sourdough Starter information though it is not the only way of doing it. There are resources all over the web…

Three pounds of sourdough--yum

So, what about you? What sorts of things do you make from scratch because you just can’t find the same thing on the market? And how long did it take for you to perfect it? Me and sourdough–well, perfect isn’t the best word, but looking back, it’s been about twenty years of trying…

Twenty years. Not bad!


7 thoughts on “My Long Lost Sourdough

  1. I make my grandmother’s bran rolls. Anything involving yeast usually scares me, but after about 4 Thanksgivings and Christmases (I make them for both holidays) I finally got them to just the right texture. My kids eat them five at a time, just like I did when I was little. I love it!

  2. You are giving me courage to try. I successfully made potato rolls for Thanksgiving, last week I made onion bread, and this week I’m trying bread sticks. Perhaps, I will give the sourdough starter thing a try — it would make my husband so happy! We’re pretty cold up here in Seattle — do I need to keep it someplace really warm to keep it alive? I guess starting with the No Knead Dough recipe might be more wise. In any case, thank you for this backstory is allows for hope.

    • Emily–you are baking up a storm! Good for you; I hope you are enjoying it…

      Regarding the starter, I generally keep mine in a glass bowl, that has a plastic fitted top. The bowl stays in the fridge almost all the time unless I’m fiddling a bunch with it for a few days in a row, then I like to leave it on the counter with just a towel over it. It’s easier to keep a starter fresh in a cold climate then it is in a warm one. The more active it is, the more often it needs to be fed so that it stays fresh.

      Hope that helps!

      • Jane
        Thank you for your response. House company is starting this week and lasts until the New Year. Perhaps I will give the starter a try then.
        Baked bread sticks last night to go with lentil soup, and they just wouldn’t rise; it took 4 hours to almost double, when the recipe said it would take 45 min. I wonder if my water was too hot or not hot enough to activate the yeast. Maybe it was just a lazy bunch of yeast.
        I’m going to try to No Knead Bread this week. Perhaps starting it tomorrow to go with homemade tomato sauce on Monday.
        Thank you for your posts!

  3. Hi,

    I used this same recipe, but have yet to perfect it using whole wheat flour instead of white. Any recommendations?

    Do you use all 3 cups white flour?

    I also find the two hour extra rising time isn’t completely necessary, if you are crunched for time. Honestly, I usually eliminate it, and don’t really notice a difference, but then again we don’t like a real crusty bread so we don’t preheat the pot either :).

    Cheerio, Elisabeth from Mankato, MN

  4. Elisabeth–I have tried a rye version using 3 cups unbleached white, 2 cups rye and 1 cup whole wheat (plus some sour starter). It was edible, and rye-like, but not fabulous… I haven’t yet tried a whole wheat version–Oh, just a note, I typically double the recipe–using 6 cups of flour in one batch…

    The reason for the double batch is the size of my pot. Once I get a smaller pot I’ll pull back to the regular recipe, but these huge loaves sure are fun!

    I haven’t tried cutting out the last two-hour rise. I’m nervous to try only because I like a well-flavored, thick crumb and definitely am looking for a nice crust. But next time I’m in a pinch I’ll give it a whirl and let you know the results 🙂

    Thanks for posting, Elisabeth. Thinking of you and all your snow!

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