Two batches of sourdough
Gave two small boules to Mad’s intrepid science teacher, and shared a jaco with our in-laws
I grew up in a home where every day meant fresh sourdough bread on the table. There was an endless supply coming from our family’s bakery, and though I knew our sourdough was better than most, I was horribly surprised to land in Colorado as a young adult and discover that good bread couldn’t be found everywhere. As much as I loved the mountains in Colorado, that preservative-rich, chewy white bread that abounded there was dreadful. Eew! Eew! Eew!
In Colorado I tried to make my own sourdough but miserably failed. My baking skills were still too juvenile and I could only make beautiful yet inedible and overly sour loaves. Most of them were shaped into long flutes and served as fighting weapons for my kids. They were so heavy and hard and horrible!
Now that I’ve been baking consistently for many years now, I finally decided I was ready to become a baker of sourdough. I can keep a starter alive–I can look at dough and know where it’s at in its rise, and I’ve learned some of the oven tricks which help create an artisan loaf. I’ve been gearing up for this big day for quite some time and yippee!!! I made my first real loaf of sourdough!!!
I say real loaf because I have successfully made several very edible batches of sourdough using the no-knead method, where you add starter to your mix, along with a tiny bit of commercial yeast, and bake off your loaves in an enamel or iron pot. And believe me, the no-knead bread is an amazing imposter and worth perfecting. But what I’m talking about is this method: mix-by-hand, let rise for 12 hours, then mold, then let rise another 10 hours, then bake. It’s patience bread, really, and so worth the time…
Sourdough is made by mixing “sourdough starter,” (or mother dough–or levain) with flour, salt, and water. The starter is a yeast mixture of wild yeast, flour and water that is kept alive by regular “feedings.” I know, it sounds a lot like having another baby in the house. This baby, however, eats infrequently, and lives happily in your cupboard or fridge…
Unlike my brother’s bakery, Etxea Bakery in LA, the temperatures and climate in my house vary from day to day, so baking a loaf of sourdough takes a watchful eye. The first batch I baked rose for an initial 12 hours (from 8am to 8pm), then I molded it and let it rise on the counter until 11pm, then I put it in the fridge until 7am the next morning, when I finally baked it. Almost 24 hours start to finish. The second batch rose for 16 hours (from 10 pm until 2pm the next day!), then I molded it, and baked it off at 6pm that evening. A 20-hour journey for this batch–and quite a different voyage for the two rises. Both batches were delicious, but so varied in the way those little yeasties went to work…
Some things I learned:
- The first rise, just like in all other types of baking, will always take much longer
- Sourdough is very resilient. The bread can even seem a bit flimsy when going into the oven, like it has overproofed, but the oven spring is amazing.
- Working with sourdough seems very forgiving. The time frames are so much longer–if you need another half hour to finish a chore, it won’t ruin the bread to wait…
I’ll be posting a sourdough recipe in the next few weeks. For now, if you live in LA and want some terrific sourdough that my brothers are producing, you can grab a friend or spouse, and head to one of these hot restaurants for a taste 🙂
Paradise Cove Beach Cafe–Malibu
26 Beach Restaurant–Venice
Cafe on Location–Tarzana
Fonz’s Steaks and Seafood–Manhattan Beach
Fratelli’s NY Pizza–Woodland Hills
John O’Groats–West LA
Kate Mantilini’s–Beverly Hills
Kate Mantilini’s-Woodland Hills
Lawry’s Carvery–Century City
Lawry’s Carvery–S Coast Plaza
Literati Cafe–West LA
Neli’s Deli–West LA
Nichol’s Restaurant–Marina del Rey
Petrelli’s Steakhouse–Culver City
Rock’n Fish–Manhattan Beach
The Galley–Santa Monica
The Great Greek–Sherman Oaks
Tony’s Liquor and Deli–Sherman Oaks
Venice Beach Wines–Venice
Sorrento’s Italian Market–Culver City
Zin Bistro–Westlake Village
Jane, I have been having some success with the sourdough mother-only no-knead bread. However, my mother can get really strong, so I am looking for a recipe just like you have described here. I hope you post it soon. I’m in a break baking mood. I made a Modena Mountain Bread today from a sponge I started yesterday at 8:00am. It’s the best!
Add L’epicerie to that list of Etxea’s suppliee. The sour dough we tried last week was rather phenomenal.