Friday, November 14, 2008


I'm back to obsessing over sourdough bread and the making of it. I. must. conquer. this. It's just BREAD for pete's sakes. How hard can it be?

See, I have a little OCD goin' on. Besides the quirky things I obsess over in a car-- weaving an imaginary line between the dashes on the center line of the road, making with windshield wipers come down only between the power poles or reflector posts... what? I'm a freak, okay?-- or my manic pantern-finding tendencies, I tend to obsess over things that I'm trying to learn. Trouble is, when I get it to a certian point or run out of steam, then I move on and don't go back to it unless I really need to. That's why I can do so many things, but I'm not really good at any of them.

But my current obsession is artisan-style sourdough bread. I have learned that the lack of a hearth oven is the least of my problems. I've learned how to make up for that over at Northwest Sourdough. (This woman is a genius! She invented a bread baking tecnique involving a baking stone, a spray bottle of water and a ROASTING LID to hold the humidity in like a bread cloche. Wow! Why didn't I think of that! Works great! Her website design is a little befuddling, though, and everytime I'm browsing around I keep wondering if she would trade a website for bread baking supplies...) No, I'm not too worried about the oven-- I've totally compensated for that problem. My problem is... well... everything else. The maintaining of a starter is still a mystery to me. Figuring and controling the hydration is... frustrating (I'm just not that precise. That's why I'm a better cook than baker.) I find myself dearly wishing for a couple of bannetons so that my free-form loaves don't go all flat. Oh-- then there's the mixing and kneading. Ugh. It's reeeally hard to get good gluten development by hand! I'm going to be getting paid for a website soon and I could SO easily blow most of it on one of these mixers right now. (Good thing there are too many bills to allow THAT kind of behavior!)

I went back to Crust and Crumb and spent the past week building a starter. (though I think I might end up splurging on a starter from Northwest Sourdough.) So today I baked the first loaves. And they're... edible. Just.

The crusts are lovely --thanks to the baking method-- that's for sure. Crispy and blistery. Nice! I slashed with a razor blade, so that looks good.

The insides, however... not so much.

Pretty dense and not a very open or strong crumb. Rising didn't go well-- I think my starter is just not powerful enough. I think the particular flour that I used is not good for bread. I'm using white flour from my co-op, but it's not really bread flour. The problem is that I can't find organic (and non-rancid) white bread flour. I really just want to use my fresh ground hard white wheat, but that creates it's own problems. Arg.

So next I'll try a higher hydration dough (but I MUST find something to proof them in or the loaves will really be flat!) and maybe I can get better gluten development and rise that way. Also, I think I'll troll around for a good sourdough discussion forum so I can ask questions and feed the obsession!

Are you bored yet? Don't worry, the obsession is not even near petering out so there's more to come!


  1. So good! My mother just told me today that I will be getting her bread machine. I am so excited (our oven is still not working) and I am so looking forward to being able to make fresh bread!

    By the way, thanks for giving ME, another OCD person ideas of MORE things to obsess over. I'll probably wreck the next time I drive. lol.

  2. Haha! Yeah, OCD is a driving hazard!

    Mmm! Enjoy your fresh bread-- there's nothing quite like it!

  3. Have you ever been to He has a whole wheat starter and recipes. I think I even saw a recipe for a loaf using spelt. And you can email him your questions and he will write you back...I did it once. :) Very interesting site, though. Your loaves sure looked pretty!

  4. OMG... I make windshield wipers come down in between power poles too! OK.. not quite, but I am totally OCD about all kinds of weird things.
    That bread.. that bread looks amazing! If you lived any closer to me (I guess I don't know where you live so I don't know how close you are) I would totally pay money for that bread. I like the crumb... looks like it would hold a lot of butter :)