Bread making. It is such a daunting sport! (yes, it’s a sport.) So where do you begin?
When/if you decide to step into the world of crusty loaf making and you’re serious enough to maintain your own starter, you’ll soon discover that there are a million ways to go, and the recipes often contradict each other. Where does that leave you, the aspiring bread baker? Well it leaves you to do a TON of reading and research, and also to practice on your own. What is consistent in each recipe I’ve read is that “you have to find what works for you”…gee, thanks.
I don’t want to bore you with the trivial differences and minutia of sourdough, but I do want to provide you with some actually helpful resources if you’re interested in taking the plunge.
The Kitchn has a really helpful guide for beginning your own starter (this is what I followed). It’s fairly easy and practical. (It doesn’t start with grapes or rye flour, which you probably don’t have readily on hand) She also has pictures for EVERY step! super helpful! She bakes her sourdough in a dutch oven, which I didn’t do, but next time I will definitely try it.
One of my favorite people on Instagram and I think the queen of sourdough is Ruth. Her website Cook til Delicious also has a great recipe to follow for your first sourdough. She is a true artist, oh, and also a musician. She is a professional harpist, which is pretty awesome. Here is a link to a post she wrote about how music taught her to bake bread. (basically a lot of studying, practice, and love for your art!)
The Perfect Loaf is super helpful and provides timelines (YAY!) and very detailed instructions! He also provides a list of terms and mathematical equations (yes, bread making involves math) which is huge! Because most sites/books expect you to know that all those percentages mean and what their terminology about hydration and fermentations are talking about…so start here.
An finally, the most helpful book I’ve found is Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. My favorite part of this book are the timelines it provides: to make sourdough I’ll start at 8:30 and be done by 4:00. It’s all planned out with times so you don’t have to figure out where you are and can check to make sure you’re on track. It also has great pictures for learning how to fold your bread and score it. (But be sure to read through the instructions—for any bread recipe—many times through, because it refers to many different pages in the book and you don’t want to be flipping through the book while you’re in the process!)
My final word of wisdom: if you decide to plunge into the world of sourdough, make more than one loaf at a time. It’s a lot of work, but mostly waiting. The actually “making” of the bread is not difficult, so make a few loaves at the same time!
And what goes better with fresh bread than shakshuka?… This recipe is from Molly Yeh’s cookbook, Molly on the Range.
Let’s b[re]ake bread together.