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February 17, 2008 / ji11

Sourdough Bread: Notes For Beginners

I have spent the last couple of months experimenting baking Sourdough bread. This morning I realized I made a big mistake. I haven’t been keeping notes (except for in my head). Anyone conducting any kind of experiment knows what a big mistake that is, so I’m coming here to correct it.

First, where to get starter? I found several places on the internet to get some both free and for a fee. Knowing nothing I kind of closed my eyes and picked Breadtopia. I am a visual learner so I appreciate the videos there and the folks seem nice. Eric hand wrote a nice note and included some instruction to get started.

As far as recipes, there again are thousands on the web. I have not yet tried Breadtopias “no knead” as I do not own a clay baker, but it gets great reviews.

I did try other recopies on that site, but had poor luck. It could have been my beginner status though so don’t be afraid to try them. I have since gravitated to the Exploratorium for bread and I love the Yankee Grocery waffle recipe.

As with any job I find that the tools are important. I have resisted running out and buying things since I have history doing that and later dropping a hobby and retaining the “stuff”. I did end up getting a pizza stone though and it made a huge difference in the quality of my bread. My oven is a terrible old electric that I lack confidence in. I find it helps regulate the heat for all my cooking now so I leave it in there all the time now. The other thing is use a razor for scoring the loaves prior to baking. A knife just isn’t going to do the job, no matter how sharp it is. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.

Your starter should have come with instructions and if it didn’t that is easy to google. I am not so much interested in reinventing or reiterating information already out there, but to share my own experiences both successes and failures during the process. Baking bread is fun, easy and not really all that time consuming. Most of the time spent is waiting on rising and proofing, where you can be off doing other things you enjoy. I love that my bread is always fresh and free of preservatives.

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