The first time I ever had this great bread was in my sister-in-law's kitchen. I thought I was eating some artisan bakery bread when she casually mentioned that she had made it herself. I've made a lot of bread over the years but I've NEVER made bread like what I was eating. The world of bread changed at that moment for me. Two years ago I wrote a lot about sourdough on my blog, My Sister's Kitchen. Since then, with a lot of practice almost daily, my recipe and technique has been perfected--at least for MY kitchen! (If you want to read more about my sourdough journey, please feel free to check out My Sister's Kitchen.)
I had resigned myself to simply buying good, crusty sourdough since I never even came close to replicating the famous San Francisco sourdough loaves I ate as a child. But no longer~! For over two years now my kitchen counter has been lined with many bowls of starter, batter, dough, etc. (Dr. Seuss aficionados should think, Bartholomew and the Ooblek.) My entire kitchen has been taken over by this wonderful project. So far, the results have been overwhelmingly excellent!
A very important detail to note is that this method makes extra large loaves that are approximately 4.5 pounds each. Each loaf costs only $0.68 to make. That is sixty-eight cents. I buy flour and yeast in bulk, so it's possible that if you buy your ingredients at a regular grocery store, your loaf might cost twice that....a whopping $1.36! As you'll see, that's for a loaf that's about 3 times the size of a loaf of grocery store bread.
(And don't be intimidated by all the steps. I've broken things down into as simple increments as possible because this is really EASY!)
In some ways, sourdough starter is the ultimate renewable resource because it's ALIVE! I was coaching a friend through her first bread-making experience and explaining how to care for her starter. She turned to me and said, "You're talking about this starter like it's a live creature!" And she's right. It IS a live critter. As long as I keep it comfortable and well-fed, it will go on growing, replicating, and replenishing itself.
The art of making sourdough bread is a delightful exercise in returning to the "olden days" of some of the original DIYers--the gold miners and the pioneers. Sourdough isn't a new, green technology; it's an old, even ancient, technology that has sustained people for milennia. Making our own sourdough returns us to an age of LESS technology and LESS speed. Don't forget: LESS money too!
Sourdough bread, made properly, ambles slowly in a world that frantically runs. It might even ask for a tall glass of sweet tea and a rocking chair on the porch.
Step 1: How in the world does sourdough save energy?
First of all, any time we prepare our own food instead of buying it at the supermarket, we're choosing a lower tech option.
*We start by saving the fuel cost of driving to the store to buy bread.
*We save the energy cost of the commercial manufacturing process of baking bread.
*We save the fuel costs of shipping commercial bread to stores.
*We know exactly what's IN our bread because we've made it by hand. There are no additives or funky unnatural ingredients.
*Every step of the breadmaking process is done by hand. We don't use mixers or blenders or any power-consuming appliances.
*We can even choose the option of baking our bread in the woodstove, on the charcoal grill, or over a campfire if we want to avoid using the oven.
*Both bread-making and the cultivation of sourdough starters have some great community implications. We're not in this alone. Just like the yeasts in the sourdough, we can permeate our communities with change.
*Best of all, anyone can make this bread. The average individual who is trying to live responsibly, minimize use of non-renewable resources, maximize use of renewable resources, and make small but significant changes can easily start making bread like this.
*Sourdough starter itself is a great example on a small scale of a renewable and renewing resource. The crock of starter sitting on the counter can remind you every day that small things make a difference.
So let's get started. This is much more of a method than a recipe. It's not difficult. The entire process takes several hours, but for most of that time, the starter does all the heavy lifting.