Sunday, March 28, 2010

BBA Challenge Bread #30 — Basic Sourdough

Basic SD-starter

I've noticed something as I've become more familiar with cooking, baking and all things foodie. There are as many snobs as there are foods – and drinks. I think the one that first comes to mind for me and for many others is the "wine snob." But pick a food, any food, and you'll find snobs there, too. Chocolate, cheese, coffee—just a very few that first come to mind. But I've also discovered that there are many bread snobs out there, too.

Let me clarify my definitions before I really start to rub someone the wrong way. I don't have any beef with people that love wine, or chocolate, or cheese, or coffee or bread and have definite opinions on what they like and enjoy. Heck, I'm one of them. I love all of those things. But for me, a line is crossed when someone – anyone, be they a recognized expert to just some other blogger with an opinion – proclaims that what they love and enjoy is the be all end all, and that anything else is garbage and shouldn't be touched with a 10 foot pole. THOSE are snobs. The ones that don't recognize that there are, in fact, many people out there that don't share their tastes or opinions. But to them it doesn't matter. They're right, you're wrong, period.

I run from those kinds of foodies as fast as I can, because there are so many others out there that, thankfully, aren't like that at all. Sure they have definite favorites and would never personally eat or drink certain foods, but recognize that other people would and do. Those are the kinds of people I love to follow and read. They get it.

So when I read recently on a random foodie message board someone use the term "real bread," my hackles rose. To some people out there, "real" bread consists of just water, flour, salt and yeast and the rest is, apparently, fake bread.

Here's what is so wonderful about the BBA group: Nary a bread snob in sight, even though we all have our favorites and openly give our opinions. At least we recognize that they are just that – opinions, not fact. Some really enjoy sourdough bread and prefer them to commercial yeast breads, or to the enriched varieties, but they don't eschew the others altogether. We decided, as a group, to try them ALL. For me, this means making sourdough, a kind of bread I don't particularly care for, but think deserves its fare chance.

Which is why this is my second attempt at PR's Basic Sourdough.  I made this the first time way back at the beginning of January, but was less than thrilled with the results. It was just OK. After finally having more time on the weekends and taking that time to make bread, I gave it another go.

My first effort wasn't a disaster. The proofed loaves looked promising.
Basic SD-1st try-proofed

But the hearth baking didn't produce quite what I'd hoped. The loaves were pale and the taste was nothing to write home about.
Basic SD-1st try-baked2

So I changed things up a bit with my next try. I decided to use my Pampered Chef stonewear baker. I've had good luck using it with other, commercial yeast breads. For full disclosure, I have to admit that I DID spike this with commercial yeast. PR said I could, and it speeds up the process, something I found very appealing.

Basic SD-proofed

Basic SH-baked

I love how the stone roasting pan works. I preheat it in the oven just as I would my flat baking stone. Then I plop the dough in, parchment paper and all, quickly covering with the lid. I let it bake about 20 minutes with the lid on, then take it off for the rest of the time. The enclosed baker performs the same function as the steam pan, keeping moisture in, keeping the crust hyrated, letting the bread expand. It does brown up with the lid on, but removing it lets it get nice and brown and crusty.

Basic SD-overhead

Basic SD-crumb

I'm still not completely sold on this bread, but it sure looked good. The taste is rather bland and the texture is sort of ... spongy. I've noticed that with the various breads I've made with my starter.

Can someone out there tell me — is that normal? Do sourdough breads tend to have a spongy texture?

Check out these other BBA bakers' Basic Sourdough loaves:

Victoria at Goth Panda
Daniel at Ährelich Gesagt
Janice at Round the Table


  1. I must say your basic sourdough loaf looks much better than the one I ended up with. I think your baker definitely helped. Good for you for trying it again!

  2. I was just bequeathed a pile of PC stoneware...a 9x13 pan and a big huge bowl. I actually thought of using the large stoneware bowl as a steamer and I'm glad you found that it worked!
    My hubby loves a sharp, tangy sourdough ~ unfortunately, you can't get it here in UT. I believe the characteristics of sourdough take on whatever you have in your climate...

  3. I co-ordinate the Real Bread Campaign in the UK.

    What could be more egalitarian than saying that basic Real Bread simply needs to be made with flour, water, yeast and salt?

    Not quite sure how people who don't want thair daily loaf chock-full of additives could be classed as snobs.

    Does this make elitists of people who want butter made of nothing but milk fat and salt?

    Anyway - love the look of the loaves here.

    Happy baking

    Chris Young

  4. Thanks, Cathy!

    Frieda - Give it a shot. I've also seen where people will use a stainless steel bowl over the top of the loaf as it sits on a stone - same effect, I guess. I'm tempted to try it some time.

  5. Chris - I completely agree with you. Real bread IS water, flour, salt and yeast. I wasn't really thinking in terms of mass produced, over processed bread found in most grocery stores. I agree that home baked is the way to go.

    I was thinking in terms of other kinds of home made breads, enriched breads, ones with butter, sugar, dried or candied fruit - that sort of thing. The kind of snobby comments I'm referring to are those that believe "real bread' is ONLY the lean, rustic kind of bread, the rest isn't real bread. I guess that's what I meant, but didn't articulate it clearly.

    Thanks for stopping by. While I don't completely agree with your "What is Real Bread" description on your about page, I fully appreciate your campaign for real bread. Obviously I love homemade bread, otherwise it would be silly to bake my way through an entire bread book!

  6. I don't think I've ever produced a loaf of bread that I was happy with. I do my research and follow instructions to a T, but my bread just doesn't have the flavor or texture of classic artisan bread. You bread looks great though!

  7. Valen- Than you so much for stopping by and commenting because now I know about your blog. It looks wonderful! I anticipate getting lots of great info there.

    As far as bread goes, I think practice make a huge difference. It's still hit or miss with me and artisanal bread. I can make a mean enriched bread, but the lean ones are tricky, I think. Have you ever tried the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day technique? I would suggest checking it out of the library and giving it a try. I think it's a great system and resource.

    Good luck!

  8. I think you did a fantastic job with this. As far as the "sponginess" factor goes, I have no idea. My experience with sourdough is so limited that I'm flying by the seat of my pants also.

  9. Real Bread vs Fake Bread -- ha ha that's funny. I'm a Pastry Snob myself at times. It's not that I can't enjoy a good old boxed cake every once in awhile, but I've become pretty disenchanted with some of the crap some of the stores sell and pass off as "baked goods". I had to make my parents some pumpkin muffins recently. They had spent a few of their hard earned retirement dollars on some alleged pumpkin muffins at the supermarket, and they were, well in one word - sh&t. The even called me over to taste them and they were indeed vile. The spice mix? I think they included some kind of soap flakes, possibly old coffee grounds. It was one of the few servings of food that I threw away. In my house growing up, and in my house now, we don't do such things.

    It was a similar purchase they made that actually motivated me to get baking again - they had bought something the store called Linzer Squares, and let me tell you, there was nothing at all Linzer about them. So I came up with something that the folks really liked

    The other thing that makes me crazy is when a store names a cake or pastry something that it's not. Such as taking some kind of fruit and yeast dough thing and calling it a Strudel. It's nothing near a Strudel. Stollen is another abused term. I think it bothers me most because I see the true method and tradition of some old time pastry standards getting lost in the mix so to speak.


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