I may be crazy busy these days with my new job -- it's not like I'm loafing around -- but I still manage to make a little dough from time to time. Of the bread variety, anyway.
Boy do I love fresh bread. So a few months ago, I -- self-proclaimed foodie and kitchen maven -- started teaching myself to bake. I recall reading somewhere that the aroma of fresh bread activates some kind of primal "happiness" reaction in the human brain, regardless of the age, language, or culinary culture of the person who smells it. Happiness (and bread) sounds good to me....
For those of you beginning bakers, let me first say that there's no shame in starting out with a breadmaker. I myself borrowed one from my friend Mike and the bread came out decently well, if a bit oddly shaped. See? My herbed shallot and dried herb bread turned out to be a good tastin' loaf. It was especially nice because the breadmaker didn't heat up my apartment during the steamy summer months.
But after seeing me crank out loaf after loaf and smelling the divine bready fumes in my apartment, Mike wanted his machine back to start using it more himself. And, to be fair, I was ready for my next challenge. It was at this point that I decided to abscond with my mom's dutch oven after dinner one night at my parents' place. Throughout the early autumn months I started cranking out the (almost) no-knead bread... A little dry, I noticed as I experimented with different kinds of beer and vinegar in the recipe, but good slathered with pastured butter or some of the peach lavender preserves I'd made over the summer.
Check out that texture, eh? Delicious.
Eventually, mom noticed that her dutch oven was missing -- I'm convinced that somebody ratted me out (maybe dad inadvertently mentioned it was missing when he was looking for something in which to make some ratatouille) because, seriously, who besides me inventories their kitchen? -- and so I sheepishly returned it. But I needed bread.
Not a week after The Dutch Oven Repatriation of 2010 I happened to get into a conversation with my friend Katie about our mutual love of fresh bread. It was totally random, I swear. While I had actually come by to pick up my printer -- which she had been holding for me during my 14-month bike odyssey -- I left with my very own sourdough starter made with wild-caught DC yeast and a basic bread recipe. Here's a snapshot of Katie showing me how to "feed" it.
(Incidentally, I owe Katie a homemade dinner some day when she's back in DC as thanks for not only the sourdough starter but also for putting me in touch with the good folks at Arcadia, where I now work!)
I made my first sourdough boule a few weeks later and brought it to a dinner party at my friend Sheffy's place. Is this a good lookin' loaf or what?
There were no leftovers, only a few crumbs that dinner guests must have missed under the placemats.
I'm not sure why the next 3 boules that I made didn't come out as well. Maybe I should recreate the method of baking the first perfect loaf: bake for 30 minutes, realize that one of the oven coils is out and also that I am running late, wring my hands, wrap the partially-baked loaf in a kitchen towel, throw it in a pannier, bike 4 miles in the freezing cold, finish baking it for 30 minutes in a second (working) oven. In any case, I've got things down pretty well since then, largely based on the recipe and advice here. So of course I decided last night that I would delve into sourdough baguettes.
Yes, baguettes. What can I say, I was feeling daring. In fact, they turned out rather well. Erin and I polished one off today at lunch with some hummus. Here's the basic recipe, should you want to make your own. (Well, I mostly followed it. I used a mix of sifted all-purpose and whole wheat flour instead of cake flour. Oh, and I used a 1/2 cup of my existing sourdough starter. And I let mine rise on the counter overnight. Okay, fine, it's a recipe that I referenced....) Pretty, no?
What's that? Ah, yes, the recipe does make three, but, er, I had to taste test a bit before bringing it out in public and, well, I couldn't very well bring a baguette with a bite out of it to share with my boss, and, you know, it might've gotten stale by the time I got home tonight, so I had to dispose of it... in my belly. Luckily, the final baguette remains, so I can bring a sandwich with me during tomorrow's delivery runs with the Capital Area Food Bank -- it's part of my hands-on learning about logistics to prepare for my mobile market work with Arcadia (and boy was I hungry without a snack during yesterday's 5-hour shift).
Anyway, friends, let me know if you want a bit of my sourdough starter or recipe ideas. I'm hoping to spread the yeasty DC baking love around....