authentic sourdough bread, BLT

Tomatoes are in season presently and Tony's carries farm fresh. It's a once-a-year opportunity that lasts a few months then poof there goes the amazing locally farmed tomatoes for the whole rest of the year. I wanted to enjoy them simply on sourdough bread so I bought a loaf there at Tony's. It was the end of the day. The only type they had available was precut. Who even does that to sourdough? That was my first signal the bread isn't right.

I got home and prepared an open face tomato sandwich. The tomato is fantastic but the bread is crap. I could not have been more disgusted. I had just been ripped off.


Tremendous resentment boiled and rose up within me.

I could barely control my emotion.

Is it you think that I don't know what I'm buying? Or you actually don't know what you're selling?

Apparently I know more about sourdough bread than commercial sourdough bakers know.

Could it be that I read more books about sourdough bread than sourdough bakers did?  That I have more experience collecting and handling cultures and baking sourdough bread than sourdough bakers do? Could it be that my appreciation for the real deal is greater than experts in the field?

Yes. That could be.

Man, I was pissed off. I paid $6.00 for a loaf of specialized bread that is pure crap.

Immediately without even finishing my tomato sandwich I rummaged my sourdough cultures. Decided on Denver culture collected a few years ago, dried to chunky powder and frozen. This culture will have to be reactivated, built up to full bubbling activity, developed to dough and then fermented. The whole process will take up to a week.

Imagine that. Want a sandwich? Wait a week. Obviously, home sourdough bakers keep the process going. But I don't eat that much bread.

Surprise! This culture is so powerful, so responsive, that process is reduced to 12 hours. But there is still time required for full fermentation to develop full acidic flavor. It's like beer. Its fermentation simply cannot be rushed. So I had my bread in 3+1/2 days. And, man, is it ever delicious. Real sourdough bread. The kind that you cannot buy. With flavor and characteristics in responsiveness, speed, impact, crumb and crust  completely unique to Denver. Better than all my other favorite cultures, and I've tried at least a dozen very good ones.

The dry frozen culture was retrieved from the freezer and mixed with water and flour but not salt and given the heat of a 100W lamp. Careful not to cook it with the lamp, I kept checking each hour. Seven hours later and now with the lamp off and at room temperature it was bubbling out of the jar having more than doubled its mass.

That was used to inoculate a batch of dough. Five hours later at room temperature the dough had nearly peaked in the bowl. The bowl was placed in the refrigerator.

This is astonishingly fast.

Three days later the bowl was pulled from the refrigerator and overturned onto the work surface.

In the refrigerator it continued to peak and then fell back as it does. It looked like this.

I have a plastic bench scraper that can be bent to the shape of the bowl. I scoop out flour into the palm of my hand and tapping my fingertips against the inside rim depositing flour all around the rim of the bowl then used the flexible bench scraper to shove the ring of flour down alongside the wet dough. It only goes so far down so I repeated the process to loosen the whole dough mass from the bowl before dumping it upside down onto a lightly floured work surface.

The dough is wet and difficult to manage. It is stretched in all directions redistributing the yeast. Now each yeast cell has new party buddies in propinquity and they come back to life reproducing like mad. They're sex maniacs. Salt is incorporated between folds. This is all the kneading that this dough gets.

Judging by the way the dough acts I believe now that more kneading would be better before fermentation. Even when wet it can still be mixed to develop gluten strands. This loaf did not make a proper skin, and kneading, or insufficient kneading is responsible for that.

A cookie sheet is used to transport the wet floppy dough into searing hot clay cloche. It cannot be picked up with hands.


I'm such a cowboy.

I'm such a gold miner.

Look at me, I'm historic.

I'm an ancient Egyptian. 

I'm an ancient Roman.

I'm Greek.

No seriously, where else are you going to get anything like this? Nowadays, nowhere. That's where. This bread blows my mind. 

This is what bread was like all through history. From the absolute beginning of civilization until very recently. Our entire line of ancestors enjoyed bread just like this until that fateful day during WWII when Fleischmann's developed single cell granular dried active yeast. The fartiest of them all. Then the whole world of bread making, marketing, distribution reached undreamt of heights while simultaneously going straight to h-e-double breadsticks. And now, as most mass marketed foods go, the distance between producers and consumers is so vast that it all seems overwhelmingly mysterious and magical as if it takes experts and magicians and genius scientist with their science labs to do the most simple things. Like make catsup or mustard or peanut butter. When nothing could be farther from truth. The first time I made a loaf of bread in my teens carefully following Betty Crocker instructions step by step, with the book opened and continuously returning to it line for line, it felt like I had just performed brain surgery. And now I don't even bother measuring anything. Just toss things into a bowl and adjust as required. 

No comments:

Blog Archive