Good Eats and Sweet Treats from My Small Boston Kitchen

Sourdough French Country Bread for Daring Bakers

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

I had some serious trouble getting it together for this month’s challenge. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, so it should’ve been a priority, but with the holidays and life getting in the way, I just couldn’t seem to fit it in. Fortunately, this week was a bit quieter, and I finally had some time to pull together something good enough to post!

Early this year, my Grandfather gave me a portion of his sourdough starter, which he has been using for over 20 years. It started in his family, and he’s kept it alive all these years, using it regularly enough to keep it fresh, and replenishing it each and every time he makes a loaf of bread. When he gave it to me, it took months for me to gain the courage to use it. He’s quiet the purist, and has never used yeast, just the sourdough’s own natural yeast, to leaven the bread. Since he had so graciously given it to me, I figured I needed to follow his rules and skip the yeast, but as someone who’s never done that before it was a pretty daunting task.

When I finally got up the courage to make a loaf of bread, the first batch was a bust. I misunderstood his instructions, which were mostly augmentations to an old recipe he had, and I ended up with an extremely dense dough, that wouldn’t rise no matter what I did. So I told him what I’d done and the results I’d gotten, and with a bit more guidance and instruction, I nailed it on the second try. I made a white whole wheat oatmeal molasses sourdough – it’s a nice and hearty bread with oatmeal throughout, and slightly sweet notes from the molasses. Absolutely fantastic, and it felt amazing to make bread out of natural ingredients like flour and water, and lots of patience, love and care.

When I saw this month’s assignment, it was a funny coincidence, since I’d just made my first real batch of sourdough about a month ago. The recipes provided to us were vastly different than the recipe I used from my grandpa, so the process was interesting to go through since it was again new to me. I decided on the French Country Bread, which uses basic flours to create a rustic, hearty bread. A lot of aspects of making the actual bread – like letting the yeast ferment on a wet counter-top under a moistened bowl – were not things I’d ever thought to do, and I was a bit nervous the bread wouldn’t come together at all, but lo and behold, it came out beautifully! I had to make a few substitutions due to not finding ingredients in stores (for some reason I couldn’t find any whole wheat bread flour), so I imagine the consistency isn’t exactly right, but it still worked out quite well. The sourdough flavor is extremely mild – you probably wouldn’t know it was sourdough without being told, but it’s a got a great consistency. It’s very dense and relatively moist, and I imagine it’d be a great toast bread with some homemade preserves. It would also work sliced thin as a sandwich bread – I think I might try that out tomorrow!

The second part of the challenge was to make something out of the bread we created, and when I asked Kevin what he thought I should do with it, he immediately suggested french toast for breakfast. I wasn’t sure how it would work out, because the bread is pretty dense, and I didn’t think it’d soak up the egg as well as a softer bread might. I used this french toast recipe as a guide, and added some vanilla and cinnamon for flavor, then I let the bread hang out in there until I felt it was moist enough. It was definitely a firmer french toast than I’m used to, but in the end the flavor was good, and I found that the sourdough flavor was more apparent in the french toast. We served the french toast with maple syrup and blueberries, plus fried eggs and pineapple on the side. It was a great way to start the last day of 2011!

Check back later… I’ve got a 2nd post coming today… and Happy, Happy New Years to you!

One Response to “Sourdough French Country Bread for Daring Bakers”

  1. Sacha says:

    It’s so beautiful that you’re grandfather has been maintaining that starter for so long. This new loaf looks great. Happy baking in 2012!

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