Sunday, January 29, 2012

My New Superpower is Baking Sourdough Bread

Nothing has brought more comfort to our home and family than baking.  Simple, yes, but so rewarding.  Doesn't matter how messy my house is, or how cranky we've been, pulling something out of the oven brings instant 'comfort.'  And yes, there's a certain psychology in play when my kids come home and this wonderful SMELL hits them right as they open the door.  Yep, I know how to create family harmony (at least once in awhile.) Or at least I'm not ashamed of a little bribery :)

Oh yes, and notice my SaWEET oven.  A bit of a splurge on that baby.  Dual-fuel convection oven, with a high BTU burner, among other features.  Some people buy new furniture and stuff like that.  Silly people. But I've got my priorities.  I got myself a 'hot' new oven.  HOT, get it??? HOT! 

This post is dedicated today to my old friend and my college roomie Madolynn.  I had tried to bake bread so many times, and every time I made rocks.  I was convinced I was cursed - she convinced me otherwise.  I'll never, ever, forget that first wonderful loaf she helped me to make. There isn't a week that goes by now  without something yummy comming out of my oven (OK and many distasters, too), but how often I still think of her showing me how to 'punch down the dough' or knead it by hand.  Thanks, Madolynn.

I also owe a great debt to all my fabulous church sisters who took my baking to levels I never thought possible!  What wonderful teachers they have been. All the books and internet information in the world can't give you the experience of watching skilled hands maneuver some dough.  I am very blessed.

Ahhhh, but today - I have achieved new culinary merits.  Gone to greater heights than I ever dreamed possible!  I am a baker EXTRORDINAIRE!!!!  I finally, (OK, fourth time is the charm) made REAL Sourdough bread.  No commercial yeast, not even a pinch in the starter.  I mixed together flour and water and voila - I have a pet to feed that gives me yummy bread.  It truly is a miracle to me, and entirely fascinating, that I could really do that. 

I have been so accustomed to putting that tablespoon or two of commercial yeast in my dough and knowing exactly how it will rise.  Now it amazes me to watch this bread rise without any of that in there at all!  Just natural yeast, that came from my flour, my air, my kitchen.

There are so many versions of how to start a culture you could get lost reading books and looking on the internet for how to do it.  I certainly did, but here's the link to the version that worked for me.  From a very funny, talented, Southern Lady, an internet version of Paula Deen, who I'll now be grateful to forever.

She even has video links of the process - How great is that?? 

Now as I write, I realize this has been a triumph of FAITH.  I kept reading about natural yeast, I kept trying to culture it, but after three failed attempts I was pretty discouraged.  I didn't give up 'believing' that it was possible.  I can't see the microorganisms - it just looks like I'm adding a flour/water batter to my bread.  And the bread rises so SLOWLY it leaves you wondering all along the way if you were wrong, but in the end it springs up beautifully in the oven.  I'm so glad now, that I didn't give up. Sometimes things we can't see are very real - and very wonderful.

Here's my crazy life teaching me new things each and every day!

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