Sourdough bread

When I was a child, we lived for several years in Nuernberg, Germany. We were missionaries and my dad did a lot of work with local churches in addition to making trips out to the poverty-stricken eastern european countries. It was a very formative time in my life in many ways.

One of the things I’ll always think is ironic about that time is that I spent my time there longing to come back to the States and when I was back here at age 11, I longed to go back to Germany. We did that with the food, too – when we were there, we missed peanut butter, chocolate chips, and soft white bread. But then when I came back to the U.S., one of the things I missed the most was the good, solid German cooking, especially German bread. I went back for a visit several years ago, and one of the best things I brought back (besides chocolate) was bread that had been baked fresh the morning I left. They actually had a bakery IN the airport!

German rye bread is definitely something to be cherished. I spent many years trying to perfect it, and last year I finally did. It’s a simple sourdough rye, with wheat flour and salt. I remember when I first baked it for my mom, she took a piece and ran it upstairs and made my dad (who was still asleep) eat it. He wasn’t too impressed with the being woken up part, but everyone agreed it tasted pretty authentic.

Unfortunately, I moved into an apartment where something seemed to be wrong with the air, and my starter went bad, along with any other starters I tried to make. Even my plants died in that apartment. I was so busy that I stopped baking bread and began to buy it instead.

In July, we moved into this house and I’ve been meaning to start again. I hate to say it, but I can’t really remember what I did to make that bread taste authentic, but I decided to start again. I bought some organic whole rye flour and also pumpernickel rye from Barry Farm, and began a starter this morning. There was a perfect crock for it in one of the boxes of canning jars I recently acquired – not safe for canning in, but perfect for sourdough. I’ll keep a picture log and in a week or so when the starter is ready, I’ll post the progression photos along with instructions.

As I try and remember, I think part of my success involved my attempts at no-knead bread. No-knead bread is basically where you mix yeast with salt and flour, mix in some water to form a slack, shaggy dough, and let it sit for 24 hours or so. You bake it in a La Cloche, dutch oven, or even a lidded casserole pan.

I made a homemade baking pot from a upside-down terra-cotta flower pot (I got the idea from somewhere on the internet, it isn’t mine… can’t remember where though). What this does is trap the steam inside while the bread is baking, which makes for an amazing crust. When I tried the regular No-Knead recipe, I found it too bland for my taste but when I made a sourdough version, it was amazing. So, after a furlough, I’m excited to try again 🙂

If you are more interested in the no-knead technique, here’s a fantastic website that is very educational on the method with videos and everything – Breadtopia.

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