I received a text message from my beautiful daughter who is a 4 hour flight away from us close to the windy city. “It is 37 degrees outside, where did the leaves go? I am cold.” Hmm how should I respond? It is fall here too in our central coast town, and finally beginning to cool off. In fact I closed the french doors leading to the back porch this morning. I think we dropped to around 50 degrees. I admit, yes, our fall break has been filled with sunny weekends, warm oceans, boogie boarding and surfing-sans wet suits even! But this morning my sweet little one actually traded in her flip flops for Chuck Taylors and “why don’t you bring a sweatshirt” was actually met with a grin and a grab of one off the coat rack. I smile and ask her to: “text your sister and tell her that you needed to wear a sweatshirt this morning, and tell her you miss her and that you wish she would quit college and come home forever.”
So, whilst my beautiful eldest daughter settles into the reality of seasonal living, I attempt to remind myself that this is my fall. And now that the high is in the low 60’s I don’t feel as reticent to kick my oven into bread making mode. We live in the smallest house known to the town and our oven graciously heats the bedrooms and living room. So during the summer, bread making can tend to take a back seat. So I removed my sourdough starter from the back of the refrigerator, affectionately named fluffy by the girls, let it warm up a bit and began to slowly feed the little 1/4 cup guy until it finally grew that beautiful “fluffy” head.
I started “fluffy” about 3 years ago and used a slightly adapted version of Serene’s Sourdough Recipe to begin the starter. She has a great tutorial on you tube with an excellent rye spelt bread recipe. My adaptation of the starter was to begin with 1 cup of flour (I chose rye) and 1 cup of water in a glass bowl with a sugar of your choice. I used a little bit of honey. but, I have known some to use grapes or raisins even! Your flour and choice of “sugar” will give your starter amazing flavor. Stir gently to evenly mix and let it sit for 24 hours.
For the next seven days you pour your starter into a clean bowl and add another 1/2 to 1 cup of flour and even amount of water, stir gently and let it sit for another 24 hours. When you pour out your starter you will loose a bit, as it sticks to the bowl. You will notice that some days the top of the starter will have a clear grey fluid-this is normal. If you notice black specks or mold, you may have to start the process again. You should have several cups of starter too, so share the wealth. Do this for a week and at the end of the week you will have “caught that wild yeast” in our atmosphere.
When baking bread every few days I leave my starter on the counter for weeks on end. I feed it small equal amounts of water and flour every 24 hours. You just can’t add more to the starter than what you have. Otherwise I keep it in the refrigerator and bring it out the day before baking, and as I mentioned let it warm up and then begin to slowly feed it.
I have several favorite bread recipes, but the easiest one that I have found is from Nancy Oster, a contributing writer for Edible Santa Barbara. I have never had a failed loaf and I have adapted and changed it up quite a bit to make it chewier or crustier. Here it is….
Wild Yeast Bread Recipe
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tsp of kosher salt
- 2 and 1/2 cups bread flour ( I have experimented with rye, spelt and whole wheat -all of which give a denser loaf)
- 2 tbsp of coarse grains (optional but a great accent if you can purchase fresh local grains)
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of your starter-depending on your choice of flour
- Mix your salt and water in a glass bowl and add flour and grains to the top of the water. Next add your starter. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon or narrow rolling pin until it is a sticky ball.
- I choose not to knead this type of bread with my hands, rather I work it with the end of my rolling pin watching for that gluten stretch to appear.
- Place the sticky dough into an oiled glass bowl and cover with a wet dish cloth. Let the dough sit over night. It is best to sit for 12-14 hours.
- Pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees. Place you dough into a small dutch oven dusted with corn meal on the bottom.
- When the oven is fully heated score the top of your bread, place the lid on the dutch oven and place in the hot oven.
- Bake for 25 minutes, reduce heat to 475 degrees and remove the lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Try if you can to let the bread sit for a minimum of 15 minutes before cutting. This artisan style bread is wonderful with soups, salad, or just for dipping into olive oil with a splash of basalmic vinegar.
Your next step is to break bread with those you love. Oh how I miss my little family sitting all together at the dinner table. Soon, though, Thanksgiving break will bring home the beautiful icicle to thaw for a short while. And she will tell me that no one bakes bread like her Mama, and I’ll believe her.