Last weekend I did something that I have never done before. It was always something I dreamed of doing, but was afraid to try. But, I guess I was feeling adventurous or brave or maybe just willing to fail. It’s hard for me to get myself motivated to do something if I am not reasonably assured of good results. Sure, I have tried some recipes that have totally bombed (see my last post) and some of my knitting ideas or crafting ideas don’t work out quite the way I’d like them to, but I chalk them all up as “learning experiences.” Usually, in these instances, though, I am following someone else’s directions or trying to apply a technique. Very rarely do I begin a project without a set of directions nearby to refer to, especially in cooking and never in baking.
But, during our long rainy weekend, I was suddenly taken by an idea. I walked into the kitchen, took out all my sourdough starters and began mixing. I really did not know if I would succeed. In the last however many years I have been baking, I have made countless loaves of bread and since December of last year, the majority of them have been sourdough. Sourdough is a strange and sort of unreliable creature, especially if you don’t feed it regularly, which I have been lax about lately. My starters had not been fed in almost two weeks, but for some reason, this did not deter me. I was feeling positively cavalier!
Here was the picture I had in my mind: a hearty, brown loaf of bread, flecked with all different grains. I wanted something that would be soft enough for PB&J, but hearty enough for a panini. I wanted it to be healthy, but also a little sweet with honey. I wanted something that would crisp well in the toaster. I wanted two large loaves of bread so that it would last more than a day. I wanted all this and more.
I was not so naive to think that I would succeed on the first pass. My hope was that I would produce a great loaf of bread, but I would be satisfied with edible because I hate to waste time, effort, and food.
This is what came out of my oven about 24 hours after I started.
Friends, I hope you will not begrudge me a little jumping up and down and clapping and patting myself on the back. I was SO excited when I saw these two loaves of bread that I made with a recipe that I made up as I went along. Of course, looks are not the important thing here. Tasting the bread would determine whether I had truly succeeded, so I cut it open.
It was good! It was moist, perhaps a tad too moist, but we cut it while it was still warm. The crust was perfectly crispy and it was not overly sour, which surprised me and made me happy. The boys liked it. It toasted up well for breakfast and was sturdy enough for PB&J sandwiches for lunch. It pretty much fulfilled all my desired requirements in an all purpose, multigrain sourdough bread.
Now, I am under no delusions of grandeur here. I know that there is no way I would have been able to do this without spending a lot of time learning about bread making and trying lots of different recipes from lots of different master bakers. I don’t believe anyone can create in a vacuum. We all learn from and inspire each other. I hope that I can inspire you to try something new or learn something new. It’s never too late or too hard to learn new tricks!
I will definitely post the recipe here, but I think I have to make it again before I do, just to make sure that it can be replicated. I will be doing that pretty soon because we are already deep into our second loaf and I will be sad when it is all gone. Until then, we will enjoy every successful bite!