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Last Summer I took on the task of baking my way through  Bread Machine Cookbook, until I got lost in the Sourdough section.  I found that baking sourdoughs was a true art form and a perfect metaphor for life!  Here I will share some of the things I have learned baking sourdough breads!

... It requires PROOFing ...

To make a truly wonderful sourdough, you must first PROOF or PROVE the starter.  This process asks the starter to "PROVE" that it is alive and well and can make your bread rise.  This process also develops the "sour" flavor.  In life one also requires PROOF before jumping to conclusions or making accusations.  Proving is a big part of making sourdoughs, and sitting back and letting events unfold as they will, in a non-judging way is a big part of living a healthy life, I have found.  Proving is also the antithesis of WORRYING, which serves no purpose other than making one misable for no reason.  If one sits back nd lets the PROVING unfold in sourdough as well as in life, things will be much better!

... It can't be rushed ...

Making sourdough is a time consuming process.  PROOFing takes a minimum of 8 hours, and can take as long as 24 depending on how much flavor the baker wants to develop.  There is no shortcut in baking sourdough for the proofing, kneading, and baking process.  It takes the amount of time it takes.  I life, I am learning, it is the same way.  Events happen as they will, and judging, worrying and controlling are all ways to make one miserable without needing to be so.  I am slowly learning that a little "healthy detachment" is a a more joyous and   stress free way to live, as it is in baking sourdough, so times you just have to not fiddle, and resist the urge to open the lid to have a little peek.

... You can do your best and SOMETIMES the magic just doesn't happen ...

This is one of the hardest things to learn, in baking bread and in living life.  We can do everything right, and give it our very best effort, and sometimes the "magic" just doesn't happen, and the only thing that can be done is throwout the "brick" and start again.  Yesw, of course one can learn from one's mistakes and do it better next time, but the harder lesson in baking bread and life is that one can do everything right, and sometimes the magic just doesn't happen, that is why I say that even though there is  lot of "science" in baking bread, there is also a helping of magic that makes everything work.  Sometimes you ju8st have to let go of the disappointment, toss out the error loaf and begin again.

... Details Matter ...

In baking bread and in life, details matter.  The order that ingredients are added matter, making sure not to forget any of the ingredients matters, making sure you have enough time to let the magic happen all matter.  IN baking bread and i life I am finding that the wonder is in the details, not in the big picture.  2 teaspoons of salt may seem a small detail, but forgetting it will definitely ruin a whole loaf of bread, and a whole day of baking and effort!  So live in the moment, paying attention to details and don't forget the salt!

... The end-game matters the most! ...

The "cool down" phase of sourdough bread making is as important as the kneading, baking and rising phases. Sourdough bread continues to "bake" and "Develop" as it cools down after baking.  The "Crumb" and the flavor continue to mature and develop after the baking phase is complete, and on should never slice a loaf of sourdough until it is completely cooled down.  Over the last 6 months I have also learned that how one ends one's day also matters. I am learning that one should never go to bed angry or worrying.  A great solution to "worry" is to keep a pad of paper and pencil next to the bed and when a "worry" pops up, jot it down in tomorrows to do list and let it go.  Arguments and fights are best resolved before one goes to bed, or they carry over into resentments in the morning, and put a damper on the notion of a "new day" when the problems of yesterday cloud the wonder of today!

... Closing & recipe for my favorite Sourdough...

It has taking me months to perfect the ART of sourdough, but the learning process has also taught me a great deal about life as well as baking sourdough!

Having spent a couple of months just focused on Sourdough, I though it would be nice to share my current favorite recipe, for Whole Wheat Sourdough.

The Sponge

1 cup Sourdough Starter
1 cup Purified Water
1 cup Whole Wheat Four
1/2 teaspoon Bread Machine Yeast

The Dough

1 tablespoon Butter, melted
2 1/4 cups bread flour or High-Gluten Flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Bread Machine Yeast

To make the Sponge, place all the ingredients in the Bread Machine pan, and program the machine for the Dough/Pasta cycle, this should be a 10 to 14 minute cycle.  Let the machine run through, and then unplug the machine and let the Sponge sit for a minimum of 8 hours or as long as 12 for a more "sour" flavor.

For the Dough

Place the ingredients right on top of the sponge. Set the crust on medium, and then program the machine for French Bread or Basic mode, press start. Set a kitchen timer for 5 minutes.  After the machine has run for 5 minutes check the dough ball, it should be smooth and a little shiny.  If your starter was soupy you might need to add more flour, if your starter was lumpy you might ned to add more water 2 tablespoons at a time.

After the Baking cycle, immediately remove the bread from the machine and put the Loaf on a cooling rack, let the loaf cool to room temperature before slicing, as the crumb and the flavor will continue to develop as the loaf cools.  (You will find that the flavor will continue to develop even after cool down as the loaf sits. (I actually like the flavor best the morning AFTER baking.)

A next Day Sourdough Starter

This is Suzanne Rosenblum's next day starter:

One 8-ounce sour cream (NOT imitation, lowfat or nonfat)
1/2 cup warm water
3 tablespoons organic Apple Cider Vinegar with MOTHER  
1/8 teaspoon SAF, active dry or Bread Machine yeast
1 cup unbleached Bread Flour

Whisk the sour cream until smooth in a medium clay or plastic bowl, NOT METAL! add the water, vinegar and sprinkle with the yeast.  Mix in the flour, start with 3/4th a cup and continue to add flour until the mixture is that of pancake batter.

Cover with a few layers of cheese cloth, ir a tea towel.  Let stand at room temperature for at least 24 hour, or up to 5 days for a TRULY sour flavor.  The mixture will start to bubble immediately, and will have a fresh, creamy smell that will gently sour.  The longer it sits the more sour it will become. If you have not used the starter withing 6 days refrigerate it.  It will need to be Fed Weekly by throwing out ot using half, and adding 1 cup flour, and 2/3 cup purified water.

Suzanne in her writings suggests making a new starter each time you make sourdough, as she likes the taste and flavor of fresh starter, but the starter can be refrigerated and fed for many years (I have heard of people having starter for 30+ years!), just feed your "farm" weekly.

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