I had a love/hate relationship with sourdough. Until I baked the Quintessential Sourdough Farm Loaf that is.
I love the flavor of baked goods made with sourdough of course. I love that it is something I could pass down to my children one day, an heirloom food. I love that I know I can make “our daily bread” without having to worry about whether the yeast jar is running low (or if someone spilled it all over the floor.) I love knowing that even though we’re not gluten-free, I’m serving a more nourishing bread to my family. The beauty, the versatility, I could go on.
But I’ll be honest, sometimes I hate sourdough too. It can be, well, kinda needy. And I’ve already got 8 kinda needy kids and a kinda needy husband. The last thing I need is to babysit needy sourdough.
Not only does the starter have to be fed every day, but my favorite sourdough bread recipes, awesome and delicious as those recipes may be, are time-consuming just like many other of the best sourdough breads out there. It’s hard to be productive and get things accomplished on the to-do list when you have to keep stopping to come back and fold or shape or bake or adjust the oven temperature on the bread.
That’s why I found over time, my sourdough starter spent way too much time sitting in the back of the fridge. It had a layer of hooch on there like black sludge I tell you! I simply didn’t have the time for it and everything else on my plate. In trying to avoid “homestead burnout” sourdough was an easy thing to shelf till I had more time, perhaps during another season of my life.
Then I was asked to review Shannon Stronger’s new book, Traditionally Fermented Foods.
And it changed my sourdough routine forever!
When I first flipped through the beautiful book, packed full of recipes and loads of information on how to properly work with fermenting, culturing, and souring traditional foods, I was bookmarking like a fool. I was eager to try so many of the gorgeous recipes! Having covered sourdough plenty before, I skimmed over the bread recipes without much thought at first.
What I wanted was to dive into many of the recipes using garden-fresh fruits and vegetables. The trouble was that I’m not gardening this year (our homestead is for sale and we’re still planning on moving this summer and building a house) so I didn’t have any ingredients to work with. The farmer’s markets were my backup plan, but believe it or not, of the couple we tried none had any vegetables! With the closest markets being ½- 1 hour (or more) away, I can’t keep wasting my time trying to find a source for fresh vegetables. Especially since Shannon points out in the book that the fresher the vegetables, the better the final product. It wouldn’t be fair to do a review with less than the best, now would it?
But since I’m not growing a garden, I do have a bit more time on my hands, maybe capture some wild yeast and start sampling the sourdough recipes after all?
I am so glad I did! Once my sourdough starter was bubbling away every day, I got busy baking.
The Sourdough Biscuits were delicious and rose like crazy! The English Muffins, the first I’ve ever made, were amazing especially with freshly homemade Strawberry Ginger Jam.
But the Quintessential Farm Loaf changed my life.
Here is a beautiful, hearty bread, versatile enough for sandwiches or dipping in soups or mopping up sauces. It tastes delicious, everyone who tried it loved it. And it is SO easy. Forget baby-sitting, this is practically a free-range loaf!
I’m talking less than 20 minutes of total prep time before bed (including measuring out the ingredients). Part of that is inactive so you can tidy up the kitchen one last time for the night, and then you’re set till morning!
The next day all you have to do is prep the baking pan and shape the loaf before letting it rise for a few hours. Slash and bake. Bam, you’re done.
And made it possible to bring sourdough back to the table!
The Quintessential Sourdough Farm Loaf
- Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the starter, water, honey, and softened butter if using. Mix all ingredients well with a wooden spoon until a rough dough begins to form.
- Knead the dough in the bowl for a couple of minutes. It will be shaggy and sticky at this stage. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Return to the dough and knead it for 3 minutes. Let the dough rest for 2 more minutes and then give it a final 1-2 minute knead until smooth and soft.
- Cover the bowl tightly and allow the dough to ferment for 8-12 hours or overnight.
- When ready to bake, uncover the bread and grease a large baking pan. Divide the dough in half and shape it into a round boule or long batard. Place on the greased baking sheet, leaving a couple of inches between the loaves. Sprinkle the surface of the loaves with flour and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel to rise. Leave for 1 to 2 hours until risen by 50-75 percent.
- During the last 30 minutes of rise time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Once the oven is hot and the dough has risen substantially, uncover. Give the dough a few slashes with a razor or very sharp knife. Place the loaves in the hot oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped and the internal temperature has reached 190 degrees F.
- Move to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.
- - Traditionally Fermented Foods by Shannon Stronger
More from Traditionally Fermented Foods
Shannon’s agrarian heart shines throughout the pages of Traditionally Fermented Foods. In each section covering vegetables, grains (including gluten-free), dairy, beverages, and condiments and all 80+ recipes, she makes returning to the old ways of preserving and preparing our homegrown, fresh bounty simple, understandable, and achievable. This book is a new “must-have” for the homesteader’s kitchen.