Sunday, February 10, 2008

Really, really old bread

It shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me and my fascination with old objects and older ways of doing things that I also find myself intrigued by the idea of baking with a proven sourdough starter with a nice long history. Granted, the idea of making starter from scratch also appeals, and I've tried it a time or two, with mixed success. But starting with a bit of starter that is the direct descendant of that used as leavening by someone on the Oregon Trail or by New England bakers of old...well, isn't that romantic? I think so! It connects me to a long line of people who baked with some version of the same starter, in days long before electricity, before pre-sliced Wonder Bread. (Incidentally, this has me thinking about the history of stoves...did they have cast-iron wood-burning cook stoves two hundred years ago, or are those relatively recent? How would the original Vermont settlers have baked their bread? Hm...)

In any case, what with the new oven and a run of cold and blustery weather, I've been hankering to do more bread baking. And I decided to splurge on a proven starter - the New England one linked above. I grew up not far from the King Arthur store, and I just liked the idea of having some of that particular starter.

It arrived Thursday, I fed it according to the instructions, and Saturday I made my first loaves!

I tried two different ways of slashing the top, and I don't think I went deep enough with either one. Next time. They aren't pretty, and I think I could have let them rise a bit more, but oh, it's good bread! Marvelous tangy flavor, and a wonderful chewy crust. I think this starter and I will become good friends. I almost feel like naming it...

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