[R]emember, even when September is over, it doesn’t mean that we have to put our wild starters away. I don’t know about you, but we’re going to make every month a sourdough month!
– me, blog from OUR kitchen | Wordless Not-Wednesday: 2nd try at layering (Sourdough September 2020)
I must confess that as these weeks and weeks of pretty much staying at home stretched into months and months, I have been losing track of exactly what month it is. I’ve vaguely kept track by the weather and how late (or early) the sun sets.
Sometime last week, it started getting cool at night, signalling to me that it might be fall. (Did I notice the announcement that the official first day of fall had already happened? Of course not!)
Then a couple of nights we actually had to get the big blankets out. We also made a loaf of bread for the first time in weeks, instead of pitas on the barbecue. (Did I take a photo? Once again: of course not. But trust me, it looks pretty much like all the other Tartine loaves. And it tasted wonderful!)
Today, we WERE going to make Tartine bread again. But we suddenly realized that because it’s sunny and relatively warm, it may be one of our last chances to bake pizza on the barbecue.
And because I had already made the dough, rather than turn on the oven to make a small loaf of bread, we decided to use half the dough to make pita on the barbecue again.
So that is what I did. I divided the Tartine dough in half. T fired up the barbecue as I shaped pitas (putting the other half of the dough under a hat to rest and NOT dry out) while we baked 6 pitas. We LOVE pita bread, but know that it won’t be nearly as satisfying to make in the oven as it is on the barbecue….
Then we put the pizza stone into the barbecue, sat outside in the dark slightly chilly air, and made pizza. Great pizza. Can you hear that crust crunching as the pizza is being cut?
We scattered the few arugula leaves on top. You might think this is a measly amount of arugula. But considering that the plant kept flowering all summer long (I resolutely kept pinching the flowers off), refusing to leaf until a week or so ago, it’s a HUGE number of leaves!
About Sourdough September
Wild thing, you make my loaf spring
Launched by the Real Bread Campaign in 2013, Sourdough September is the annual, international celebration of genuine sourdough bread and the people who make it.
What is #SourdoughSeptember?
Run by the food and farming charity Sustain, the initiative encourages and supports people to:
▪ Buy genuine sourdough bread from local bakeries.
▪ Make their own sourdough bread.
▪ Support the charity’s work.
A particular focus for 2021 is encouraging people who’ve been buying from local Real Bread bakeries (or got the bready baking bug*) during the pandemic to keep doughing.
*Well, cultures of lactic acid bacteria and yeast cells…
– Real Bread Campaign, Sustainweb.org | Sourdough September 2021
The ninth month of the year is when the Real Bread Campaign goes on a mission to help everyone worldwide to discover that: life’s sweeter with sourdough!
Since March 2020, we’ve welcomed a huge surge of people around the world starting (or resuming) love affairs with sourdough bread, some baking or buying it for the first time. Meanwhile, many Real Bread bakeries have reported experiencing a surge in demand for theirs.
Sourdough September builds on this passion, encouraging people who’ve only tried one type of bread made using a sourdough starter to buy or bake others.
– Real Bread Campaign, Sustainweb.org | Sourdough September
For more information about Sourdough September, please also see baking your own sourdough, and how to say no to sourfaux: “[G]enuine sourdough is made using a live sourdough culture (aka a starter or leaven) but NOT any of the following: Baker’s yeast, Dried sourdough powder, Sourdough concentrate, Yoghurt, vinegar, or other acidifier
Flavourings, preservatives and other additives […] what we call sourfaux and Real Bread Campaign cofounder Andrew Whitley calls pseudough.“
Q. Besides eating and baking with wild yeast, what have I been doing since last September?
I have been reading fiction, non-fiction, cookbooks, and bread books. Here are the bread (sourdough and commercial yeasted) books from the past 12 months – some would argue that they aren’t really bread books if they only feature a very few bread recipes:
- finished reading 24 September 2021:
Bread Baking: An Artisan’s Perspective by Daniel DiMuzio
no sourdough, just commercial yeast and sourfaux
In the recipes for so-called Sourdough Rye, Pain au Levain, Pain de Campagne, San Francisco-style Sourdough, each call for the addition of commercial instant yeast, sometimes a significant amount. Goodness, how sad.
- finished reading 26 August 2021:
My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz
no sourdough recipes, even though he does mention pain Monsieur Poilâne:
[M]any cafés offer le croque-monsieur on your choice of white bread or pain levain, which, if your lucky, is pain Poilâne […] To me, it’s not even a decision; I’ll take the pain Poilâne any day. [- David Lebovitz, ‘Croque-Monsieur’, My Paris Kitchen]
What a shame that David Lebovitz didn’t consult Monsieur Poilâne’s daughter so he could bake his own pain Poilâne and eat it too. (Don’t get me wrong; I loved the rest of this book, and plan to make his multigrain bread – after converting it from being commercial yeasted into a wild yeast bread.
- finished reading 6 August 2021:
Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book: Recipes from an American Childhood by Jim Fobel
no sourdough, just commercial yeast
Recipes calling for yeast were made with active dry yeast. I don’t recommend the new fast-acting yeasts because the flavors of the baked product don’t develop as well. Fresh yeast can also be used. [- Jim Fobel, ‘Ingredients’, Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book]
- finished reading 24 July 2021:
Essentials of Baking: Recipes and Techniques for Successful Home Baking (Williams-Sonoma Essentials) by Cathy Burgett
some sourdough, but very eccentric
The best way to understand the miracle of sourdough bread is to bake it regularly. […] To make the starter, in a glass or ceramic bowl, combine the flour and water and stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at a cool room temperature for 3 to 4 days, stirring the mixture once a day. If it bubbles and has a nice sour smell, you have attracted airborne yeasts and friendly bacteria, which give sourdough its characteristic flavor. If the starter turns moldy or pink or starts to smell bad, throw it away and start again. [- Cathy Burgett, ‘Traditional Sourdough Bread’, Essentials of Baking]
- finished reading 12 July 2021:
Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Kellerno sourdough, just commercial yeast and sourfaux
Every single so-called sourdough bread recipe calls for at least a little commercial yeast to be added, in spite of the following:
There are all kinds of myths and theories about starting a yeast culture: Put organic grapes into the flour and water, or purple cabbage. You can only develop a true sourdough in the Bay Area. So-and-so’s grandmother’s 400-year-old starter has amazing complexity and distinction. Nonsense. Sourdough is the world’s oldest leavened bread and it’s all more or less the same, with the variations depending on climate, amount of hydration, how often you feed the starter, and so on. The distinction of sourdough is the level of sour you bring to it. The French tend to make milder sourdoughs. Generally, the looser the starter, the less sour it will be. This boule is tangy but not super sour. [Thomas Keller, ‘Sourdough Boule’, Bouchon Bakery]
…don’t even get me started on how much flour and extra starter that Thomas Keller suggests throwing away when creating his sourdough starter that he doesn’t even trust.
- finished reading 16 June 2021:
Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan
There are only a few bread recipes (nice looking too) but the rest of the book is definitely worthwhile reading.
- finished reading 12 May 2021:
The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan
Again, there are only a few bread recipes but the rest of the book is definitely worthwhile reading.
- finished reading 6 May 2021:
Exceptional Breads: Baker & Spice by Dan Lepard
sourdough, commercial yeast
There is a 31 page sourdough section. Some would say it is a sourfaux secition. Among the bizarre things mentioned are the necessity of using a heavy-duty electric mixer !! and the addition of orange juice !! for the “basic French levain”. And for the San Francisco sourdough starter: yoghurt !! apple juice !! grapes !!
- finished reading 12 April 2021:
Josey Baker Bread: Get Baking – Make Awesome Bread – Share the Loaves by Josey Baker
sourdough, commercial yeast
Strangely, Josey Baker advocates measuring by volume. He also advocates maintaining the sourdough starter with equal amounts of flour and water – equal by volume rather than weight! Thus he proves that bread-making really isn’t rocket science and that bread just wants to be bread. However, little instruction is included about how to tell if the sourdough starter is ready, aside from “take a big whiff. It should be putting off a pretty strong smell, nice and yummy, maybe a touch sour“. There is no mention of bubbles, watching for over-fermentation, or testing a small amount to see if the starter floats in water.
- finished reading 8 April 2021:
The Il Fornaio Baking Book by Franco Galli
sourdough, commercial yeast, and sourfaux
Two kinds of starter are described in detail in the book: biga (starter dough) and biga acida (sourdough starter dough) with the following inexplicable notes:
[A]t Il Fornaio we still make our sourdough breads with only a starter. In general, though, it is more practical and reliable to use a small amount of manufactured yeast in combination with a starter. […] Sourdough starters can be tricky to make. [- Franco Galli, The Il Fornaio Baking Book]
- finished reading 2 April 2021:
Della Fattoria Bread: 63 Foolproof Recipes for Yeasted, Enriched Naturally Leavened Breads by Kathleen Weber
sourdough and commercial yeast
I particularly really like that “hands” are considered by Kathleen Weber to be the “most important tool for bread baking“.
Any bread recipe made with commercial yeast can be converted into a naturally leavened one. That’s exactly what I did when I first started baking this way. I took my favorite recipes and reworked them by translating the cups and spoons into weights, calculating the percentages of each ingredient, and substituting natural starter (12 percent to start with) for the instant yeast. [- Kathleen Weber, ‘Converting a recipe’, Della Fattoria Bread]
- finished reading 23 March 2021:
The Larousse Book of Bread: 80 Recipes to Make at Home by Éric Kayser
commercial yeast and sourfaux
How very disappointing that M. Kayser doesn’t trust his wild yeast. Every single “sourdough” recipe in the book calls for adding at least a little commercial yeast!
If used in the correct proportion, yeast need not be avoided entirely. […] I add a small quantity to most of my sourdough recipes.[- Éric Kayser, ‘Fermentation’, The Larousse Book of Bread]
- finished reading 22 March 2021:
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
no sourdough, just commercial yeast
The bread recipes are on the old-fashioned mid 20th century side, calling for what seems now to be an excessive amount of yeast. However, this is an otherwise lovely book.
One of the Italian words for a meal is companatico—that which you eat with bread. At an Italian table, food and bread are inseparable. [- Marcella Hazan, ‘Composing an Italian Meal Principles and examples’, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking]
- finished reading 27 February 2021:
Bread Illustrated: A Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results at Home by America’s Test Kitchen
sourdough, and commercial yeast
The sourdough culture calls for rather a lot of flour (claiming it will take 10 to 14 days!) and, like the rest of the recipes, is irritatingly laid out in cups or ounces, rather than cups or grams. (I know. The USA is one of the last holdouts, steadfastly refusing to officially go metric.) But really. Grams are so much easier to deal with than ounces…. Not to mention (here I am doing that anyway), the America’s Test Kitchen editors are a little confused about equivalents. They state that 1 cup water weighs 8 ounces (227 grams), 1 cup whole milk weighs 8 ounces (227 grams), but 1 cup beer weighs 6½ ounces (227 grams!!). And yet they say that their cup measure holds 237ml. (The last time I checked, 237ml water weighs 237 grams…. )
- finished reading 1 February 2021:
A Blessing of Bread: The Many Rich Traditions of Jewish Bread Baking Around the World by Maggie Glezer
sourdough, and commercial yeast
The really wonderful thing about the recipes is that there are at least three versions for most of them: a commercially yeasted one to make one or two loaves, another calling for five pounds of flour because it is “the most variable measure [and] has been weighed for you (measuring flour accurately is one of the biggest problems for home bakers)“, and a sourdough version – even with dough that has added sugar and oil!
- finished reading 27 January 2021:
Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More by Sarah Owens
Almost every recipe included in the book calls for some sourdough starter, whether it is to be built up to become leavener, or added to quickbread.
- finished reading 31 December 2020:
Tartine Book No. 3 by Chad Robertson
mostly sourdough, but some commercial yeast
Chad Robertson calls for natural-leaven as well as instant yeast in his brioche. But he does not claim that the brioche is “sourdough”.
- finished reading 25 November 2020:
Beard on Bread by James Beard
commercial yeast, and sourfaux
I so wanted to love this book written by the iconic James Beard. And yet, as I read, I couldn’t help being just a little disappointed. The most surprising thing about the book is Mr. Beard’s assertion that sourdough starters are “very unpredictable”. He is so certain about the unpredictable quality that his recipe for creating a sourdough starter includes commercial yeast because “you can get better results if you use yeast as well, and your bread will be lighter and have more flavor“. Wow. One has to hope that Mr. Beard would have made a complete reversal on this decree if he were still living today.
- finished reading 12 November 2020:
Sourdough by Casper André Lugg
A really valuable aspect of the book is how to incorporate low- or no-gluten grains so that the final bread is still lofty.
- finished reading 15 October 2020:
Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread by Richard Bertinet
commercial yeast only
The book fails to address sourdough baking at all, except to state erroneously that “making [bread] in the traditional fashion is a serious breadmaking event: a long process“.
- finished reading 6 October 2020:
Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille
commercial yeast, and sourfaux
The book claims to talk about sourdough, but the very brief recipe for how to create a “sourdough” starter begins with commercial yeast, and the maintenance instructions are scant and misleading.
- finished reading 4 October 2020:
New World Sourdough: Artisan Techniques for Creative Homemade Fermented Breads; With Recipes for Birote, Bagels, Pan de Coco, Beignets, and More by Bryan Ford
There are zillions of recipes, not one of which includes even a trace of commercial yeast. Not that there’s anything wrong with commercial yeast…. It just doesn’t need to be included when a viable starter is used. But woe to the rank-beginner bread bakers! This book is not at all designed for them.
- finished reading 27 September 2020:
Bread Science: The Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread by Emily Jane Buehler
sourdough, and commercial yeast
The recipe for creating and feeding a sourdough starter claims to require 10 days! It also calls for using bottled water, starting with rye flour and then transitioning to white flour, as well as the insistence that the container and spoon must be clean at all times. This makes sense in a lab situation, where several starters are being studied. But is it really necessary in a home kitchen?
(I’ve tried to keep track of all the bread books I’ve read by listing them on Good Reads. Pictures of their covers are on the left sidebar.)
Please remember, even though September is almost over, it doesn’t mean that we have to put our wild starters away. I know that we are now incapable of doing anything but to use our trusty Jane Mason starter over and over and over!
» Wordless Not-Wednesday: 2nd try at layering (Sourdough September 2020)
» Wordless Not-Wednesday: Why is it laughing?! (Sourdough September 2020)
» More Wildness: Lame Fun with Layering (Sourdough September 2020)
» Have You Tried Kulcha? They’re Wild! (BBB September 2020) (Sourdough September 2020)
» Lame Scoring Continues (Sourdough September 2020)
» Wordless Not-Wednesday: Peach Rescue (Sourdough September 2020)
» Wild Pull-apart Bread (BBB September 2019) (Sourdough September 2019)
» If at first you don’t succeed… (Sourdough September 2019)
» Virtually Photo-less Not Friday: Tasting Somebody Else’s Sourdough (Sourdough September 2019)
» Almost Wordless Not-Wednesday: Not Genuine??? (Sourdough September) (2018)
» Wild Naan for Sourdough September (Sourdough September 2017)
» Wild Bread Notes (or… KISS) (Sourdough September 2017)
» Bread for Cousins’ Day (Sourdough September 2017)
» And we have a new pet… (Jane Mason 100% whole wheat starter, July 2017)