Sunday, February 19, 2017

Making Bread with Natural Leavening (Sourdough Starter) Needn't Be Complex or Time-Consuming

OK, let's get a few things out of the way.  I don't really like to call bread made with natural leavening "sourdough" because a lot of people immediately turn off, saying, "I don't like sourdough bread."  Naturally leavened bread doesn't necessarily taste sour. The phrase "naturally leavened" is a little leaden and pedantic, so I instead favor the French word "levain," which sounds pretentious and, uh, pedantic. Oh well, "You pays your money and you takes your choice," as they say.  "Starter" works pretty well when it's not ambiguous.

Here are the top six reasons why I bake bread using natural leavening, in rough order of importance:

  1. It tastes better.
  2. It tastes better.
  3. It tastes better.
  4. It stays fresh longer.
  5. It is healthier (lower glycemic index).
  6. It seems amazing and delightful to me that the only store-bought ingredients in my bread are flour and salt. The water comes from the tap and the yeast comes from the starter, and ever-renewable resource.
So if the first objection is "I don't like sourdough," the next set of objections seems to be that baking with starter is intimidating because it is complicated and time-consuming. I would say: It can be, but it doesn't need to be.  Here's what works for me. It does add an extra step or two, but it's worth it.