Daring Nature to do the Work


Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

First off, let me say that I almost bowed out of this month’s challenge. Due to laziness? No. Due to lack of enthusiasm? No. Due to a whirlwind schedule? No. No, no and no, to anything remotely thinkable. Alas, I almost bowed out due to the types of flours required for the sourdough breads. Well, not due to the flours–due to a certain mill who I’ve had a contentious relationship with in the past–and that mill is about the only one supplying the local natural health and organic grocery stores. At first, I had hope that the flours would be available unpackaged, ready to scoop out of bins–but my father was quick to dash my hopes prepare me for disappointment, saying, “If there are bins of flour, that Red Mill is probably supplying them anyway!” So, I went to the stores with the thought in the back of mind that if my only choices were unpackaged flours or bags bearing the name of that mill, then I would have to boycott the flours and thus sit out this challenge.

Imagine my delight (No, seriously, it was an intense delight–I chuckled. Out loud. In a small and crowded store.) when I saw Whole Wheat Flour (stoneground and organic, no less), Rye, and Buckwheat Flours, all standing tall and proud in their lovely blue bags on the bottom shelves, safely out of direct eye-shot, waving their grainy little hands around, whispering, “Pick me! Bake with your principles intact! All because my mill exists!” Yes, I was pretty happy. I triumphantly came home, plopped the sacks of flour down on the kitchen table, and crowed to my dad, “The Red Mill ain’t the only mill around!”

And then I got going with my starters. I’ll admit, half my enthusiasm was fueled by the sense of triumph over that other mill.  In any case, I am so glad to have completed all three sourdough recipes for this month! Now, I’ve got three starters ready to go, waiting in the freezer for the next dozen times I want to make any of them. That’s pretty great, because I’ve always wanted to make sourdough bread, but was always kind of intimidated by the whole starter deal.



The first dough I kneaded up, according to the recipe, was the Brown Rice and Flaxseed Sourdough. This starter had very small bubbles, did not rise at all, and had me a bit worried. When it came time to prove the dough, I was certain it would not rise at all. However, it did surprise me! Before I could make the slashes in the loaves prior to popping them in the oven, I saw all these little crack and fissures caused by the rising bread. I don’t know if I let the bread over-prove, but I know that it did at least prove.


The second dough I kneaded to shape was the Whole Wheat French Country Sourdough. I wanted to make soup bowls out of them, San Francisco style, so I shaped them small (about 12 ounces each, for five loaves), then popped them into a lighted oven to prove. I wanted this dough to not be as slack as the recipe suggested, since I wanted the bowls to have some shape, so I added about 1 additional cup of all-purpose flour, until it seemed like the dough would hold shape.

The final sourdough recipe was for Russian Rye Sourdough, and I made no changes to the dough at all. The intention was to serve it with Welsh Rarebit Sauce a few hours after baking, but the toughness of the crust did not allow for clean cutting. So, I set the loaves in plastic bags and allowed them to rest, hoping the crusts would soften up enough for a clean slicing job. I found the crumb to be incredibly dense, while beautifully tender, and while the dough did rise, I’d like to have an open structure to the dough. Next time, I will add some yeast to the dough before kneading, and see if that contributes to an open-structured crumb.

Since I followed these recipes pretty faithfully for the first time, the next time I make them, I will make some personal changes to the doughs. I will probably go ahead and adjust by adding fat, eggs, and sugar, and I’d probably add yeast to the bread dough so as to shorten the proving time before baking. I found the lack of yeast to result in a very dense crumb, and while that is not objectionable, I prefer a bit more of an open structure. The weather in Southern California has been so chilly that the doughs had a difficult time rising. So, as another Daring Baker on the forum suggested, I popped the doughs into the oven, turned on the oven light, and let the sourdough loaves rise. The prolonged proving time prior to baking dried out the crust of the Russian Rye bread significantly, resulting in a very hard crust, making it a struggle to cut through. The lack of fat in the dough probably didn’t help matters.


To serve the breads, I went with the Welsh Rarebit recipe, minus the ale to Muslimify it, and minus the Worcestershire sauce since I am a vegetarian. I spread the sauce on the Russian Rye Sourdough, topped the sauce with bell peppers and a sprinkling of za’tar, broiled it for a few minutes, and served as a side with lunch. Everybody approved heartily of the flavor of the bread, as well as the texture, and Welsh Rarebit was quite the hit as well!  The other two breads are yet to be served, and when they are, I’ll add them into this post.

Sourdough Bread always conjures up images of bread bowls filled with soup, a la San Francisco. So, I had this vision of making the French Country Loaf not into a loaf, but into individual bowls (this is why I did not want a slack dough that would flatten out too much to make a bowl an option, and thus I added the extra flour). Once it was done, and turned out to make a reasonably convincing bowl…

…I prevailed upon my sister to make her amazing Potato Soup:

The picture does not do her efforts justice. :(

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11 thoughts on “Daring Nature to do the Work

  1. Holy smokes, you were busy this month! Kudos for trying all three loaves – I found the one to be enough of a challenge, so I’m very impressed!! The Welsh rarebit looks great :)

    • Thank you, Barbara! I added the additional flour so that I could fashion those San Francisco style chowder bowls out of them–however, I recall those to be a little more tender, so next time I’d definitely add some butter and eggs to the dough to make it a bit fluffier.

  2. Great work with these – I love that you were able to work through and find flours that you could work with. I totally agree that a little fat & a tad of yeast would add to the end product on these. But it was fun to see what would happen by leaving everything au’naturale….

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