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Baking Bread on Sunday

I have been using this book for more than a year now, and tried almost every recipe. The ciabatta loaves are one of my favorites.

Our family schedule has changed in a way that has made it difficult for me to bake bread during the week. So now, Sunday is the day that I make sure to indulge my love of fresh sourdough bread. Most of what I know about baking sourdough bread comes from Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook. I have baked a few duds along the way. Patience is definitely the main ingredient. Yesterday, however, I came close to achieving perfection!

Instead of covering with a damp cloth, I put my dough in the bottom oven with the light on and a pan of warm water.

I keep my biga, (a drier, thriftier form of sourdough starter,) alive in my refrigerator. Since I didn’t remember to start some dough on Saturday night, I chose a recipe that doesn’t take as long to rise that I could still start on Sunday morning. Mr. Lahey offers two ways to make the ciabatta dough, the slow, no mix method, or the fast, use your mixer method. I used my mixer. After three hours I had a glass bowl full of bubbly bread dough that I turned out onto a board, folded in half, and cut into two loaves. I left them to rise for three hours in my bottom oven.

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Learning the Forgotten Ways

Fermenting carrots and ginger, and sourdough starter …

What seems like a long time ago now, when I was a single mother of two, I had mastered a small repertoire of recipes and baking was not included. I was the stovetop queen of East Harlem. So after I moved to California and then got married (and quickly had two more kids,) I was proud of myself when I started baking muffins and other treats. I felt pretty smart when I also started canning the vegetables and fruits that my husband grew in abundance in our little backyard. Even so, when we moved here to Greenville almost nine years ago, I was still a virgin bread baker. I had never used yeast for anything. But I was no virgin to eating bread, and have always preferred it fresh.

I started off with a bread machine that I have since gotten rid of after I realized that most good bread rises twice, and you have to flirt with it for a few minutes in between rises to get the best out of it. For a little while I thought I had arrived after turning out some beautifully braided challah loaves, Belgian waffles and seasonal cinnamon rolls. I also admired the rows of pickled peppers, cucumbers, and cabbage on my pantry shelves. But after awhile I wasn’t satisfied. It was all foreplay, the yeast in my baking goods, the vinegar in my canned goods, the carbonation in my soda.

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