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My Sourdough Adventure

Shockingly. . . I’m posting on a Thursday! But don’t start thinking that this means I am actually baking challah pre-Friday,

(read… Super organized and prepared person.)

I actually just spent my morning observing someone else bake (for a welcome change!!)

“Why?” you ask . . . Ok, you didn’t ask – I’m still going to tell you!

This is part of my quest to create a (super-incredible-authentic – lest anyone accuse me of being an underachiever) sourdough challah– complete with crispy exterior, light airy crumb and the distinct tang of a bona fide artisinal bread.

a gorgeous sourdough bread… made by somebody else. I will do this myself . . . one day. soon.

In my recent spate of challah workshops/book signings around the country, I’ve been speaking to so many women who range from somewhat gluten sensitive to completely gluten intolerant!

I speak about this in my book RISING! owning up to the fact that our ‘quick rise’ methods of today, and the resulting lack of mature gluten development, are making it more difficult for us to digest bread properly. If you’ve ever eaten a true sourdough bread, you will have realized that your body likes it much better than other breads.

So… I have known for a while now that it’s time to start developing a sourdough challah recipe for RISING! (my challah cookbook. . . which will be on the bookshelves September 10th – with the help of G-d!)

But here’s the thing. Sourdough bread is intimidating to me.

I have been clicking on countless bread sites, and reading everything I can get my hands on about sourdough bread baking. And there is a lot to read and so many different opinions. These are folks who are fervently passionate about their “levain”, their “banneton baskets”, their “lame” (note the direct correlation between dedication to the art of breadmaking and the use of french nouns. And never make the mistake of quoting a measurement in pounds – grams only, people.)

Sheesh. I have previously only seen such emphatic views (and counter views) on parenting websites.

These people are like the Park Slope parents of bread making!

So, diligent student of challah that I am, I’ve been reading, and taking notes, and reading some more. But you know this is all really just a stalling technique.

It’s time to face the music, and actually try this thing out… ummm… soon. (can you tell I’ve been procrastinating on this thing?? Read some of those websites – you will understand my hesitation!)

Ok, so I made my decision this week, I will watch a bread master at work, and then, no more hesitation – it’s my turn.

And what do you know? We have an artisinal bread baker in our family. (We have a very big family, thank G-d, I think we pretty much have one of everything!)

So this was my project this sunny Thursday morning. I headed to the “bakery” (basement of my aunt’s home, where my cousin, Mendy Pinson, spends his days (and nights, it seems—this sourdough thing is very consuming!) baking the most incredible artisinal sourdough breads! (and yes, they are for sale! by pre-order only-click here!)

My cousin. The sourdough king. In his baking finest.

It was the most wonderful thing to watch him working with the dough… I even filmed some of it..

Set to the soothing crooning of Frank Sinatra . . . he measured, scraped, shaped and sifted in a beautiful rhythm – it was magical to see.

click on this link to view!

Here are some of my photos of the experience!

And best of all, I got to go home with a fantastically crisp and delicious loaf of bread- that I proceeded to devour as soon as I walked into my house. (Fine. In the interest of full disclosure.. I may have eaten some (umm… a lot) in the car on the way home.)

But let’s not get distracted by how much bread I ate today, the most important thing is that I brought home with me the confidence to start my own sourdough levain (or “starter”, for us simple, non-obsessive bread folks)

So this was my project #2 for today…. I got the requisite glass jar and mixed my first batch of starter. It’s ridiculously simple. (I’ll tell you if I’m still saying that in a week from now!)

my newborn starter. day one.

I set my timer for 12 hours from now, (when my little newborn starter will be due for its first feeding!) and covered it with a piece of cloth. It now occupies center stage on my kitchen counter and every family member has been warned that it looks gross- but it is not garbage. (I think this is wishful thinking- that someone will see a dirty jar on the counter and actually wash it. Oh well, a girl can dream, can’t she??)

I’m going to keep you posted on the progress of my starter… If you have no idea what I’m talking about… Read this!

The people of have the easiest directions I have yet to find on the web! But no worries – I will simplify it even more for us non-aritisinal bread people in my upcoming cookbook!

And in one week from now- if I have managed to not kill my poor “Levain,” (uh oh, I’m using french words already) I will be able to make a sourdough challah from scratch. That will be an exciting day.

I’ll keep you posted, and in the meantime, my starter is due for its 12:00 noon feeding . . .

Have a wondrous Shabbat, and may all the things and the people we feed, grow and Rise perfectly!

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