The best bread I have ever tasted was an intense, earthy, heavy, whole wheat sourdough. We had some of it the first night we arrived in France, now more than twelve years ago. In one of those convoluted multi-faceted twists of fate, we had arrived in Angers for a school-year stay and were picked up at the train station by the the father-in-law of the son of an acquaintance of my husband's grandparents. (See? convoluted). The man took us to his home to stay while we looked for a place of our own, and at the first meal we were greeted with a bread that was so heavy every knife seemed dull trying to saw through it. So heavy my teeth hurt to bite into it. So heavy I felt full for hours. So heavy, really, that I felt like I'd died and gone to culinary heaven.
In the years since, I've gotten the recipe from his son (now my brother-in-law -- see? the convoluted and lovely turns fate takes) a number of times, but never managed the courage to try it. I mean, just say it out loud: Sourdough Starter -- doesn't that sound scary? and hard?
But after my unexpected baguette success, I decided to finally give sourdough a try. And here's the thing -- it turns out that sourdough starter is actually no big deal. At all. A little water, a little flour, five minutes a day for a week or so, and there you have it.
I made both the starter and the bread from recipes in Local Breads, opting for a very mild tang to begin with. (Did you know "sourdough" can actually be sweet? Only certain types of starter actually have that tangy sour that store bought sourdough tends to have). The first batch didn't have a lot of lift to it, what with a young starter and all. But I was so excited to see it actually staying roundish in the oven that I took a picture of the loaf through my very (very very very) dirty oven door as it cooked.
According to six-out-of-the-seven members of our family currently ingesting solid foods, Spectacular. The six year-old would rather have something with "less wheat, a softer crust, and some sweet in it." I guess you really can't please all of the people all of the time.