Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sourdough Starter

I had the most delicious bread in Washington DC. It was at a little bistro near my hotel (read more about the dinner here) and that bread was the highlight of my stay. Well, outside of seeing an old friend, but the two don't really compare, now would they...?

This bread had a hard, chewy crust. Sweet, thick center, with bite and resistance. It was lovely. And I've been craving it ever since.

I took a luxurious nap this afternoon (sleep when the baby sleeps, and all that). During my nap, I dreamed of bread. So when I awoke, I decided I should bake bread. But the stuff I make in the bread maker has disappointed me lately. The crust is okay, but the heart of the stuff was like Wonder Bread--all air holes and flavorless.

I remembered the year I spent making simple loaves of bread by scratch. They weren't pretty, but they tasted good.

So out came the good old Joy of Cooking. Did I really want standard white bread? No. I wanted that bistro bread. What was it that separated great bread from standard bread? Is great, bistro bread made with a sponge or a starter? Maybe. Maybe.

So I've started a sourdough starter. I can't help remember Jeffrey Steingarten's tales of woe in making starter in Manhatten. Will the fact that I live two stone's thows from a vineyard help? Will all the grape yeast be flying around the air, even if it's winter?

We'll see. It's day one. I'll post as things progress (or don't!).

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