Something New

December 28, 2014 winter 025


I’ve gotten a head start on a “new” year.

Here is the first loaf of sourdough bread, baked from a newly made starter, in a brand new Dutch oven given to me for Christmas.


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The entire house is perfumed by this wonderful bread.

I’ve been reading two new books about baking bread  this week.

9781607742746_p0_v2_s114x1669781452100289_p0_v1_s260x420Both of these speak of time as an essential ingredient to baking good bread.  They introduce some new techniques and ways of making dough I have only just begun to learn.

I love beginning a new year with learning something new!

The bread I’ve baked today began a week ago when I mixed some rye flour (a gift from a friend who chose to shift to a gluten free diet) with some bottled spring water, and set it aside to come alive.

Rye flour harbors some specific yeasts and bacteria which when activated, will grow into a “sourdough” culture or “levain.”

After two days, I began feeding my new culture with bread flour and more bottled spring water.


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On the third day I divided my culture in half, giving half to another baking friend, and continued to feed the culture with flour and water.

By Friday the culture was ready to leaven a batch of bread dough.  When I divided the culture to feed it, half went into the bowl to serve as the basis for bread.

I also finally purchased Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast,  and set about reading beyond the “sample” to dig into his techniques and recipes.

I didn’t follow his recipes for this bread, but I followed many of his principles.  I made a well hydrated, loose, dough; “folded” it several times during the rise, and allowed it plenty of time to rise slowly.

Translated:  The dough was much softer and wetter than I normally make it.  I let it rise for about four hours on the counter, and then put the dough into the refrigerator, in a covered bowl, for an additional 36 hours before forming the loaf early this morning.

Once formed, with plenty of extra flour used in making the loaf, I let it rise an additional four hours before beginning to bake the bread.

This bread is leavened only with the “sourdough” levain.  There is no additional yeast. 


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And the ingredients list includes only flour, water, honey, olive oil, and salt in addition to flour and the levain starter. I brushed the loaf with melted butter and sprinkled sesame seeds and sea salt on the top crust before baking.


Bread board by Michael Laico.

Bread board by Michael Laico.

It is the soul of simplicity:  bread made as our grandmothers made it in the centuries before we could purchase yeast at the grocery store!

What was old is new again….


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Woodland Gnome 2014

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

12 responses to “Something New

  1. Incredible looking bread. So tall and light. I am going to give it a go after the children’s midterm break is over. You have been so generous with your advice. I will keep you posted. Thank you!!

  2. That bread looks fantastic! I can almost smell it from here 😉 I am impressed with your energy and patience (not to mention love) that went into creating that bread. I can’t imagine spending days tending a loaf. It must feel like a real accomplishment!

    • Thank you, Eliza. The secret of this bread is patience. You can’t be too fussy with it…. and you have to just leave it alone for long stretches of time. It certainly was nice to finally declare it done and set it out to cool 😉 And yes, it smells wonderful 😉 There is plenty of starter to share, should you be interested in working with it. Thank you for your beautiful email. What a sweetheart! She is blessed with a loving home, and I’m so glad you found each other! I will answer by email tomorrow. Running out of steam tonight 😉 Best wishes, WG

  3. Oh wow, I love bread and wish I could make it like you do! Looks very delicious, there isn’t a lot much better than good crusty bread, warm from the oven with olive oil!! 🙂 Thank you for showing the board and the link!! 🙂

    • Thank you, Michael 😉 You certainly could make bread like this. There are just a few tricks to it, and I keep trying to learn more about it. This was a practice loaf, and I have more dough rising. Your boards photograph so well. They make anything look even better 😉 Hope you all are having a great time! It finally rained here in early evening. We had another fine, warm day to get outside. Best wishes, WG

  4. That bread looks so tasty, Elizabeth! My wife and I are practically drooling over your photos 😃 It reminds me of my Grandfather’s Dutch Oven cooking on the cattle drive. Sourdough bread is my favorite! I can’t wait to see how your second loaf turns out 😄 Have a wonderful rest of your weekend, my friend!

    • Dear Tyler,

      Thank you for the kind words! We could hardly wait for the bread to cool enough to slice it, and promptly ate half the loaf between us! Oh, such flavor! We buy the Trader Joe’s sourdough bread all of the time. But this is prime time for baking bread, while we’re glad for the extra heat in the house. Oh, if you two could just smell how good it smells in here this afternoon! I’m ready to stir up another batch of dough 😉 I could mail you some starter if you want to bake this winter…. Mom just gave me this Dutch oven yesterday- a gift she forgot to wrap 😉 It cooks the bread perfectly! Best wishes to you both. I still cherish the memories of sharing breakfast and having a chance to talk and get to know one another better. Happy New Year! Elizabeth

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