08 February 2013

Wild, wild yeast

Even during a slow week in the kitchen, I usually manage to turn out at least one batch of homemade bread. It's a routine sort of thing that brings me a unique sense of calm and joy. Sourdough has been the bread of choice lately, usually manifesting as pretzels, my go-to use for would-be "discard" starter, albeit a somewhat involved and unusual route. (I've made the same version so many times, I don't even consult the recipe anymore. My freezer always has pretzels in it. I am not complaining.)

This week, my oven has not seen the likes of a single pretzel. In truly unusual fashion, I deviated from what has become my bread norm--pretzel-making, obviously--in favor of something different, which is, in fact, probably quite normal in terms of at-home bread baking: I made actual sourdough loaves.
Wanting to find a recipe for a hearty, whole wheat, sandwich-style loaf, I found that this recipe for Sourdough Honey-Whole Wheat Bread (over at Heartland Renaissance) quite fit the bill. I adapted it ever-so-easily to suit my vegan needs, using almond milk for dairy milk, milled flax seed and water for eggs, vegan margarine for butter, and agave nectar and molasses for honey. Although my resulting loaves were not nearly as perfect as Sarah's--I let my unbaked loaves over-rise, which yielded rather flat tops--the bread's tender crumb was more than acceptable. I had expected the density that so often results from bread made without refined flour (such as this one), but instead discovered a measure of lightness that made up for the disappointing unevenness of my misshapen top crusts.
The actual flavor also surprised me. Having expected the amount of sweetness from the agave and molasses to mask any trace of sourdough, I was pleasantly surprised by the noticeable tangy bite the bread retained; it makes me oddly happy to be reminded of my ability to keep my sourdough not only alive, but appropriately sour. There was a slight sweetness to offset the sourness, the interplay amounting to flavorful bread. I couldn't ask for a more satisfying conclusion to another bread baking session.

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