Wednesday, February 3, 2010

BBA Challenge #30: Sourdough- Basic Sourdough Bread

In the beer world, there are a bunch of beers around the Belgian area known as Payottenland, or, less formally, Lambic land. Lambic is essentially a beer that is fermented by the yeasts that grow wild in the air around a brewery. Old lambic is mixed with new lambic to make the drink called Gueuze.

The resulting beer is sour like vinegar with a complex aroma and taste. It's akin to some of the most sour sourdough you've ever had. Most people I know cannot handle it- I even had a bunch of my friends taste it and immediately spit it out. I know, that's some recommendation. And but- I absolutely adore it, I just love the sour but subtle flavor and the slight funky "barnyard" aroma.

If you're ever in Brussels, and are curious, I suggest you visit Cantillon, a working brewery that is also the Gueuze Museum. If you're only sort of curious, but don't want to commit to the whole experience, look for some Orval, or, the more affordable US version: Matilda from Goose Island. These last two beers are infused with some wild yeast after primary fermentation, and are good starting points, though they're more like sourdough bread that has been leavened with commercial yeast for the first rise. Both are world class beers, but neither are as mouth-puckering wonderful as a real Gueuze.

So, just like with a true lambic, we start off with no commercial yeast. The basic ingredients here are flour, salt and water. We are however adding the sourdough, which is a mixture of water and flour. Before Pasteur, a bit of old beer was saved and poured into a new batch in order to ferment it. The reason? They didn't know about yeast, and it was the only method for fermenting the new beer.

For this recipe, I used Elite Weizen, high gluten flour, as dictated by the recipe. I wasn't too thrilled, because I knew it would make a variation on white bread, and I've now become used to darker flours and darker breads.

With regards to technique, though, I usually mix everything together at medium speed, let it rest, and then knead at the lowest speed.

In the end, the dough was rather slack. It flattened out in the couche and pushed away the boxes of parchment paper roll.

I was also very bad at slashing the loaves. I was unfocused and just sort of slashed away. It looks like Wolverine had his way with them before I slid them into the oven.

In any case, I wasn't too thrilled with these.

But even though I was somewhat hesitant about them, they were really flavorful and lasted less than a week. In that week, though, they were just as good as the first day. It's truly one of the benefits of baking with sourdough.

And here's two slices- one with Maille mustard with Chaumes cheese, next to one with plum jam and the same cheese. I ate these both as a quick on the way to having dinner, much to Amy's shock. Yeah, I know. I spoiled my dinner. But

I have to say that, though the bread was good, I really would have prefered to have made it with the Type 1050 flour that I usually use for everything. But they would have been darker. For some reason, I thought the high-gluten flour would make it somehow special, but that was not the case. I think I'm just too used to eating darker, more flavorful breads so that whiter breads just don't do it for me any more. Well, unless they're enriched or mixed with Semolina.

Other Sour Dough Handlers include:

Anne Marie from Rosemary and Garlic

Oggi from I Can Do That!

Paul from Yumarama

Janice from Round The Table


  1. Well, you can't love them all (as I found out with the Tuscan bread). You should definitely try again with your choice of flour. There's just something about natural yeast that really appeals to me.

    And I'm intrigued by your description of naturally-yeasted beer. Not totally sold on the idea; but I'd like to give it a try.

  2. First, your Wolverine comment cracked me up; love the image of him slashing bread!

    Also, my husband, who has no interest in bread making (except for the fact that he gets to eat the bread I bake, which he is extremely interested in) was fascinated by this post and all that he learned about wild yeast beer. He has been on a local-only beer diet for the past year, but is excited to be finished and ready to try the ones you recommended!

    Lastly, I think the bread looks delicious. I didn't realize that sourdough kept that long, but that's exciting to know. =)

  3. Funky barnyard aroma? Wolverine slashes? HA! You got quite an oven spring from those slacking pieces of dough ~ great post!

  4. "Slight funky barnyard aroma".... Budweiser needs to cabbage on to that description for their Super Bowl ads. Oh my...LOL! I'm such a beer wuss, if it isn't nearly clear in color, I won't touch it.

    I think your Wolverine sourdough looks wonderful. And as always, I love reading your posts.

  5. You made my day with the "barnyard aroma". ROFL!!! Breadwise, I think that your "Wolverine" slashes look great. The loaves are totally gorgeous. Taste-wise I'm with you, I thought it was fine, but nothing really special. It was just like the "Mischbrot" you get in every bakery here, don't you think?

  6. You do seem to have an interesting flavor palate... Thanks for the link.

  7. Wolverine in your kitchen. LOL.
    I love the slashes though, and the crumb is gorgeous!

  8. lol. Wolverine. Love it! Your bread looks gorgeous.

    I didn't know that about lambic. thanks for sharing.

  9. When I first looked at your slashing I thought you had done it that way on purpose. I think that the loaves have a real artisan feel with the not too perfect slashes. Perfect slashes come from a factory, not an artisan baker. Your loaves look like they were made with love!

    P.S. That beer sounds perfectly awful!

  10. I am sooo jealous! My family is from Germany, and I have been trying to make bread I've had over there, but I can't always find the right ingredients. It takes me a little longer to read the German cookbooks and learn all the German techniques. Now I can read and learn and enjoy making bread with my new Kitchen Aid! Sounds like you are really enjoying your bread baking and learning the German! I miss the Rotte Rubin Sirop, und quark mit mein Brot. :)

  11. Not sure how I missed this post until today... shame on me!

    Loved the Wolverine as well - and the "spitting out the beer" being a great recommendation! :-)

    Priceless post!

    Actually, the bread turned out pretty awesome, I love the big holes, they don't bother me at all

  12. Thanks everyone for all the great comments!

    Naturally yeasted beer is not for everyone. We're talking about stinky mouth-puckering beer. Though, for me that sounds awesome. But I love that brewing and baking are related.

    Mags- you should totally try Duvel, it's pretty light in color, plus it's totally yummy (and strong!)

    ap269- yeah, it was pretty much like standard bread you get here, so I wasn't too impressed.

    Domestically Inclined- I find myself very fortunate to be able to bake with German Flours. They do make a world of difference in the bread.

    Sally- no prob. The post isn't going anywhere!