We love fresh artisan bread. You know, the kind that tastes like it came from Europe, with a crunchy crust and a wonderful smell. Unfortunately, here in the States, artisan bread is difficult to find, or prohibitively expensive. Apparently the American public prefers tasteless chemical-laden dough. (insert shudder here)
I’ve had a bread machine for years, but it doesn’t produce the flavorful crusty breads that we crave. Yet it’s better than supermarket bread. Unfortunately my last bread machine committed suicide about two months ago, leaping from the counter and bleeding bread dough all over the floor.
Enter Beulah. No, she’s not a kindly old lady who comes in to bake bread for me. She’s my sourdough starter. She’s been named because I expect she will be part of our household for years to come, and she is a living thing who gets fed once a week. She’s also very bubbly. Literally.
I had always intended to do sourdough, but thought it was too hard. I found a fool-proof starter recipe. I forced the bubblies by keeping the starter in the oven with the light on, but the heat off. Beulah was ready to go in four days. Her flavor has improved with time.
Once started, you just have to remove some starter every week, and replace it with the same amount of water and flour (remove 1 cup of starter, put in 1 cup warm water and 1 cup flour). I had been throwing the starter out, but last week I decided to make the bread. I followed the instructions in my old Betty Crocker cookbook, and WOW! the bread is outstanding.
If you think bread is too difficult to make, or too complicated, put that aside. There are great picture tutorials out on the web now, such as How To Make Bread (without a bread machine). It really is quite easy.
Another favorite method is the no-knead method featured in Mother Earth News’s “Easy, No Knead Crusty Bread“. This takes longer, but requires a lot less interaction.
Both of these methods are ways to get great loaves of wonderful artisan bread very inexpensively.
Photo by TheLizardQueen