Thursday, September 27, 2007

the sourdough post

Imagine my happiness at arriving home one day to find an envelope in the mail from Jody. In it, she had sent me a bit of sourdough starter that has been passed down for decades! I had been a little leery about starting a relationship with a sourdough starter, since I had managed to kill one before, but Jody assured me that this particular batch is hardy as hell, and nearly impossible to kill.

Well, she was right! We revived and fed the starter the night we received it, and the next morning, we were ready to have...

Sourdough pancakes!! Daiku and I are both huge fans of sourdough (having grown up in the Bay Area, I have enjoyed my fair share of San Francisco sourdough bread), but had never tried it in pancake form.

Not only were these suckers fluffy, golden, and beautiful, but they were delicious!

Served with a little bit of Earth Balance and maple syrup, they were melt-in-your-mouth heaven.

Next up, sourdough pizza dough:

Holy mother of crust, this was magnificent! The dough is actually quite easy to make, and doesn't take that long to rise. This is the cool thing about sourdough- it's like a shortcut to baking, since the starter is like a seasoned sponge that otherwise would take hours and hours to achieve.

After par-baking the crust and brushing it with olive oil, we topped it with fresh garlic, heirloom tomatoes, spinach, black olives, and basil from the garden. I topped my half with tofu ricotta, and Daiku topped his half with (dairy) white cheddar.

This pizza was, in a word, amazing. We kept marveling at the professional results our dough achieved, how it had the perfect flavor and flaky texture, and how this was the closest we'd ever come to duplicating the unique characteristics of New York-style pizza.

Look how the thin crust stood up to the load of toppings!

Ok, we had had our fun- now it was time to get down to serious business: sourdough bread.

This was the first attempt. I loved how soft the bread came out (perfect for sandwiches).

And how good the inside looked.

It was just the thing for recreating one of my all-time favorite breakfasts from childhood. My mom used to make me honey butter, basically a mixture of honey and butter, to put on toast. Nowadays, I simply make it with a mixture of Earth Balance and agave nectar, and it is so good.

With some nice toast, a handful of fresh walnuts, and some strong black tea, you have yourself a pretty damn good breakfast.

After getting a feel for the starter and how it behaves, I branched out and decided to make crusty baguette-style bread and rye bread with the starter.

Here is one of the rye loaves, sprinkled throughout with caraway seeds. So tasty!

One last bonus bread, this one not sourdough:

This is Bryanna's European-style crusty bread recipe, and it is so great. This is the first time I have achieved a truly crusty bread with wonderful taste and texture. The only slight modifications I made to the recipe are that I used less wheat germ than called for (because I ran out), and that I added about a tablespoon of wheat gluten.

Whatever- this bread was excellent. My goal, as I practice with the sourdough more and more, is to achieve the texture, crust, and consistency of this bread in sourdough form.

Jody, thank you so much for bringing sourdough into our lives- it rocks!

Some of Bazu's tips and observations on sourdough so far:
  • Since sourdough can react with metal, I've only used glass or ceramic containers and wooden chopsticks to handle it. We keep it in a large pickle jar in the refrigerator, with the lid loosely placed on top
  • Why are there so many sourdough recipes on-line that call for yeast? Sourdough starter is its own yeast and rising agent- why "cheat" by adding yeast? (See, I've had this starter for two weeks and already I'm a sourdough snob!) But seriously- you don't need yeast if you're working with a starter.
  • Sourdough bread gets more sour as it cools and rests
  • To achieve the most sour bread possible, go with the longest rising time possible. San Francisco sourdough bread is often the product of 24-36 hours of rising! I find that long, cool temperature rising results in a flavor I like better than the quicker rising in warm temperatures. This is good- it means lots of yummy bread in the cold-weather months coming up!
  • Just to be safe, I have put a bit of our starter to "sleep" (i.e. froze it), in case something goes wrong with the batch we're working with.
  • I need a waffle maker- hello sourdough waffles!
Recipes from this post: (I didn't follow most of these recipes exactly, but played around with them- sourdough is incredibly forgiving)

Sourdough pancakes
Sourdough pizza dough
Crusty sourdough baguette and crusty rye bread (I loved the cornstarch baste trick- the breads came out glistening, enough to rival any egg wash)
Sourdough tips and tricks
Bryanna's European-style crusty bread


Sarah said...

Hi Bazu,

I'm not sure I've ever commented here before, so HI! I read your blog all the time.

These sourdough items are gorgeous! I really want those pancakes, and I am now officially hankering for sourdough pizza with tofu ricotta (did you use the VWAV recipe? I haven't tried that one yet).

You appear to know a little something about baking breads. Me, not so much. In fact, my husband is the official baker in the family (for all the VCTOW cupcakes I've devoured since that book came out, I have not done one single step involved in the preparation of them). So, my question is: do you have a great bread book that you learned from and/or rely on for general wisdom? I know of several "bread bibles" but don't know if they are vegan-friendly or accessible to beginning bread-bakers.

I'd like to get one for my husband so that he can make me gorgeous breads (in addition to the amazing vegan pancakes and waffles he makes me), so if you have a favorite I'd love to hear about it.


Vegan_Noodle said...

Wow, I don't even like sourdough and my mouth is watering! Okay, to be fair, I haven't really tried very much of it. My interest is certainly peaked by this talk of sourdough starter. I think I need to google that one.

The pancakes (as all of yours do) look perfect, and that pizza has sealed the deal for it being on my menu this weekend. Maybe someday I'll have a sourdough starter of my own (sigh) :-)

bazu said...

Hi Sarah,

Thanks so much for stopping by! I enjoy getting more and more practice baking bread, but I'm by no means an expert! Instead, I just google recipes according to what I want and keep track of what works for me (and is easily veganizable) and what doesn't/isn't. My friend, who is much better at baking than I am swears by the King Arthur's Flour baking book, and it is a super professional one. How cool that you have a partner who bakes- it's fun to eat fresh-made bread!

Vegan Noodle, you have to give sourdough another chance- it is so delicious and versatile! I could even try sending you some of this starter- email me!

SusanV said...

This post comes at such a good time! Three weeks ago, my husband gave me a Kitchenaid mixer and a bread book for my birthday. I had told him I wanted it and promised to make lots of bread for him. Well, so far I've bought yeast and three types of flour--but haven't made bread! I've been reading recipes, but I think I have stage fright (or baking fright). Anyway, your beautiful loaves, crusts, and pancakes just make me determined to get baking. I love the idea of a sourdough starter, too--something to plan for the future, once I've re-learned how to do basic bread baking.

SaraJane said...

Sourdough pancakes - brilliant! I've killed starter before myself, but I think I'm going to try again, inspired by the awesomeness you've created.

Oh man, sourdough pizza crust... just this morning I was saying to a friend that I wanted to make pizza again.

Anonymous said...

Awesome! I love the pancakes and pizza crust! I make sourdough pancakes on occasion but I'll definitely have to try the pizza crust. Good timing too because after letting my starter languish in the fridge for about the last 3-4 months I just took it out and fed it this mornign in anticipation of making bread this weekend.

VeggieGirl said...

WOW!! sourdough has such a lovely, "tangy" flavor; I love it. the sourdough pancakes, bread loaf, pizza, and the "honey" butter, all look fantastic; as does the European-style crusty bread, made from Bryanna's recipe. and thanks for all the cooking tips for sourdough!!

Vegan*asm said...

All of your breads look so good, and those pancakes are making my mouth water. I have started making my own bread now that fall is approaching and the weather is cooling down. I would love to try sourdough.

Anonymous said...

Your breads/pizza all look so good! I have always been scared of working with sourdough for some reason. But yours look amazing!


Doodleyboo said...

I am so, so envious! Growing up in Vancouver (Canada) sourdough bread was something I had all the time. I never imagined that I wouldn't be able to get it. Then I moved to Toronto. I've been able to find sour dough once so far and the local grocery stores carry only Italian and Portuguese breads. It's enough to make me seriously interested in making my own sourdough starter. With you and Kittee blogging about this, I think it is about time I started. Thanks for the post! :o)

Susan said...

Oh, I wish I had some of your sourdough pancakes last night. I felt like having breakfast for dinner and make some corn pancakes, but they were way too heavy. Yours look so appealingly fluffy and delicious!

Theresa said...

Bazu, that does look like a damn good breakfast.

I've been interested in sourdough starters for a while, but was never brave enough to actually get one. Many of the webpages I read about them implied that they were hard to keep... maybe I'll look into one here in Oz.

Anonymous said...

You really have impressed me. I had a sourdough starter for a while but I didn't do anything with it for a few months and I think it got moldy so I threw it out. I was kind of sad that I couldn't make a 100% whole wheat sourdough. No matter how many different methods I tried, I just couldn't get it to work properly.

the pleasantly plump vegan said...

i am jealous and hungry now. that pizza looks like a winner!

aTxVegn said...

So many delicious treats I shouldn't eat! Like Noodle, I haven't been much of a fan of sourdough, but the pancakes and pizza make me think it's worth another try. Everything you made turned out perfectly!

Pink Theory said...

like vegan_noodle, I'm not a huge fan of sourdough...but your post may have just changed my mind. your breads look perfect!

Jody from VegChic said...

glad the starter is working out for you. I've yet to freeze some of mine, but really should do that.

The pizza and breads all look wonderful, really. I need to try pizza soon. The pancakes rock, don't they?

I agree about most recipes calling for yeast. This bothered me too, but my first batch of sourdough only bread, was awful. ---Just too sour. Maybe the ratio of starter to flour was weird. I'll have to give it a try again.

Anonymous said...

dear god...i'm dying from all the carbs, but I can't resist

Emilie said...

i have a sourdough post lurking in the wings too! now you've just given me more fuel for it. everything looks perfectly delicious.

i cultivated my own starter and i really feel like i'm in a relationship with it and it's the kind of relationship that is almost exactly like i said, "hmm, what kind of relationship precisely should i not enter into" and then did. sourdough starter, meet vegan ice cream maker...

Emmie said...

Pancakes! ok, you're officially AWESOME. That bread looks delicious, the pizza looks heavenly. I'm hungry now!

Sarah said...

Thanks, Bazu - I'll check out King Arthur. And yes, I'm VERY lucky (and thankful!) that my partner is such a great and generous baker!


theONLYtania said...

Hmm. I'll have to do a little bit of reading. I'm not really familiar with what the "sourdough starter" is or how to use it. But I'm getting the sense that it's something alive?! I'm intrigued.
I love this post, all the food looks great. The picture of the pancake pile on the plate just looks so good!
I could never eat a pizza like that, haha. I need my toppings to be chopped up really fine. Once I got a pizza with like whole tomato slices like that and I was so bothered when a whole slice would slide off with one bite!
What is your loaf of sourdough bread sitting in there in that one picture? Like a wire basket?
That EB/agave mixture sounds great. *sigh* I wish Chris ate breakfast. I could make him some really good things!

Veganista said...

Bazu, just when I think it would not be possible for you to put together a yet more beautiful and interesting post, here comes this one on sourdough! All the bread looks amazing, and I WANT THAT PIZZA, dammit. Josh is kinda keen on the idea of becoming an expert breadmaker (that would be lovely, perhaps the europe trip will further inspire) he will enjoy reading this post.

dreamy said...

Oh my oh my! I just eaten lunch and you are making me greedy for food now, the pizza look so appetizing! :d I haven't had pizza for a long long time, I think... years! Am really missing it so much!

Catherine said...

I love, love, love sourdough pancakes . . . especially "kamikaze" style!

Perhaps sourdough is my answer to all of the crappy homemade bread I've made over the years. I might need to invest in a Kitchen Aid, too. It's just tough to get enough gluten development by hand! Must investigate . . . thanks for the inspiration!

Anardana said...

I am so jealous!

Kittee said...

Wow. I've gotta get the starters working for me soon, they really are like my pets now. I'm afraid to put them in the fridge though, even though folks keep telling me to do this. Another great book on baking with whole wheat and whole grains is The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, it was recently updated in '03.


Monika K said...

Amazing, Bazu! These breads/foccacias/pancakes all look so professional and delicious! I need to find some sourdough starter asap so that I can make and show off incredible bread, too!

Melody Polakow said...

Wow! The bread looks amazing... and so do the pancakes... I think I'm going to beg Jody for some starter.

I just absolutely loved the last post.. and the photos form raspberry picking. Your photos are amazing... seriously.. I love them!... and the post before.. Red Hook Brewery is in my town, Portsmouth, NH.. they make the best beer ever in my opinion and I use it often to make beer breads... oh.. and the stew looked great too.

Anonymous said...

oh dear, what a post! i love sour dough - i'd love to give some of your recipes a try! mmm... probably very very soon!

urban vegan said...

This post is heaven for a carb lover like me. I'm not the world's biggest dourdough fan but you make me think I should get to know it a little better.

And your photos are really wowing me lately. I'm sure I told you that before.

Woo-hoo, Ba-zu.

scottishvegan said...

Everything in your post looks so amazing! Especially the pancakes! And the pizza! And the bread! I love it all...I am drooling!!

Village Vegan said...

That all looks SO GOOD. The sourdough bread from Whole Foods is one of the things I miss most from NYC...mmm. Maybe I should try to make my own sourdough starter, though none of my previous efforts tasted like what I wanted.

And I have that very same big green saucer/plate thing from Ikea! Great minds think alike ;-)

laura jesser said...

Wow! I have loved sourdough bread all my life, and this post is literally making my mouth water. My mom made sourdough bread when I was a kid, but once she went back to work when I was in middle school, the sourdough starter died... and never started back up again. I would love to get some sourdough starter going... assuming I could keep it alive!

All your photos look perfect--I especially love the pancakes, because I've never thought of sourdough pancakes before! Yum!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

I have some of Jody's starter as well. I'm loving the pancakes! In fact, I made them this morning. Your bread looks GREAT! I was going to make the deep dish pizza you suggested tomorrow, but I may have to go with sourdough! Sourdough deep dish?! haha.

Judy said...

OMG look at all that bread! Your pizza looks amazing, but I have to admit, Daiku's side tempts me more (can't give up my cheese!). And those pancakes look divine.

Mihl said...

This was an interesting and very helpful post! Thank you. I love the idea to make pancakes and pizza with sourdough, I've never done that. Thank you as well for adding all the recipe links. I will definitely try something soon!

springsandwells said...

dang girl!
check you out and your 37 comments. :)

This is a great post. Sourdough bread is my favorite kind of bread in the world, but I have never tried making it. I don't really understand all this "starter" business! ha ha. And man o man, sourdough pancakes and pizza dough?? That's just awesome. Thanks for the tips. If I ever figure it out, I'll be sure to come back here and look up your tips.

:) amey

Crystal & Ryan - Café Cyan said...

Ok, maybe I'm dumb, but I just don't get how this all sourdough starter thing works. It keeps multiplying?

I remember getting friendship bread starters in the past, but I thought I just added flour and other ingredients and made bread.

Looks like I'm missing out on something cool! I'll have to do some more research and figure this all out in the case someone sends me a sourdough starter :)


bazu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bazu said...

Hi Crystal,

It's not a dumb question at all! It took me a few years and more than a few tries to get how sourdough works, too. Basically, a sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that has picked up naturally occurring yeast from its environment. This organism in the starter "feeds" on carbohydrates and gives off gas (which gives sourdough baked goods their characteristic lightness and sour flavor) and can survive for hundreds of years, if protected from heat and fed properly.

You keep sourdough starter refrigerated (in a bowl or jar) until you want to use it, at which time you feed it some flour and water. This will cause it to come alive, bubble, and expand. You then use what you need for your recipe, and save the rest for your next experiment.

You can attempt to make your own starter (there are lots of recipes on the web), or you can get it passed down like I did.

It's as easy as that! The hard part is deciding what you're going to make next. =)

maybepigscanfly said...

I'm about to make a confession that I'm afraid I might regret. Here goes... I don't like sourdough. But it gets worse, I live in San Francisco and directly across from my house is a boudin bakery. But hey I do enjoy the smell and embrace it everytime I get off the bus and know I'm at home. Although all of the food you've made with the sourdough looks delicious. I do LOVE rye- so that homemade rye bread looks/sounds perfect for me! I'm really going to need to look into making my own bread- especially for sandwiches.

Awesome post!

Anonymous said...

I lived in Northern CA for awhile and really loved the sourdough bread so I'm a little envious of your starter! Everything looks amazing but I really want a slice of that pizza. It rivals anything you'd get at a pizzeria.

Tofu Mom (AKA Tofu-n-Sprouts) said...


I am the proud and protective owner of some of Jody's starter as well. We do pancakes or waffles EVERY Sunday like clockwork and my kids are LOVING it... I have the pictures for a fairly drool-worthy "sourdough pizza" post hanging around waiting for me to be inspired enough to add a few words and post the damn thing... but now I think yours is even better! I may just have to make MORE pizza (oh DARN!!)
Sourdough ENGLISH MUFFINS are wonderful I've discovered - I'll have to post my pics - and if you haven't tried it, sourdough pita-bread is AWESOME too! I can see I have WAY too much to post myself, geez I'm lazy!!

Thanks so much for the inspiration!

Unilove said...

Awesome post, and your pics are truly amazing! A pleasure to read and view.

Can you specify a lil more: just how do you add water and flour? to the jar, or you scoop some out, then mix water and flour separately, or just what?


bazu said...

Hi Unilove!
I just add equal parts flour and water right into the jar, stir it up, and leave it at room temperature. I then wait until it's nice and bubbly and doubled in size (or more) and measure out the amount of starter I want to use.

Christine said...

I found this guy's site, and have begun my first starter EVER! I'm now completely addicted. At least if I kill it, I know I can get it going again:

Unilove said...

Thanks, Bazu! Your most recent pictures in your latest posts are just amazing! Your photography skills have just gotten so breathtaking - I feel like reaching out to pluck a plum from your bowl!

I know you spend a lot of time sharing, so thank you!


monica said...

mmm, i'm not the only one who likes walnut on my bread. I do mine with banana, but the honey "butter" sounds good. I'll give it a shot!

textual bulldog said...

sourdough is my FAVORITE bread ever, so i need to get involved with this starter biz, stat! love the post, and those pancakes look especially amazing...!

Daniel said...

Question for you - I am a Syracuse grad, lived in Ithaca for a couple years and worked for Cornell.

I recently moved to Massachusetts and I'm trying to grow my own sourdough starter. Problem is, it's COLD in the house in October. The starter smells right and will rise a smidge when I feed it with warm food, but as it cools down (house is about 68 degrees) it loses its oomph.

Do you have any cold weather sourdough tips? Thank you!

bazu said...

Hi Daniel,
Nice to "meet" you and thanks for your question! I'm afraid I might not be of much help here, because so far our starter has been pretty robust and our house hasn't gotten too cold. The cold house might actually be an asset, because I've heard that sourdough bread that rises too fast in too warm an environment won't have the best, most fully developed flavor.

If your starter is languishing, there are lots of tutorials on the web that you can search for about how to bring it back to life. Again, I haven't had to do this myself (yet), but I think the main thing to do is feed it more frequently for a period of time (like 2 or 3 times a day for a few days) until it comes back. I hope this helps!

Greg said...

Hi, I am a big fan of sourdough bread and came across your blog kind of by accident. I read that you got started with a dry starter sent to you. It seems several of the comments posted are interested in getting such a starter to experiment with. I've collected several of them over the years, if you are interested they are available at my web site. There's a few from Italy that are great for pizza.