Even as a child, I had a fascination of bygone eras. I would read old novels and old fashioned books, savoring the words. I would relish a simple snack, taken in the afternoon, of cheese, my mom's homemade bread, butter, a cup of hot tea, and an apple. I would get excited because it was a snack that the characters in my books would have eaten!
This thrill of a bygone era has translated itself into my adulthood with a much less romanticized, some would almost say cynical, view of the past. I have discovered a love of some things that some would call 'old fashioned'. Knitting is recent discovery, sewing has been a love of mine for ages, cooking is both necessary and wonderful, and baking a lovely, if not always successful endeavor.
Recently, I picked up a copy of "The Lost Art of Real Cooking: Rediscovering the Pleasures of Traditional Food One Recipe at a Time " by Ken Albala and Rosana Natziger. There are recipes ranging from baked goods to beer, curing your own olives to making your own miso. It's pretty fascinating and reads just like an ancient cookery tome. (yes, I have read old cookery books, I promise you!)
This past week, I have been cultivating a wild yeast sourdough starter utilizing the instructions found in the book. It's fairly easy: a cup of flour and a cup of water mixed together and left on the counter for a good day. It also suggested you could leave it outside, but that made me a bit squeamish. You then cover it with a towel and give it a cup of flour, a cup of water and a stir each day. You build it up for a week and its ready for small breads! ( It's supposed to be at full strength in two, which means big ole loaves of fantasticalness )
Today, I made my first loaf. My bread usually looks pretty sad and tastes worse. Not this time... It's BEAUTIFUL!!! And, by the way, the recipe for the bread itself? Easy peasy, one cup of the starter, one cup of water, a pinch of salt, and enough bread flour until it's a dough. Knead ten minutes, rise two hours, shape loaf, let rise three, and bake in your oven at about 500 degrees F for 20 - 25 minutes. Use a baking stone and put some ice cubes into the floor of the oven so it gets steamy. I've simplified it here, but the full instructions aren't much more involved.