Still enjoying the flavors of working through Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day.
Pain au Levain - sourdough or naturally leavened bread
I've had a desire to make sourdough bread for several years. The goal was renewed while reading through Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books with the children. In "The Long Winter", Ma took wheat and turned it into edible bread that sustained the family's life for months when there was no other food available.
I think that I can make a good bread - but take away my commercial yeast and whatever other ingredients I choose to add and I'd be rather helpless. If I was ever put into Ma's shoes with wheat, and wheat alone, to feed my family, I would fail completely. While I hope to never face such a test, I have made conquering sourdough one of my goals.
First I needed a sourdough starter. I had high goals of a sourdough starter with no commercial yeast and no sugar. I actually made several attempts in the last few years with no success.
Peter's directions for a sourdough starter were different then most others that I've seen and his was the first that actually worked for me! When I made my first loaf of Pain au Levain, by the "purist" directions containing no commercial yeast, I felt I was watching a miracle! This bread contains flour, water, and salt. That is it! And it was delicious! I just couldn't believe it could puff up and raise with the strength of the wild yeast alone!
I do think I could have baked it a little longer, which gives me something to try next time. I followed the directions exactly and made no variations (can you believe it, I couldn't!)
This bread was mostly white flour and my next goal is a whole wheat sourdough bread.