Loyal readers will know of my long quest for the perfect rustic bread. The recipes and techniques I’ve used have always led to breads that have good taste, but lack the large open structure, satisfying chew, and crunchy crust that I think define rustic bread. My ideal rustic loaf should be strong enough to hold up to thick winter stews, serve as an excellent base for French toast, and be tasty with butter or olive oil at lunch. Here is the sourdough I made on Tuesday night.
This is the rustic bread I’ve been looking for! The crust has a beautiful golden caramel color and crispy crunch, the crumb is chewy and rewarding, and to my great joy, there are huge air pockets and holes throughout. The one thing that needs development is the flavor. It certainly isn’t sour enough yet, so I’m rebuilding my mother starter. This time I’m going to let it get really active and lively before feeding it and putting it in the fridge with lower hydration. Most of all, I’ve found that time has been the element to bring this rustic bread up to its fullest potential. This recent sourdough took three days: one for the starter, the second for the dough with an overnight retardation in the fridge, with baking on the third evening.
Last night all I had for dinner was five slices of this bread. One was plain, another few were with butter or olive oil, and one was with jam. Each time I had a bite I knew I was much closer to my ideal bread.
I am dedicating today’s blog to my good friend Doug who lives up in San Francisco. Every time I talk to him about baking, he suggests I should start up my own bakery, despite the eye-watering high balance on my school loans and recent years of hard work in architecture school. While I see a bakery as something to keep my busy and happy in retirement, Doug is always pushing me to pursue what makes me happy. Right now, this bread makes me happy. I’ve been waiting to send him a rustic bread that represented the very best I could make. With this new revelation, I think I might actually get there by the end of the year. Well, good enough to send up to San Francisco, which is the epicenter of sourdough. But I’m calling mine San Diego sourdough.