One weekend, about five years ago, I got the crazy idea in my head that I wanted to try my hand at baking some sourdough bread. I searched the Internet and discovered that I couldn’t just whip up a batch of sourdough in a weekend; I spent a few weeks feebly attempting to cultivate a sourdough starter; and when those attempts came up short, I walked away from the sourdough dream for a while.
It didn’t take long for me to revisit the idea, however, and my Internet rabbit hole led me to the BBA Challenge—a group of “home bakers with a crazy goal in mind”: to bake every formula from Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Now, at the time, I was no bread baker, and hardly worthy of being called an apprentice either. But after more Internet rabbit holes I determined that this Reinhart fellow was a celebrity in artisanal bread circles and his book was one of the finest teachers a novice could turn to. BBA Challenge accepted. I ordered the book and on November 29, 2009, I pulled two loaves of Anadama bread out of the oven. My adventure had begun.
Over the next few months, I spent my weekends baking. Bagels, cinnamon buns, challah, ciabatta. I kneaded my way through French baguettes and kaisers and lavash crackers and Portuguese buns. But I knew that the S section was coming up quickly, and I would soon be faced with the very thing that led me down this road to begin with: sourdough.
Reinhart’s method for cultivating a sourdough starter involves rye flour and pineapple juice. I tried. I failed. I tried again. I failed again. I must’ve tried eight or ten times and failed each and every time. In hindsight I don’t think I failed so much as I gave up too quickly—if you’re a longtime reader of this blog you know that patience is a virtue I do not come by honestly, and if you’re a bread baker at all, you know that these things take time. At any rate, my sourdough starters never did flourish, and before I knew it it was April, I was pregnant with Nyana, and then my world was turned upside down. Then things calmed down, we found a rhythm in our new normal, and life went on. Then we had Freddie, and life got crazy again. But life was good, despite our storebought Dempster’s loaves of bread.
But in the back of my mind, that elusive yeastless loaf still called to me: its big holes, chewy crumb, rustic crust. I could see my copy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice sitting on the bookshelf, calling to me, begging me to try again. Remembering my failed attempts with Reinhart’s pineapple method, I went back to my Internet rabbit holes and found Wild Yeast Blog‘s instructions using white flour and water. And on June 18, 2013, I proudly proclaimed myself back in the game, with a successful starter in hand. I estimated that this starter was my 15th attempt, and so, I named him Quincey.
Quincey has done me well since last June. I can’t tell you the last time I bought a loaf of sandwich bread. I’ve adapted this recipe into whole wheat, honey oat, flaxseed goodness which I bake two loaves at a time, slice as soon as it’s cool, and store in the freezer. On down weekends, when I already have honey-oat-flax goodness in the freezer, I bake cinnamon swirl bread, or roasted onion sourdough, or croissants or whatever whim I feel like kneading that day. There is never a shortage of bread in our freezer. I’ll be slowly adding my formulas to the site and sharing some techniques as I go. In the meantime, you can follow my breadbaking adventures on Instagram by searching the hashtag #yeastedventures.