The weather here at the farm has been quite nurturing to me as I try to put into practice my word of the year: presence. We received our first true snowfall since we moved here a year and a half ago, so it hasnâ€™t been difficult to cozy in and spend time just being a mom and embracing our new life as a family. One thing itâ€™s also allowed me to do for the first time is make breadâ€”something Iâ€™d argue requires a great deal of presence in order to accomplish it well.
When our daughter was born, a dear friend gifted me with a sourdough starter that was gifted to her when her son was born. Itâ€™s a strong starter, which helps someone like me, whoâ€™s apt to forget its weekly feeding despite however present Iâ€™m trying to be. Iâ€™ve always wanted to bake bread but Iâ€™ve never been ableâ€”or perhaps the better word is willingâ€”to give it the time and attention it requires. So with the change of pace our baby afforded me and the chill in the air, I took this gift to heart and began baking.
Many of us are drawn to the homesteading life because it gives us a sense of purpose and accomplishment as we focus our energy and resources to provide for our families. Baking bread perfectly illustrates that. Iâ€™ve learned that you can do a lot with sourdough, so itâ€™s not only been nourishing to our family, itâ€™s been nourishing to my creative spirit, as well.
Sourdough Recipe No. 1: The Crusty Loaf
For my first recipe, I decided to stick with the basics: a crusty loaf. This recipe was your typical long, drawn-out bread-making affair, but it was simple enough for a beginner like me. It required a rest and a rise of the dough, with 2Â˝ hours of â€śfoldingâ€ť sandwiched in between. The folding technique was nice because I could set a timer to give it four folds every half hour, and then spend the time in between with my baby. The end result was a beautiful, artisan-style loafâ€”a real confidence booster for someone who has failed time and time again with yeast breads.
Sourdough Recipe No. 2: Pancakes
Bread is but one thing you can make with sourdough. My sourdough benefactor also gifted me with a delicious and versatile pancake recipeâ€”a perfect way to use any leftover starter after feeding it. While weâ€™ve enjoyed these pancakes the traditional wayâ€”with maple syrup and some fruit on the sideâ€”you can add any combination of fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds to the batter. Iâ€™ve made savory pancakes with beets and Parmesan; nutrient-boosting breakfast pancakes with blueberries, flax meal, brewerâ€™s yeast and pecans; and colorful pancakes made with broccoli or carrots. The recipe doesnâ€™t even include sugar, so itâ€™s a true artistâ€™s palette.
Hereâ€™s the recipe if youâ€™d like to make your own creation:
- 180 grams sourdough starter
- 150 grams whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix starter, flour and milk, and let ferment for 30 minutes to 2 hours. (You can also prepare the night before and stick in the fridge until morning.) Mix in the remaining ingredients. Add your favorite mix-ins. Portion out batter onto a heated griddle or cast-iron skillet using a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Serve immediately or freeze for easy snacks later on.
Sourdough Recipe No. 3: Rugbrod
Rugbrod is a Danish-style rye bread. I like to think of it as sourdough meets quick bread because rye flour doesnâ€™t need kneading because of its low gluten content. This recipe has quickly become a favorite in our house, not only because of its simple mix-proof-bake process, but because itâ€™s so tasty. I donâ€™t have a rugbrod pan, so I use a regular loaf pan and adjust the bake time as needed.
Sourdough Failures & Ambitions
While Iâ€™m happy to say Iâ€™ve had some good sourdough successes so far, this experience hasnâ€™t been without its failures. There was that pull-apart roll recipe I tried where the rolls didnâ€™t quite rise enough, meaning they were tasty but a bit too dense. Thereâ€™s also that time I proofed my starter in a too-small jar and it bubbled up all over my countertop.
But those failures havenâ€™t gotten me down, and Iâ€™m eager to do more with my starter. Iâ€™m still on the hunt for a good sandwich bread recipe. I tried one that required some yeast, but it was a bit too dense and crusty for my preferences and I donâ€™t want to cheat by using yeast. I found one that looks promising that Iâ€™ll probably give a go this weekend. Iâ€™ve also been hanging on to a cracker recipe that Iâ€™ll try when I can give it a full day’s attention. (When making crackers, I might as well make a whole bunch, lest they get eaten in one sitting.)
In the meantime, when Iâ€™m not enjoying the pleasures of bread-baking, weâ€™ve been getting outside to enjoy the pristine beauty of a snow-covered farm and the quietude it brings us. It wonâ€™t be long until spring descends and our attention is turned from winter rest and indoor comforts to the busy-ness of the growing season.