Update On My Bread Baking Project

I’m long overdue to tell you how my bread baking project is going. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that after watching the documentary Cooked, I decided to try capturing my own wild yeast and learning how to bake bread with it. (See my column Capturing Wild Yeast.) Actually, I had been wanting to learn how to bake bread for a long time before that, but this was the motivation I needed to get me started.

How did it go?! Well, I captured the yeast, and I did learn how to bake bread with it. Over a matter of months, I made a lot of mistakes, but I got better at it. I finally figured out how I often and how much I needed to feed the yeast to make it really active and capable of making bread rise.

Opps. There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to baking bread, especially with a sourdough culture.

Some of it was quite tasty too. My husband enjoyed every loaf I made, but unfortunately, my boys didn’t care for the bread that was made with the sourdough culture (i.e., the wild yeast). And to be honest, I didn’t always love the bread either. After awhile, I started to wonder if it was the sourdough flavor that I didn’t enjoy.

My first really good loaf with the sourdough culture: Rosemary Olive Oil Bread. It was delicious!

I experimented quite a bit. When I had a hard time getting the bread to rise, I tried using part sourdough culture and part store-bought yeast (dry active yeast). That worked well. I also tried just using store-bought yeast so that I could compare the results.

Oh boy. The bread with the store-bought yeast was sooooooo delicious. And it was sooooooo easy to make. AND, my boys loved it!

Even though it might not have as many health benefits, it was a no brainer for me to ditch the sourdough culture and keep using the store-bought yeast for now. Using the wild yeast was a lot of fun, but it’s very time consuming, and it was very hard to plan when I was going to bake bread. We get very busy, and I don’t always know what we’re going to be doing on any given day, so having to prepare the culture two days in advance is not practical for me right now. It’s much nicer to wake up and think, “I feel like baking bread today” and have the whole process done in half a day.

One of my experiments. Using store-bought yeast, I made two loaves. One of them had a single rise (left), and the other a second rise (right). Conclusion: It’s worth it to do a second rise.

I may attempt using a sourdough culture in the future because it was fun. I’d be curious to see if a new culture (one that I’d know exactly how to care for from the get-go) would taste different, and/or I wouldn’t mind buying a kit with the San Francisco sourdough culture, which is so famous for its taste. But that will be far in the future when I’m not so busy homeschooling.

Ultimately, I feel my project was a huge success! The bottom line is that I wanted to learn how to bake homemade bread, and I have learned how to do that. Now I’m teaching my boys how to bake bread, and that makes me very happy too.

And even better, we have wonderful bread to eat!

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread (at the nine-year-old’s request) and a regular loaf. Yum Yum.

5 thoughts on “Update On My Bread Baking Project

  1. Your bread looks wonderful! I’ve tried sourdough and I think it is a lot of work, too. I have always had a hard time with kneading and rising. So pretty much the whole thing! But I love homemade bread. I eventually bought a bread machine. It makes wonderful bread and doughs that I can finish in the oven if I wish. We rarely buy bread now because of that machine.

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  2. Woo-hoo, trial and error so very true. Your bread looks bakery worthy 🖒. This morning my mom mentioned when she first got married her bread could have killed a man. Lol. I have to continue trying to bake bread.

    Well done!!

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  3. I got some commercial San Francisco starter from culturesforhealth.com and have been very happy with the results when making white bread. I think your family would like it. If you do one rise, it doesn’t really taste like sourdough. It just tastes like good homemade bread. If you punch it down and do a second rise, then it is about as sour as “sourdough” purchased at Atlanta Bread Company.

    There are no problems getting it to rise. It is the lightest, fluffiest homemade bread I have ever had. Once you farm the starter from the little packet of crumbs they send you, it is way easier to make than yeast bread. I knead it in a bread machine, put in a pan to rise, then bake at 350 degrees until a meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 190 degrees or so. 40 minutes in my oven.

    It stays fresh a long time due to the lactic acid, which is what gives sourdough bread it’s flavor.

    I have not been so successful with whole wheat. The texture is pretty good for whole wheat, but it doesn’t rise as well, and is VERY SOUR. I like sour stuff, but this is too much. I have tried various things to decrease the sourness, with limited success.

    I have enjoyed your newspaper columns and blog posts. I also have tried to capture wild yeast and bacteria, but without success. My dear wife got me the commercial starter for my birthday!

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    1. Dennis,

      Thank you very much for your message. I’m very happy to hear the success you’ve had with the San Francisco starter, and thank you for the link. I may try that someday. Lately I haven’t found as much time to bake bread, but with the holidays coming, I’m determined to make time. Thank you for reading my columns & blog too!

      Sincerely,
      Shelli Pabis

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