Every time I turn around, I feel like I'm reading or hearing about someone cutting bread from his or her diet.
I respect different eating choices and food sensitivities, but to be blunt, these conversations and articles make me want to sink my teeth into a crusty, gluten-laden loaf. Funny how that works.
I've been experimenting this winter with sourdough starter, which is a living culture and a crucial ingredient for making sourdough bread. It's gross and fascinating at the same time.
Sourdough starter takes some TLC: It has to be refreshed every week. You can either use it or discard a half-cup and replace it. As a result, I've started making sourdough bread every Sunday (except for that week when I accidentally spilled it all over my kitchen), which is fueling my crusty-bread addiction.
This recipe, revised from a cookbook called "The Best Bread Machine Cookbook Ever," by Madge Rosenberg, is the best sourdough I've made so far. Below is the recipe for making your own sourdough starter, and then my version of this bread.
1 cup flour
1 cup water
pinch of yeast
Mix ingredients well and stir until creamy. Seal mixture in a large container (I use a glass container that seals with a plastic lid) and let sit one week, unrefrigerated.
I kept mine on top of our fridge. At the end of the week, you'll have sourdough starter. It will smell funny.
Once a week, discard or use at least a half-cup of your starter. Refresh it with equal parts water and flour, stirred well. Store in refrigerator.
When baking, I make sure to measure my starter with a cup meant specifically for liquids. The cookbook also suggests you bring it to room temperature before baking by making sure any additional water is warm. I disregard that, and it hasn't been a problem. But be careful: I've learned the hard way (because of the aforementioned spill) that this stuff is like glue when dry.
Cheesy Seven-Grain Sourdough
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 scant cups whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup seven-grain flakes (I bought these at Beachy's Bulk Foods in Arthur)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup grated cheese (I use cheddar)
Load all ingredients except cheese into your bread machine in order specified by manufacturer. Bake on basic bread setting. At end first kneading cycle, add cheese.
I try to keep an eye on the dough as the machine starts mixing it, adding a little additional water or flour in case it seems too dry or sticky.
This bread is delicious in just about any situation, but I especially love making Eggs in a Nest (cutting a hole in the middle of the slice, putting it in a greased, nonstick pan and frying an egg in the hole) with it.
Meg Dickinson is a local communications professional who spends many of her waking hours daydreaming about food. To submit a recipe for her consideration, email her at email@example.com.