Sourdough and Show Your Work!
The fabled sourdough starter recipe has at last been posted, and it's a doozy. It's the longest recipe I've ever posted on Page & Plate, while also arguably the simplest, as it clocks in at two ingredients (three, if you count the five grapes). It's something I'm really proud of and will overhype if I'm not careful, so go check it out here if you can't possibly bring yourself to sit through three more paragraphs of this post.
Originally, I had plans to post this recipe alongside the book Heat by Bill Buford. The photo shoot was done, the book was scheduled to be my night read for the week, and the recipe was ready. But then I started reading. As you may or may know, the book details Buford's experiences in befriending and then working for Mario Batali, who you definitely know as being recently accused of sexual assault by many women as a part of the #metoo movement.
I think I got about 60 pages in before I realized that this book was going to be one of the few I couldn't finish. You read my reviews. You know that I'm pretty easy to please as a reader. For me to not finish a book, there was a problem. And in this case, the problem was the now-infamous Batali behavior that is written into Heat as a laughable, not-a-big-deal part of working for and being around Batali. I was really, really taken aback and disappointed that this behavior was portrayed the way it is in the book, as a joke, a laughing matter, an aside to Batali's success story. So I stopped reading it. I thought about posting the bread recipe by itself to make a statement, but I decided on something else.
Instead, I'm posting this recipe with a beautiful, inspiring, empowering book: Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. I loved how jazzed this book made me and how anti-BS it was. But I especially loved how I got to share it with a dynamite group of ladies called the Society of Lady Artists and Entrepreneurs (SLAE) that I've been hanging out with here in Chicago. We're all pursuing different arts, mediums, and passions, and when we come together, it's anyone's guess what we'll end up talking about, but one thing is for sure: we all leave the table empowered and inspired, in part because of stuff we share with each other like this book from Kleon (who also runs an awesome newsletter here). If you're in Chicago, and you're looking for some inspo in the #slae part of your life, hit us up on Instagram at @societyoflae.
Okay. Rant over. GO BREAD AND SHOW YOUR WORK!
Sourdough from Scratch
Lots of time, lots of flour, and lots of love.
Sourdough from Scratch
Hello, and welcome to the post I've been promising you for almost as long as I've had this blog! It's time to finally learn how I descended into the depths of insanity and became a slave to a container of bubbling flour water. Here are a few things you need to know before you get started:
- You need a scale to make this recipe, and I am really sorry about that, but you should have one anyway if you consider yourself worth your salt at all as a baker.
- I watched this video about nine times before I started this process, first because it's super helpful and then because I'm really rooting for Brad and Claire to make it.
- If you are starting from scratch right now, it's going to be about seven to ten days before you have bread in front of your face, so might as well go buy a loaf to tide you over.
Makes: 1 starter
- 800 grams of whole wheat flour
- water (roughly 800 grams)
- 5 elderly grapes
- large airtight container -- I use a Mason jar or a Tupperware container
- Dump the flour in a large bowl, then slowly add water, stirring, until the flour is completely hydrated (in other words, so you can't see any loose flour). I usually err on the side of more water because I once read that Tartine's Chad Robertson believes that this is the key to good bread.
- Pour the dough into your container of choice.
- Plop the grapes on top of the dough, and set the container aside, without covering, for 24 hours.
- By this time, you should see tiny bubbles in the dough and smell something suspiciously like beer. If you do, great! Keep going. If you don't, discard the dough and try again with older grapes. Do not pass go, and do not collect $200.
- It's now time to begin the week of feeding. Discard half of your starter. (Or, put in a second container, and "gift" it to an unsuspecting friend or family member. Maybe that girl at work who mentions that her friend works at Apple twice a week. Oh wait, that's me!)
- Add 400 grams of flour and just as much water. Stir to hydrate the flour, then set the container aside, without covering, for 24 hours.
- Repeat this for a week.
- On day seven, cover the container and put it in the fridge. You'll need to feed it every week from now until the end of time.
Time to make bread!
Makes: 2 loaves
- 250 grams of starter
- 200 grams of whole wheat flour
- 800 grams of bread flour
- Add the starter to a large bowl. Set out at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes are up, add both of the flours, then the water. Just like with the starter, I read that wetter is better, so that's how I roll. You do you. Mix well, cover with saran wrap that is airtight, then put in the oven with the oven light on to proof. This provides just enough heat to jump start the dough.
- When it's been proofing for 30 minutes, take out of oven, uncover, and gently knead for about three minutes. Usually when I do this, I just grab part of the dough, lift it up gently, then let it fold back down. Why? I don't know. But it makes good bread, okay? Re-cover, then put back in the oven.
- Repeat this for three to four hours, kneading every 30 minutes. This is not an exact science, and I usually fall asleep about halfway through, so do as much as you can.
- Prepare two bowls / baskets to hold the dough overnight. I use my colander and a round silver bowl -- it really doesn't matter much. Prepare them for the gift of dough they are about to receive by placing a dish towel in each one and then thoroughly flouring the towel. Set aside.
- Generously flour the counter, then turn the dough out. Knead for somewhere between five and ten minutes. I like to use a technique that involves slamming the dough on the counter because I'm #weak, and my arms get really tired if I'm just straight up kneading the entire time. When finished, cut the dough in half using a knife or a bench scraper.
- Flour the counter just above the dough again, then (one half of the dough at a time) flip upwards. Gather the edges of the dough and pinch them together so that you form a circle-type thing, then place in one of the prepared bowls, pinch side down. Flour the top of the dough, cover with the extra towel, and set aside. Repeat with the other half of the dough and the other bowl.
- Refrigerate overnight. (I personally sometimes only refrigerate for three to five hours, and so far, nothing bad has happened. Don't tell the bread police.) Find two pots / pans / whatevers that can go in the oven under extremely high temperatures AND have lids. I know. Demanding.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 500. Make sure that the dutch ovens you are using to bake the bread are heating up with it while it is preheating.
- When the oven is preheated, remove and flour the dutch ovens. Place the dough in the dutch ovens, being careful not to burn your fingers. Make sure that the top of the dough is still on top (don't flip over). Slash with a knife to create an escape for all that steam you're about to create, then cover with lid.
- Cook for 15 minutes with the lid on, then remove and cook for 30-40 more. Let cool completely (at least two hours) before slicing. I know. This is the hardest part.
Show Your Work!
Thoughts: I just loved this book. I didn't agree with 100% of the advice he gave, but, then again, I am not as famous as he is, so maybe we should learn from that?
On the whole though, this was exactly the breath of fresh air that I needed as someone who gets bogged down in the oodles of instruction manuals for success that are available in just about every medium these days. And, if I may be so bold, a lot of the suggestions that Kleon presents can be applied to any area of your life that needs a little oomph. It's like talking to a hyper-realist but also very supportive uncle, and I'm down with that.
Also, he's hilarious. And there are tons of clever diagrams and drawings.
Verdict: This book is an essential read for anyone trying to market themselves, show their art to the world, or just make a splash. Get it here.