January 16, 2011

Tonight's DRD: Flour, Water, Salt

Those are literally the only three ingredients in some bread I made recently. No yeast, no flavorings, no extra flourishes. Just flour, water and salt. It's the most basic, satisfying bread there is.

How is it made without yeast, you ask? I used a natural leaven I made from flour and water which, after a long period of time and many feedings (of more flour and water) collects natural bacteria from the air (technically another ingredient, I guess) and ferments until it can be used to make bread rise. It's sometimes referred to as a sourdough starter; it's what gives sourdough its characteristic flavor. Though it's a little trickier to use than yeast, you get an amazing flavor, a longer lasting bread (yeast-based breads go stale faster) and an all-around better loaf.

I made this bread from Tartine Bread Cookbook (you may have heard of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco), a great cookbook about baking this type of bread. I've been making bread for years and have been trying to make bread from a starter more recently. It takes a lot of work and often fails (I tried last week with the starter and it was dense and discolored). For something with just three ingredients, it's harder than you think to get it right. Probably not something to whip up for a quick fix dinner, but an incredibly satisfying result when you finally get it right.