Aligning Atoms: The Daring Bakers’ December Sourdough Challenge

by piecurious

There have been many moments in my life where I have felt defeated.  Where the goals I set for myself seemed unattainable, extending far beyond my reach.  If I was feeling exceptionally self-absorbed, I sometimes felt like I was being punished, like all the atoms that make up the universe were aligning to prevent me from doing or being what I wanted. Other times I wondered if perhaps I was being ungrateful—that I wanted or expected too much.

And then there have been moments where the exact opposite has been true.  Where I have felt that everything I have wanted has been handed to me as if on a silver platter.  During these moments my chest tightens over my inability to fully express my gratitude to the universe.  I marvel at how everything—timing, people, places, events—have come together in such a way to make my goals attainable. I suddenly forget all of my hard work and dedication—those moments of defeat and the sacrifices made—instead perceiving myself as being unduly privileged and fortunate.

I find myself now in one of these latter moments.

Over the past few weeks my life has spiraled upwards and seemingly over the moon. I went from having my fingers crossed to being paralyzed with incredulity and gratefulness.  Major life-changing events are unraveling at light speed.  The New Year will find me in a new city, a new job, and somehow writing my first professional magazine article (fingers crossed again that I find the time to get this done despite the stress and mess of moving at such short notice!).  This is therefore a note of excuse for the probable hiatus I will be taking from baking/blogging.  I will be moving in with my mother temporarily who doesn’t even have a working oven, which, I think, is a pretty decent excuse.  But hopefully this streak of luck will continue and everything will fall together easily… like this month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge.

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

For the December Daring Bakers Challenge, I made a rye sourdough.  The bread came together quick and disappeared just as fast.  My tumultuous life has left me with few photos other than the less-than-appetizing proof-of-completion photo you see below.  Originally, I had planned to do an experiment.  The Whitley recipe uses an extraordinarily wet starter (left starter pictured below), the builds of which require a significant amount of starter to new water/flour ratio–a 3:2:1 ratio.  And his “production sourdough” uses a ratio of 1:3:6.  I wished to compare it with Reinhart’s stiff rye sourdough (right starter pictured below), the starter for which I was building according to a 1:2:2 ratio and seemed more active.  But life got in the way.

The Whitley recipe was easier, requiring only that you mix the dough, let it rise, then pour the soupy mess into a loaf pan.  The result was a dense, intensely sour rye, best eaten toasted.  I ate mine with mashed avocado, topped with chopped Turkish figs and drizzled with honey and sprinkled with rock sea salt.  As I am not a strong connoisseur of rye, I can’t speak to the outcome as much as I’d like.  But I sure do like mashed avocado with honey on toast and suggest you give it a try.  In the meantime, I have a date with some cardboard boxes and packing tape…