When John and Debi got married, Andrew and Melissa came to stay with us for the weekend. They brought us two loaves of his mighty bread and some of the sourdough starter required for its making, and I reverently put the culture in the fridge and kept meaning to do something with it but never did. Then, recently, A&M sent us a thank you-holiday gift of some cookies and an array of bread-making tools. Shortly thereafter, Andrew put the recipe for his insane sourdough up on his blog. And then Debi called to say that they received the same toolkit, and asking would I be interested in getting together to tackle the alchemy in tandem. I said yes, yes I would.
Debi does the stretch-and fold.
And so we did. It's a two-stage process, with a wait of a few days in between so the dough can achieve full souritude. They came by on Monday and we mixed up a double recipe, stretched and folded it (I continued after they left for another couple of times) and put it in the fridge. Yesterday I baked off one loaf so we would have something to enjoy while we shaped, proofed, and baked theirs. It rested over night, intact, though I did have to carve off one slice to try before bed. We used the rest of it, toasted, with boucheron de chèvre on top to make a salade de chèvre chaud for lunch while we waited. I walked them through the second part, including using a Dutch oven to give the loaf a professional crust, and for the second day in a row the house filled with the divine, tangy perfume of good bread baking.
See those bubbles? Those are delicious yeast farts.
This recipe is derived from the much-ballyhooed no-knead bread that blew up the internets a while back like the Mud Shark swept the ocean, but with a little more physical handling of the dough and a longer wait. The result has has better crust and crumb, and lasts longer once baked, but the principle is the same: make the microbes do all the heavy lifting. It's so very, very good. Now I know that most of you do not have access to this starter. But making your own really is easy, and once made it'll last forever if you remember to feed it every month or so. This bread is so much better than anything you can probably get your hands on that the learning curve and initial effort to get going will be wiped from your mind the minute you bite down on the first crackling, tangy, chewy slice with a little cultured butter on it. Andrew has just updated his blog, and added another- exclusively for recipes- where the formula for this marvel can be found. Go there. Make it. Roll your eyes in a state of ecstatic transport. Repeat. Never buy bread again.
Hurts so good, don't it?