So much sourdough I can’t stand to look at a bread recipe

So much sourdough I can’t stand to look at a bread recipe

While Christmas and the New Year came and slipped by without a hint of serious chill, I checked the upcoming weather predictions to find we are in for a real cold spell. “Well, it is January, you know,” my wife said with a guffaw, as though I’d never passed a raw winter before.

Once we settle into the long stretch of cold, waiting for the spring thaw through frosted windows and cold morning slips from bed, we have to find ways to ward off the winter doldrums.

In a move last year, I created for myself a far longer commute than I wanted to deal with, and to pass the time, I sometimes like to play a little mental game in which my passenger is my father, who passed away in 1989.

I tell him of all the wonders that have come about since then and imagine how amazed and baffled he would be with things like smartphones, self-driving electric cars, maps that speak directions and warn of speed traps, and access to virtually all recorded music at any time.

We truly do live in a wondrous time of technological miracles, and if you think that’s something, imagine the same scenario but you’re trying to explain the world in 2022 to Thomas Jefferson.

We’ve been here before, in this long post-holiday winter world with walls feeling too much closer every day. And we are coming into the third such season complicated by worrisome spikes in plague cases.

The first year of this unending and unnecessary viral creep, we all made so much sourdough bread I can’t stand to look at a bread recipe anymore. What ghoulish delight it was to starve that starter out last summer and watch it slide into the garbage bag. “You don’t own my time anymore, you gummy mess.”

I didn’t take up any organized plan of learning in 2021, sticking to a schedule of reading, writing, acceptable bourbon and trying to get a regular walk in.

This winter I’m determined to read more poetry and be loaded up with the works of several authors. And I’m returning to bread making on a far more manageable, controllable scale.

One need not fuss all that much to get something delicious, and having dived deep into the beery-smelling caves of aging starters, the hours of manhandling dough until your arms are rubbery, the fancy proofing baskets and peels that now lean against a kitchen wall by the fridge untouched, the only way to go is no-knead.

I’d like to recommend the book, “Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast,” but I frankly found it to be a little tedious. Author Ken Forkish knows what he’s about in baking bread, no doubt, but I really find that when things become wretchedly complicated and fussy, you’re just going to lose interest and move on to something that makes you feel less scolded.

We can, however, take some basic guidelines from the book that light the way to a beautiful loaf of bread with almost no effort. If you got a new enameled cast iron Dutch oven for Christmas, here’s a great way to use it. The two and three quarter quart size works well for this recipe.

A quite wet dough, a smallish amount of yeast, a long, slow rise and a hot oven are the only important things to keep in mind. This dough gets zero kneading — just cover it up, set it aside and forget it for 24 hours. Then into a preheated pot and waiting hot oven. It couldn’t be easier or more tasty.

The kind of flour you use makes an absolute difference. Skip mom’s Gold Medal or Pillsbury and get the good stuff, King Arthur.


3 cups King Arthur bread flour

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cups water at 105-110 F

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

Parchment paper

Sprinkle the yeast and salt over the flour in a mixing bowl. Mix in the water until the mixture is combined and forming a loose ball. Turn this dough into a clean, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel, and let rise for 24 hours.

Preheat your oven and enameled cast iron Dutch oven together to 450 F. Turn the risen dough out of the bowl and onto a floured square of parchment paper. Pull the edges into the center and flip and form a round, loose loaf. Don’t worry if it wants to spread out. Carefully lower the bread with the parchment into the heated Dutch oven and put on the lid and bake 30 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and bake another 20 minutes, until brown. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.