"Sourdough Baking," Susan Draudt

Pros: Great flavors; wonderful variety of recipes; recipes for both bread machines and more traditional methods
Cons: Doesn’t have a great understanding of sourdough
Rating: 3 out of 5

First published 12/7/2000

I owe a certain debt to “Sourdough Baking” for getting me into using sourdough. It makes the process of using sourdough remarkably easy: Make your starter, wait until it’s bubbly, and refrigerate it. Take some sourdough out and use it in recipes; add a little flour and water to replenish the starter, let it proof, put it back in the fridge. It’s that simple. It made me feel that I could handle baking with sourdough.

You’ll find more information here on bread baking than in most baking books: information on ingredients, shaping bread, pans, glazes, kneading, and so on. It’s great stuff. If your bread never quite comes out right then try this book. You’ll find out that liquids higher than 110 degrees F will kill yeast, that more sugar in your bread will make it brown faster, and that if you’re using a glass baking pan you should lower the temperature of your oven.

This book has a very nice variety of recipes. Oatmeal-Molasses Bread, Rosemary-Raisin Sandwich Bread, Cranberry-Pecan Bread Pudding, Cinnamon-Pecan Coffeecake, Blue-Cornmeal Waffles, Dutch Pancakes with Mandarin-Strawberry Fruit Sauce (my favorite recipe in this entire cookbook!), and a make-ahead sourdough pizza crust. The bread machine recipe chapter includes the usual basic recipes, an egg bread, Orange-Marmalade Rye Bread, and a Whole-Wheat Fruit Bread that includes orange juice and dried fruit, and works quite well with white flour instead. There’s a Cinnamon-Apple Bread and a Banana-Nut Bread. In short, there’s a good spread of flavors, both traditional and non-. And they do taste wonderful.

But Why Sourdough?

I’m just not entirely sure why this is a sourdough cookbook. The sourdough starter is used more like a flavoring ingredient than actual sourdough starter. It’s taken straight out of the fridge and put into a recipe that’s also leavened using regular commercial yeast. What’s the point? It makes for a rather dense loaf that doesn’t taste a whole lot like sourdough.

When I bought another sourdough book, “World Sourdoughs from Antiquity,” I discovered the problem. In order to get a real gung-ho starter that can leaven and flavor a loaf of bread without help from commercial yeast, you really need to proof the starter a number of hours before you make your bread, and use that active starter in your bread recipe. It isn’t complicated, and it isn’t difficult. There’s really no need to dumb it down.

There’s a Solution!

You’ll be happy to know that this does not make “Sourdough Baking” useless – not at all, in fact. Just get a copy of “World Sourdoughs from Antiquity,” and use their method for proofing the starter before use. Then go back and experiment with a number of the flavors and ingredients from “Sourdough Baking.” They’re quite delicious, so there’s no need to lose them just because Ms. Draudt doesn’t have as good a handle on the use of sourdough as Mr. Wood does.

Another reason to check out “World Sourdoughs from Antiquity” is that it has extensive sections on the care and feeding of sourdough, including what to do if it gets moldy or otherwise develops problems.”Sourdough Baking” has none of these things.

As a bread book this book deserves a 4. However, because it’s specifically supposed to be a sourdough book and yet doesn’t really have much information or understanding of sourdough, I’m going to give it a 3 instead.

Posted in Cooking, Reviews

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