My friend Teresa Greenway, of Northwest Sourdough, certainly needs no introduction. Anyone who has ever researched sourdough baking on the web is familiar with her most informative website and companion blog (Discovering Sourdough) and may have experienced directly how prompt she is with advice and a helping hand when support is needed. But what you may not know if you haven’t checked back with her lately is that she has shared her journey and experience from fledgling apprentice to seasoned baker in an eponymous e-book, Discovering Sourdough, available from the Kindle Store at amazon.com. In the interest of complete transparency, let me add that Teresa never asked me to review her book and that she only learned I had bought it when I wrote to congratulate her and say I was planning to review it on Farine.
Divided in four volumes (Beginning Sourdough, Intermediate Sourdough, Advanced Sourdough A and Advanced Sourdough B) all available separately, the book covers everything you need to know about baking with wild yeast, from making your own starter(s) from different grains and at various hydration levels to mixing, folding and proofing your dough, then scoring your bread and baking it to golden perfection. Each volume contains recipes (22 in Beginning, 20 in Intermediate, 18 in Advanced A and 30 in Advanced B), all of them illustrated by photographs and listing the ingredients by volume, standard units, metric units and percentages.
Having the book on your mobile device is like having a teacher at your side ready to hold your hand every step of the way: for instance, in the Intermediate section, it explains in what order it is generally best to add the ingredients when mixing and suggests different possible solutions to the problem of keeping the dough warm enough when proofing; it also shows pictures of beautifully scored loaves and explains how the slash influences the direction the dough expands while baking.
The recipes range from easy or batter breads (Beginning) to complex motherdough loaves (Advanced B). A reader who would endeavor to make them all would be kept busy for a good while and would also be embarking on a learning journey that would bring his or her skills to new levels as each booklet builds on knowledge acquired along the way. Short of going to baking school, there are probably not many better ways to learn for a novice baker. More experienced bakers may learn new tricks or techniques and will enjoy following a fellow bread lover on her voyage of discovery.
In an ideal world, I would like the book to contain more hyperlinks (it would be helpful for instance if the words “desem” or “motherdough” were referenced throughout the text) but the Kindle search engine works well and once a definition is found, it is easy enough to bookmark it for later retrieval.
Also, many of the recipes are based on a 166% hydration starter: I keep my liquid starter at 100%. But Teresa has foreseen the objection: Volume I points the reader to an online hydration conversion calculator for the recipes that require it.
Finally because the color photos are a big help, it is best to read this book on a mobile device with a color screen, such as a Kindle Fire or an iPad or, if you don’t have either, on your computer. I can’t imagine the book being easy to use on a black and white Kindle. I read it on a second generation iPad and I love the way I can pinch the tables bigger or smaller as needed.
At a loss to choose between the many tempting recipes, I asked Teresa for advice and knowing I am a big fan of multigrain breads, she suggested I try the Mill Grain Loaf. I followed her suggestion and made the bread. I loved it (I have a huge weakness for crunchy crusts over creamy crumbs) but then I suspect I would love most of the breads in the book. I will certainly try them all over time, one after the other. I find it a big plus to have the recipes at my disposal in electronic form: no schlepping of heavy bread books for me this summer when we go back to our little camp…
I didn’t have to use the conversion tool and adjust my starter to 166% hydration since Teresa has thoughtfully provided a converted recipe for the Mill Grain Loaf @ 100% on her blog. So I kept my starter at 100% and cruised merrily along, following her suggestion to replace part of the white flour with whole wheat flour (white whole wheat in my case). My only change was to roll the loaves over a wet towel and then onto a seed mixture (sesame, fennel, sunflower and poppy) before scoring and baking.