Did you know that authentic sourdough bread can be great for diabetics, those with gluten sensitivities, and makes the nutrients in wheat more available to the body? When I decided to start baking bread this way, I had no idea it came with a host of health benefits. The benefit that caught my attention? Free yeast for life! One day at work I came across this book, The Art Of Baking With Natural Yeast, and decided to try it. At first I really struggled getting results that resembled bread more than a brick, but after lots of research and baking I can now make a loaf worth sharing!
These four books are the best I have found about baking with an authentic sourdough starter and should contain all the information you need to make delicious bread as well as crackers, pancakes, pizza, muffins, and more! (Natural yeast, sourdough starter, levain, and wild yeast are basically all terms for the same thing.)
THE ART OF BAKING WITH NATURAL YEAST
By Caleb Warnock and Melissa Richardson
This has easy to understand instructions for how to take care of your starter, which is what I like best about it. It also discusses the health benefits, and has different kinds of recipes for the starter. I also like that it comes from a home baker perspective, not a professional baker perspective.
BEYOND BASICS WITH NATURAL YEAST
By Melissa Richardson
This is more of a cookbook than an instruction book, but it has a large variety of recipes including specialty breads, crackers, pasta, waffles, muffins, and more. It also has more info on caring for a starter.
FLOUR WATER SALT YEAST
By Ken Forkish
I like this one because it gets really in depth with the bread making process and what effects different variables have at different stages, and discusses convenient baking schedules. While the book primarily includes breads made with commercial yeast, Part 3 has five chapters about baking with levain.
By Chad Robertson
Robertson’s book also gives an extensive look at the bread making process and different variables, and is full of instructional photographs. Unlike Forkish’s book, this one is specifically focused on levain breads and has a broader range of recipes.
Some of the tips I’ve learned that have had the biggest impact on my bread are these: folding dough is a thousand times easier than kneading and is more effective for less effort; measure your ingredients by weight, not by volume; whole wheat flour needs more water than white flour, especially if you grind your own; temperature directly impacts how long it takes the dough to rise; if you over-proof your dough on the first rise it is impossible to shape; how much time has passed since you last fed/refreshed your yeast starter has a huge impact on flavor; and it’s okay if it takes a lot of trying to get that perfect loaf!