I haven’t consciously marked many milestones in my life as a home cook. My learning curve has unfurled slowly and gradually: a day comes when something I used to struggle with suddenly feels like habit, or I realize that a process I used to dread is no longer a big deal. Many of these moments have had to do with baking, simply because it’s more technical and less intuitive (for me) than cooking always has been.
2017 has been the year of bread. I started making my own bread regularly for the first time in my life, inspired by Alexandra Stafford’s amazing Bread, Toast, Crumbs, and then spurred on by The New Laurel’s Kitchen (which is full of good instruction). I’d feared homemade bread-baking for years, intimidated by overly technical advice and anxieties about whether I’d have the right sense of timing and intuition.
This year, I’ve learned that, to quote Julia Turshen, “yeast is just an ingredient,” and there’s nothing so scary about kneading or shaping dough. I’ve come to love the feel of dough in my hands. I love sitting back and watching it do its thing: resting, rising, and turning a deep golden shade in the oven.
Bread baking found me at the right time. I started cooking from Ali’s book just as I was processing the loss of a long-term relationship. I was bereft, and baking kept me company. It gave me something to do, and it presented me with a constant series of new challenges, each satisfying yet incremental enough enough to be manageable.
Most of all, it gave me bread. Loaf after tender, fragrant loaf. I can’t think of too many things that I cam as consistently happy to eat than bread or toast, and all of the things you can serve with them (dip, soup, etc.).
Through all of this, I’ve told myself that yeasted breads are within my reach, but sourdough isn’t for me. Sourdough is for serious bread bakers, those who know the ins and outs of autolysing and levains and scoring and hydration. I follow countless sourdough Instagrammers, but to some extent that has only made me more intimidated, rather than less.
Still, I haven’t been able to shake the itch to give sourdough a whirl, and the work of many women—Cheri Litchfield and Sarah C. Owens among them—has given me the ongoing encouragement I need. It was Cheri who reminded me that, no matter how technical sourdough-making can be, it’s also a time-honored method that home cooks have been practicing for hundreds of years.
I’ve known this for a while, but I needed someone to walk me through it—a warm, friendly, accessible guide. Enter Emilie Raffa.
You might know Emilie as the author of the Clever Carrot blog, where she shares wholesome and hearty comfort food recipes. She’s also an accomplished bread maker, and her new book, Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, is a loving tribute to the ins and outs of bread making. It is the most accessible, down-to-earth resource I’ve ever seen about sourdough (having purchased and left dormant a number of much more technical books).
I have Emilie to thank for the fact that, as of last week, I’ve been baking fresh sourdough every other morning, tearing it into hunks and dipping it in soup, using it for toast, slicing it up for sandwiches, and sharing gleefully it with my neighbors and friends.
It’s hard for me to say how gratifying it has been—not just the amazement I felt when I realized that I could do it, but also the sensation of empowerment that baking one’s own bread can bestow. It’s so gratifying to create a staple food from nothing but flour, water, and salt. I see more than ever why the process becomes so intoxicating over time. And I see that sourdough isn’t a project for master bakers. It really can be simple, intuitive, and fun.
I’ll be sharing Emilie’s foundational recipe for everyday sourdough in this post, along with a tasty dip to dunk your slices into. But I want to emphasize that the whole book is invaluable, especially if you’re new to sourdough. Emilie walks you through every step of the process, including creation of a starter, with simple instructions and useful cues. If you want to start baking regularly, you’ll want to read everything she has to say.
And reading it won’t overwhelm you. This book is neither dense nor dry. Emilie is happy to leave out certain techniques or terms, assuring readers that they don’t need to know everything about sourdough in order to get started. She gives you exactly as much information as is necessary for beginners. I don’t doubt that I’ll keep wanting to learn about this process, but as a novice I felt so grateful that Emilie was able to help me separate the essentials from the graduate level stuff.
Along with the book, Emilie shared with me a package of her dried starter, which is named Dylan, after her son. Dylan is the offspring of Priscilla, a robust starter that Emilie’s friend Celia shipped to her all the way from Australia years ago. Starter, she says, is meant to be shared. Using Emilie’s dried starter means that I didn’t need to grow my own from scratch; within 3 days, I had a jar that was well-fed, bubbly and ready to go.
At the end of today’s post, after the recipe, I’ll be offering a chance for a US reader to win a copy of the book and a package of Emilie’s dried starter. Together, they’re everything you need to get started with your own loaves. For now, though, I want to share Emilie’s incredible, practically no-knead everyday sourdough recipe, along with her zippy, garlicky, oh-so-simple recipe for white bean arugula dip!
Clearly, I’m over the moon about Emilie’s bread—not just the signature Everyday Sourdough, but the many other incredible loaves in this book, including Seeded Pumpkin Cranberry, Roasted Garlic and Rosemary, and Danish Rye Bread.
But it’s worth saying how awesome this dip is, too. It’s the kind of thing you can whip up in mere minutes if you’ve got a can of beans and a handful of bitter greens or herbs, certain that your friends or whoever’s coming over will polish it off. The creaminess of the beans and olive oil are offset by the bite of garlic and pepper, and the dip is so much more complex than its simple preparation would suggest.
If you’ve thought about sourdough but haven’t known where to begin, this is the book for you. And even if you’ve never made bread before, it’ll give you all the tools you need to understand the process. What Emilie teaches you will serve you with any type of bread-making, and her assortment of recipes (which span not only breads, but also crackers, rolls, desserts, and savory meals) will give you plenty of ideas about what to do with all of the marvelous loaves you’re making.
Enter below to win a copy for yourself. I’ll pick a winner two weeks from today!
As I said, bread making has found me at the right time, and I’m so excited to continue learning and sharing about the process. Perhaps Emilie’s work will inspire you to consider making sourdough at home, as it has inspired me—and if not, I hope it’ll encourage you to pick up a loaf of bread from your local baker and slathering it with some creamy white bean dip.
Enjoy the recipes, and see you this weekend for the roundup!
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Love sourdough bread!
This white bean dip looks like it might be my new favorite topping! But you can’t beat good olive oil, balsamic and salt.
Good quality extra virgin olive oil for me!
My favorite topping has got to be the classic avocado toast fixings… I’ve been wanting to try making sourdough for a while but like you I find it so intimidating because there are so many steps and I never understood how to get the starter lol
sourdough is my favorite and i’m learning how to bake my own loaves right now too! i love olive tapenade to top a crusty yummy slice.
my favorite spread is goat cheese
Favorite spread is fresh baba ganoush! Also just garlic olive oil…mmm…
Looks like a great recipe, can’t wait to try making it over the weekend!
I love olive tapenade for spreading on fresh bread.
I love hummus with pita! And olive oil with bread
I love nut butters and honey on fresh bread!
Nothing beats simple earth balance! Fresh bread is too good to cover up with anything else!
I’m making this recipe right now! I started my sourdough starter, Jacques (A Tale of Two Cities/French Revolution reference), last week during the mini SoCal heatwave. The weather is a lot cooler now, so it’s time to bake, woo!
Hooray, Adeline! My starter is Gwendolyn (Gwen) 🙂
Miyoko’s made this amazing garlic butter that would be fantastic! As for a dip hummus would be delicious!
Black Bean Hummus dip is my fave.
I love spinach dip! The kind you find in a hollowed out round sourdough bread.
Hi Gena – I took a break from blogs and am just starting to catch up. Can you link me to the post where you discuss eating gluten again? I
I was never strictly gluten free. I’ve gone through periods of seeing if avoiding it would make a difference for me, and one of those was recommended by my GI, but only as an experiment. Ultimately, avoiding gluten didn’t make a discernible difference, and my GI health has been strong for a while now. So, I regularly enjoy wheat-based foods!
I’ve been dying to try my hand at sourdough for ages and I’m out on maternity so I think this fall might finally be the time. I love hummus or avocado on bread!
Gena, I loved this post! I love how eloquently you write about coming to love baking bread, how you love the feel of dough in your hands–oh, me too! This recipe is very similar to the spelt sourdough recipe I make once a week. It’s such a comfort, the ritual, the letting it rest overnight, all of it. Nothing makes me happier than my homemade sourdough bread. I’m curious to take a look at Emille’s book–perhaps she has some spelt directions in it. With spelt you stretch and pull, very much like she describes, rather than knead. Anyway, I think I better go at least check out The Cultured Carrot! Thanks Dear One! That photograph of your loaf out of the oven is drop dead gorgeous! Welcome to the sourdough baker’s tribe!! xoxo
This is truly such a beautiful description of Emilie’s new cookbook Gena, I couldn’t agree more with every word you say here. I have a feeling this next year will be my “year of bread” and am feeling so encouraged watching you and Emilie bake what you do. This bread is gorgeous and looks just like hers in the book! You’re amazing. I still need lots of practice, but have having tons of fun with her new cookbook too. Perfect time for some fall baking. xo
I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a sourdough culture – but this recipe has me a bit confused about a “baking pot”. I understand the role steam has in creating a great loaf, but what does one use as an oven safe pot? The dip looks deeelicious! Can’t wait to dive in and give this a try!
A 5 or 6 quart Dutch oven with a lid will work perfectly! That’s what I use.
This post put me over the edge. Going to have to start the process!
I love sourdough bread! Is there a whole wheat recipe in the book?
Yes, there are several!
I love the smell of fresh baked bread. It takes me back to memories of my Grandma baking sourdough in her kitchen. Nothing beats that sound of tearing into that crunchy crust.
Thank you for the recipe, I would love to try and make this sourdough but I am confused where the recipe for the starter is, I don’t have anyone that can share theirs with me. My favorite spread for bread right now is pure tahini with a little cracked pepper and salt and packed with lettuce, cucumbers, peppers and radishes.
Gena, you are the most thoughtful, thorough, sweetest, and inspiring writer ever! I just loved reading this. I didn’t know you started with yeasted breads and then eventually made it to sourdough. Fun! And you should be so proud of yourself because this loaf looks absolutely incredible! I know I’ve said it before, but really, it does. Thanks so much for sharing these recipes, your thoughts, and your journey with us (welcome to the family, Gwen!) One day we will have coffee! xoxo
I’m so intrigued by Emilie’s book and would love to try making homemade bread! I can see how it would be so gratifying and comforting. I love bread with homemade soup or as a sandwich or toast. 🙂
I too have been intimidated by making sourdough bread. Maybe I should give it a try?
I usually go for smashed avocado!
Love a good avocado pesto on sourdough!
The starter part of baking sourdough has lead me to never trying to bake it myself. However, I love eating it! If I can master or at least manage a good starter, I”d love to start baking. 🙂
Hummus is my favorite dip for bread. Jam is good too.
Gena, thank you for sharing Emilie’s sourdough and dip recipes. I love hummus and smashed avocado on bread :). I probably have only tried making my own bread twice in the past (I attempted a couple of recipes from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads, which I picked up a few years ago), but perhaps this will get me to give it another try :).
my favorite thing to put on bread is tahini
Although I cannot eat gluten, my son and husband can eat it, so I have been trying to bake more with regular flour for them. And then altering the recipes for myself, so I make two breads every week. I love white bean dips, so I will be trying this one – thank you! I usually just spread avocado with lime and pepper flakes and sea salt… There are studies that show sourdough can be tolerated by celiac patients, so I have been thinking of making my own starter (with grapes) and seeing if I can indeed tolerate it. I think this post is exactly what I needed to get myself in gear to do it! Thanks Gena 🙂
I love bread spread with a garlicky white bean dip!
This looks so good!! My favorite thing to dip fresh bread in is olive oil with za’atar. Mmmmmm!!
You did it-hooray!! I love how you set your mind to do something and then follow through with determination to the end. I am so impressed. Your bread looks absolutely perfect! And your scoring- beautiful and amazing. Your dip sounds delightful and together with the bread would make a perfect lunch just about any day of the week.
These recipes look amazing. I’d love to try baking my own sourdough but have always been too intimidated!
I love to put avocado or guacamole on my toast. Then through on some pepper, nutritional yeast, and salt. So good. I also love earth balance and sliced radishes with salt sprinkled on top.
This looks delish! I love good smashed avocado or hummus on bread, but frankly, I love bread and eat it mostly plain!
Gah, this book sounds amazing! Aaron got into baking us bread a handful of years ago, but a good sourdough has always eluded him and most bread-making books are REALLY complicated and high maintenance. I’ll definitely be sharing your post to give him a confidence boost. 🙂 As far as dips/spreads…I agree with what Marsha said—some good extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Simple perfection. <3
I have been wanting to try making hummus or bean dip
I used to bake bread, but it’s been years. I’ve always loved sourdough, but have been too afraid to try it, but you make it sound so do-able! I love a nice loaf dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yum!
Can this be made as whole wheat?? If it can I am sold! I have also been wanting to make sourdough for years after hearing how it increases absorption of nutrients, but didn’t know where to start! My favorite dip is the black bean orange dip in Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan. So good! A lot of her dips are really good!
I’d recommend following this recipe as is, but the book contains whole wheat options!
I’ve been thinking about making sourdough for a while too and this is the prompt I needed. I’m going to go for it!
I love any kind of Hummus dip:)
I started a small tradition a few months ago, I go to mass by myself and every Sunday after mass I stop at our neighborhood bakery and buy two sourdough half-baguettes for my husband and me, and when I get home he prepares the sandwiches. Last Sunday my husband arrived from a trip and he was so excited about his sourdough sandwiches that he even commented on the phone before taking his plane. On Sunday morning, to my shock, the last two half-baguettes were sold to the person in front of me…we were both so disappointed lol. I love making bread, but I haven’t dared to try making sourdough, I should probably change that.
We top our sourdough with avocado and kimchi!
I want to start baking bread so badly! It’s been such an intimidating conquest throughout the course of my home cooking… Hopefully this will allow me to conquer and enjoy baking bread.
I’ve been looking for a simple sour dough recipe! I bake a lot of breads, but I’ve always avoided sour dough because of the starter. Thanks for sharing!
Sourdough has always been scary to me but this sounds doable and amazing! Thank you for the recipe and for a chance to win this wonderful looking book.
Sorry, but I’m a purist– either plain bread or just butter or apple butter does it for me!
Often I can’t bring myself to add anything to fresh bread besides some really nice salted butter, but if I’m feeling fancy, tahini and tomatoes are a nice combo.
So inspiring! I haven’t made sourdough bread in a while. After reading this I might have to.