Since the end of Dreams beta I've been experimenting with baking my own sourdough bread. It's time consuming, but mostly just in terms of waiting for the dough to go through all the phases of rising. I have a powerful electric mixer that does all the work of kneading the dough, and it also keeps the mess contained. I don't do any kneading on the countertop. To get that nice crispy crust, professional bakers use an oven with steam jets built in. But at home there's a neat trick, simply baking the loaf inside of a lidded container will also get great results. Cast iron, clay, or pyrex glass all work well for this.

I learned to bake bread with regular dry yeast when I was a teenager (so yeah, a long, long time ago) and occasionally make it as a special treat. But lately I've been excited about how easy it is to make sourdough which is generally my favorite bread, so now I'm doing it a couple times per week and we haven't actually bought bread for quite a while. Sourdough seems to keep better than other home made bread and even freezes well once it's day old. Also, people say it's easier to digest because of the fermentation process.

If you're unfamiliar with what sourdough is, it's just natural airborne yeasts that have been cultivated in a mixture of flour and water to create a lactic fermentation which is very similar to the organisms in yogurt and pickles. Like the dry yeast you buy at the grocery store, a sourdough starter consumes starch in the bread dough and produces gas which causes the dough to rise. Thats right... yeast is a living organism and its farts are what makes the bread rise - or call them burbs if that sounds more palatable, it's all the same to them.
Once you have a starter (or "levain") you never need to get a new one - you use a bit of it for each batch of bread and then feed the remainder with flour and water, and keep it going. I got some starter from my mum, which she had made herself. If your interested in learning the whole process, here's a video that shows how to make your own starter and bake with it: ://

And now for the pictures!

Here's a plain white loaf:
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A half whole wheat loaf with black and white sesame seeds:

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Half wheat with olives:

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And two versions using Purple Barely - the first is 50% barley and was fairly dense, second was 20% and lighter:

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