I did it—I made my first loaf of sourdough bread!
I am going to make a disclaimer here: I am very spoiled, as my mom is an excellent chef. She scoffs at the idea of buying bread, rather than making it; she can’t believe people purchase pizza dough; she thinks buying pre-shredded lettuce is blasphemy of the highest order. (Note: my mom does not put the same pressure on others as she puts on herself—if you’re buying pre-shredded lettuce and eating it healthfully, all the power to you. Of course, you can always work to become a better cook if that’s your goal, but the most important thing is eating the right food.)
Anyway, back to the bread-making. The process takes an entire day. More, if you count preparing the sourdough starter (or “the baby”, as we like to call it). I think my favorite part about the process is smelling the flour. If you’ve spent enough time with me, you’ll know that smell is my favorite sense (besides taste, of course). There’s something about wheat flour’s smell that is incredibly satisfying. If you’ve caught me furtively smelling a book several times within the span of a couple minutes, you now know how I would spend most of my days in a perfect world.
Making sourdough bread is kind of like watching magic happen—slow, slow magic. You mix a few things together and set it aside, and whenever you come back to check on it and turn it, it’s risen a couple inches. Plus, the flavor and texture is simply incredible. Baking bread is just the process of following a bunch of steps, and, of course, having a good “baby.” Weigh, mix, rest, (smell) weigh, mix, rest, turn, rest, (smell) turn, rest, turn, rest, fold, rest, fold, rest, bake (smell). It’s a comforting rhythm.
There’s nothing quite like the smell of warm sourdough bread baking at home. Yes, I am a smell-fanatic, but no one can deny the wonder of the smell of baking bread. It’s like a warm down blanket wrapped around all of your senses. If I wasn’t afraid of being stepped on by a family member, I would lay down in front of the oven and doze. Unfortunately (and fortunately), my family uses the kitchen so often that I would be in serious danger of getting trampled.
You may have realized that I can’t really give you the recipe for sourdough bread here—way too many components and steps! But I will encourage you to read Tartine Bread and Tartine No. 3, two books by Chad Robertson, both of which are basically my mom’s bread bibles. Bread-making is a wonderful tradition, and I encourage anyone who has the time, patience, and energy to try it.
Instead, I’ll provide you with a recipe that’s based off of bread: the savory toast, also known as an open-faced sandwich, or tartine (fittingly enough). This recipe is a Dawn original. Each time we eat these, a silence only punctuated by happy eating sounds falls on the heels of the first bite.
Shiitake Mushrooms & Goat Cheese Toasts
4 slices of hearty sourdough bread
1 packet of fresh goat cheese
1 lb shiitake mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, peeled
several sprigs thyme, leaves removed
a few large handfuls of mixed sprouts
2 medium avocados
salt and pepper
Cut or snap off shiitake stalks. Thinly slice the tops and set aside. Mince the garlic. Heat roughly 3 tbsp olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once the oil is very hot (it will shimmer), add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are slightly crispy and browned. Season with 1/4 tsp fine sea salt and a few grinds of your pepper grinder. When the mushrooms are almost done cooked as you’d like, add another tbsp of olive oil and stir in the garlic and thyme leaves into the pool of oil, letting it all cook undisturbed for 20 seconds or so. Stir the garlic and thyme into the mushrooms and remove from the heat. Taste for seasoning.
Turn your oven to broil. Place buttered bread on a sheet pan and broil until slightly crispy and browned to your liking, about 4 minutes for me.
To assemble the sandwiches: spread a good layer of goat cheese onto each slice of bread. Place several slices of avocado onto each slice and sprinkle with some salt. Pile mushrooms onto each toast, then top with sprouts and follow with a generous dose of olive oil.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty—this meal is messy! Enjoy!
You can vary this sandwich any way you want. Replace the mushrooms with sliced, salted, heirloom tomatoes, with prosciutto or turkey, whatever you feel like.