This winter, with very little "in season," I'm spending my time honing my bread-baking skills...

Check out Part I: "My Wintertime Obsession" and Part II: "Starting with Starters"

I thought making my starter would be the hardest part of making sourdough bread. It turned out to be the easiest.

While my starter happily captured wild yeast, I had a lot to learn about my dough.


Making sourdough bread is right at the intersection of science and art. As such, there's a lot to worry about: Did it rise enough? Too much? Have I over-handled it? Is my starter really working?

"I think of all the things I learned how to do," Pollan admits in the opening of "Air" in his Netlix series Cooked, "I was probably most intimidated by baking bread."

I'm pretty sure the only way to learn is by doing it. It's labor-intensive, but it's a labor of love.

My first loaf came out disappointingly flat. A one-inch-tall pancake of sourdough bread, both tough and dense. I would show you a pictures, but I couldn't bring myself to document my failure. But the signature sourdough flavor was there. I ate it anyways, gnawing on tough bites as I pondered what I would do differently the following time.

Five days after receiving a homemade sourdough starter at a white elephant holiday party, my friend Lizzie (regular readers may remember her from "The Lizzie Special") texted me:

I think I killed the sourdough already #murderer

She had not. The next day she texted me:

Kneading the bread is hard

And a bit later:

How am I going to be able to tell when it's risen?

Lizzie's first sourdough loaves

Lizzie's first sourdough loaves

The next thing I knew she was sending me this picture:

She said the bread was delicious.

At my coworker's suggestion, I had sworn by the Tartine Bread book as a starter guide. But it was time to branch out.

My second attempt was with the same recipe Lizzie used, King Arthur flour's Extra-Tangy Sourdough Bread. With it's light dough and simple instructions, this recipe yielded my first success:

My first sourdough success

My first sourdough success

When I opened the oven to revel this glorious globe of carbs, I was hooked. I went back and re-attempted the Tartine bread, with much greater success.

Coming up next: I go beyond flour, water, and salt