Monday, November 9, 2015

Sourdough, and Sarah Owens

We arrived early to Sarah Owens' Sourdough book party recently, and watched the baker-gardener-author arrange some extravagantly fetching flowers.

I'd like to use the picture above to illustrate to the gluten averse's OK to eat bread, people. Unless it actually makes you sick. And it does not make most people sick, nevermind the Banting-Noakes fundamentalism that has swept South Africa, the Paleo cults everywhere, and the 'eat clean' phobes. Check in with a therapist, but Eat Good Food.

You will be OK. Until you're not. Cos we're all gonna gettit in the end, right? Right.

But that is part of Sarah's point. How fermentation of grains makes all the difference. You'll have to buy the book to see.

Sourdough is a beautiful book. Ngoc Minh Ngo's images are compelling. And after baking my beloved ole boule for a year and a half I am ready for some fresh instruction and inspiration. Sourdough is filled with both.

Extra appealing? The botanical emphasis. Beets, kale, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, roses, elderflowers, nettles, fiddleheads and walnuts. And from lemon madeleines to pizzas, tacos, scones and Dutch pancakes (above - that might be the one I try first, the recipe inspired by Fort Defiance, in Red Hook). The book is arranged seasonally, so now you can dive right into fall.

Sarah has a gimlet eye for beauty: its composition, structure, and texture - as her groaning, detailed Dutch master snack table at the Sourdough book party demonstrated. These qualities are essential for heavenly bread, too. Her beet bread is dark red, earthy, beety (of course), and I will never forget my first bite, one hot summer in her top floor Brooklyn apartment, with a sip of cold cider and slick of black currant jam. The story I wrote for Edible Brooklyn is credited as being one of the inspirations for the book which followed. That is a very happy thing.

One of the many appealing qualities about Sarah is that, for a woman who knows a lot (she is the former Brooklyn Botanic Garden rosarian), she is always learning. While she was in town from Kentucky, where she moved from Brooklyn, she was taking a pickling class. Guess who ate the pickles? We did!

Thomas Brown, an ice sculptor friend, contributed the drippily beautiful centrepiece for the smorgas table. There was bread, of course, cut into dozens of bite-size pieces for the many-many spreads and marmalades and chutneys and cheeses and compound butters and compotes.

And there was dessert, also from the book - honey rose cake and chocolate port.

The author with her book.

Cocktails being discussed.

A Frenchman (what is he hiding behind his back?).

Begonia leaves in Dead Horse Bay bottles, with conversation.

Book buyers.

And book signers..

And finally, harts with darts. Because it is Williamsburg.

Excellent evening, better book. Sarah is my friend, but I am not steering you wrong when I say, Buy it. You will not be disappointed.


  1. There is almost nothing better in this world than a great loaf of bread. The gluten-haters can send all of their's to me - as long as they are good, grainy bread.

    sounds like a book i need. thanks.

    1. Win - did you ask me about calendars, a while back? I thought it was in an email, but I can't find it, so perhaps it was a comment. I will look into it in the next week and see whether it makes sense! What sort appeals most (no kitty, though)?

  2. I loved everything about this post. The pics, the flowers, the very fit author, the food and the beautifully written back story.

    I'll probab get the book, your suggestions are always on spot.

    Xo aj

    1. I think you'd like it. Flowers, food. Creative Stuff.

  3. I love reading your posts about your adventures in sourdough, but I have never liked sourdough itself. It always tastes like old socks to me (not that I've ever eaten any old socks). I'm wondering if that is because I've mostly tasted San Francisco style sourdough. Is there a sourdough that might change my mind?

    1. Gosh, I don't know. I have never had the old socks kind, so can't advise. My sourdough just tastes like good bread to me. There is no sour taste, though if I tasted the actual sarter that would taste sour. Thinking of many of Sarah's, some taste like lemons (actual lemons), some like mild beets, some like rye if she uses rye, and the seedy ones are...seedy. And her crackers are very crackery with a full flavor, but not sour.

      (I waved at your birches, yesterday.)

    2. Thanks for the reply. I love the idea of sourdough, so, with your encouragement, will buy Sarah's book, re-read your sourdough posts and try it myself. Sounds like the perfect winter project.

      Thanks for waving at the birches. I'll bet they waved back.


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