Suffice it to say I’ve come a long way – a long way when it comes to learning how to cook. I distinctly remember being a young teenager and my mom telling me to pay attention while she was fixing dinner because I’d need to be able to fix my own someday. I also remember smugly retorting something about being a wealthy, successful lawyer and having hired help to do that for me. I had zero interest and zero abilities in the kitchen. When my now husband and I were about to be married, my dad put an arm around his shoulders, patted him, and said, “I hope you like potato soup, son, because that’s all she knows how to fix.” And it was true. My husband decided he could live off potatoes, I guess, because he married me, but he probably had second thoughts early on in our marriage after he saw what was put on the dinner table each evening. Planning and cooking meals was still a mystery to me (unless you count Hamburger Helper, whose directions are on the box, so it’s hard to go wrong), and one evening after both of us got home from work and were starving, I had a burst of confidence and thought, “I can do this; I can fix supper even though I haven’t planned, so let’s see what I can work with.” I found a package of frozen stew beef in the freezer. I naively pulled it out and laid it on the counter while I heated a skillet smokin’ hot. What better way to thaw meat than to throw it in a screamin’ hot skillet? I threw the meat in and stepped back as the pan popped and sputtered and as steam and smoke filled our tiny kitchen. I let the meat smoke and sputter on the one frozen side for a bit, then tried to flip the frozen blob with a spatula. Shreds of the burned mass stuck to the pan, but I managed to flip it. After deeming the meat sufficiently smoked/burned/singed, I tried to stick a fork in it, but it was tough as could be. It still looked partially raw in spots, but really burned in other spots. Hmmm, I thought to myself, I’m no expert, but this appears to be inedible. I can still fix this, I thought. After pondering the dilemma for a bit and thinking about meals my mom fixed, I had the brilliant idea to do what any good Southerner knows always makes things better: add gravy! Now I had definitely observed my mom making gravy almost every day of my life, so I was confident I knew how to do that. I pulled out butter, milk, and flour. I left the ashen-gray, both raw and burned stew beef blob in the pan, threw in a gracious plenty of butter, a nice heap of flour, and stirred and then slowly added milk. As I stirred in the milk, the burned pieces loosened from the bottom of the pan and floated up to the surface of the gravy. The gravy thickened beautifully, but it was a ship-gray color, decked with ashen-black pieces, stringy brown pieces, and large floating chunks of beef. While it wasn’t pretty, I was sure it would be delicious since, after all, it had gravy in it! We sat down to eat, and I watched as my husband looked most dubiously at the blobby chunks swimming in their ashy gray pool. He dutifully took a bite and chewed . . .and chewed . . .and chewed . . .and chewed . . .and then, well, let’s just say you have napkins at the place setting for a reason. He said something like, “I know you worked hard on this, but I really don’t think I can eat it. Let’s just go get something.” I agreed, and we did. It’s too bad we didn’t have dogs back then because they’d have gotten quite a large meal. There are more cooking horror stories where that came from, so stay tuned, same channel, same station . . .or just talk to my husband . . .
Now to the bread. Even after I learned to make edible meals, I still wanted to learn to make homemade bread. I tried many, many times, numerous recipes, but never had true success. Along my bread journey, I learned about sourdough and how it’s the best bread for you in terms of nutrition and digestion. I also discovered einkorn wheat, which is the most ancient form of wheat and has never been hybridized. Even those with gluten sensitivities can often consume einkorn bread, and especially sourdough bread because einkorn has much less gluten to start with, and the sourdough pre-digests much of the gluten. When I found this recipe for overnight artisan sourdough einkorn bread, I tried it and knew this was it – this was the bread I’d be making forever. It has turned out perfectly every single time. I make it once or twice a week, and we absolutely love it. This is not my own recipe, but I’ve adjusted the quantities to reflect what I use, and I always use freshly ground sprouted einkorn for the whole grain portion of the flour. For those who want a truly delicious, nutritious, come-out-right bread, this is it. Look no further. It makes wonderful paninis, French toast, croutons, sandwiches, and is perhaps best with just butter or olive oil. In fact, I think it’s almost a crime to put jelly on it because it’s just so good by itself.
- 6 cups einkorn flour (I use 4 cups sprouted, whole-grain einkorn flour and 2 cups all purpose einkorn flour)
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ¼ cup sourdough starter
- 2 cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Combine ﬂour, sea salt, sourdough starter and water in a medium-size mixing bowl. Mix together until it makes a shaggy dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sour overnight, or for 5 to 8 hours.
- When souring time is over, the dough will have ﬁrmed up but will still be sticky. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for at least a half-hour, with your Dutch oven or clay baker inside to pre-heat as well.
- Meanwhile (while oven is preheating), ﬂour your countertop well. Scrape the dough from the bowl onto the ﬂoured surface. Break up the baking soda, then sprinkle about 1 teaspoon over the dough. If any of the baking soda is still in chunks, pinch them with your ﬁnger.
- Now begin to work in additional ﬂour and the baking soda by folding and rotating the dough over and over — about 20 to 30 folds. The dough should now be pretty handleable. Keep it in a circular shape.
- Line a colander with a linen couche — not in the center of the cloth but toward one end of it so that half of it is free to fold over the top when the dough is in it. (Don’t fold it yet.) Sprinkle the cloth with ﬂour. Transfer the dough into the couche with the folds of the dough on the top side. Sprinkle more ﬂour on top. Fold the linen couche free end over the dough. Let the dough rise/rest for 30 minutes.
- When the rising and pre-heating time is over, get the Dutch oven (or clay baker) out of the oven. Take the lid oﬀ and sprinkle ﬂour in the bottom.
- Tip the loaf out of the couche into the Dutch oven so that the folded sides are now underneath. Cover the Dutch oven and put it back in the oven.
- Turn the temperature down to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the loaf is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
- Transfer the loaf to a baking rack that’s lined with a tea towel. Fold the towel around the loaf. Let cool wrapped in the towel for 2 hours before slicing it. (Wrapping in the towel softens the crust; if you want it really crusty, don’t wrap it in the towel.)