Sourdough bread is by far my favorite bread. I won't eat a sandwich or toast or pretty much anything with bread, if it's not sourdough. In my opinion, the best sourdough is San Francisco Style from Boudin. The crispy, chewy crust and soft center...and that sour taste. Mmmm!!! They have an unmatched chunky tomato soup with garlic sourdough croutons, and the best sandwich with sliced sourdough, pickeld red onion, chicken breast, and smeared avocado. Check out their recipes.
To make bread rise, you usually need yeast, that you can buy at the store. For sourdough bread, you need a sourdough starter, also called mother dough. A little piece of the mother dough goes in your new batch of dough along with flour, water, and salt. You don't need any yeast because that's what mother dough provides. It also provides the sour and tangy taste. I can't really explain the biology and chemistry of mother dough, but I know that it has lactic acid and wild yeast. Sourdough is the original way that bakers got their bread to rise before other methods such as commercial yeast were available.
You can get mother dough from someone who already has some, and maintain your own, or you can buy it from somewhere. Once you have a successful piece of mother dough, you can keep it alive for a long, long time! Boudin Bakery claims to have used the same mother dough since the California Gold Rush in the mid 1800's.
I am going to attempt to make my own sourdough starter, or "catch a wild yeast". If this starter is successful, then I have big plans for it. I could share it with my friends and start a friendship bread. Or, who knows, maybe this could be a tradition in my family for years to come!
There are many methods out there for making a sourdough starter. I am following a tutorial from Pinch my Salt, which is Peter Reinhardt's method from the book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice.
It takes about seven days to make the starter (assuming everything goes well). To make a starter, you will need whole wheat flour, all purpose unbleached flour, canned unsweetened pineapple juice, and a glass jar (a wide mouth, quart size canning jar works perfect). Check out Day 1 of my sourdough experiment here.