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 find ways to become a better cook, 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 open-faced sandwich. This recipe is a Dawn original. It’s also one of the only vegetarian meals I eat, which is saying something. Each time we eat these, a silence only punctuated by happy eating sounds falls on the heels of the first bite.
Shitake Mushrooms, Sprouts, and Goat Cheese On Toast
4 slices of hearty sourdough bread
1 packet of fresh goat cheese
1 lb shitake mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
several sprigs thyme, leaves removed
a few large handfuls of mixed sprouts
2 medium avocados
butter and olive oil
salt and pepper
Cut off shitake stalks. Slice tops thinly and set aside. Dice the garlic. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Place 2–3 tbsp butter and a couple glugs of olive oil into the pan and swirl. Once butter has melted, add the mushrooms. Season with a couple large pinches of salt and a few grinds of your pepper grinder. Stir occasionally. Cook until mushrooms are slightly crispy and browned. When the mushrooms are as cooked as you’d like, add the garlic and thyme leaves. Stir until fragrant.*
Turn oven onto broil. Once the flame is lit, place buttered bread on a sheet pan and place inside the oven. Keep an eye on the bread, and take out once slightly crispy and browned.
To assemble the sandwiches: spread a good layer of goat cheese onto each slice of bread. Place several slices of avocado, salted, onto each slice. Add mushrooms to each piece (don’t be afraid to be generous, as these really make the sandwiches). Finish by piling sprouts onto each open-faced sandwich and follow with a hefty dose of olive oil.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty—this meal is messy! Messy, but so worth it.
You can vary this sandwich any way you want. We like to add a squash and onion sauté, which is on the sandwich in the picture above.
*I used to hate mushrooms for their rubberiness, but I encourage you to try these shitakes even if you feel the way I used to. You can control rubberiness by simply cooking them longer.