For Part I, rambling waaaaaaaay too long about making my sourdough starter, click here.
So, I have my starter. I decided to start out with the Better Homes and Gardens recipe, since I've had reasonably good luck with their bread in the past. This is the recipe. It also has the starter instructions, in case you were smart enough to skip the ramble.
I did a terrible job of taking pictures, and won't bore you with the minute step-by-step, since the recipe is linked.
First, of course, I got my stuff together. I'm often lazy about mis en place when I cook, because I have a good sense of how much time I need for particular steps and can often work for efficiently if I'm multi-tasking. For baking, though, I've learned that I need to be much more organized! Probably since it is just so much more precise of an activity. Which, in turn, is probably why it scares me so much.
Next, I did the water warming, butter almost-melting thing, but didn't
take pictures. I'm unsure of how I feel about this step, generally. I
see it a lot in BH&G, but not in other places. It is effective at activating the yeast, though, so that's a good thing.
Next came mixing it all together. I cannot express enough how much I love my KitchenAid mixer.
Then, I switched over to the dough hook.
And got the whole thing a-risin'. Having it rise under a pretty towel always makes me a little extra happy. It's the little things. It rose beautifully, but, alas, I didn't get a picture, or think to take one until it was all punched down. :(
After punching came dividing and resting. I like dividing dough with my bench scraper, just because it's fun to use it for it's intended purpose (v. for moving veggies from the cutting board into the pot).
Then, I got them shaped up and ready for rise #2. Looking back (and at the online picture), I should have been more aggressive with my stop "criss cross" slashing, but the book didn't have a picture, and I was so surprised with the effect of my initial X that I let it be.
After rising and baking, this is what I got.
Both loaves were good, but not particularly sour or chewy. We've already polished off one loaf and I expect the second to be done today. Charles described it as "good homemade bread, just not very sourdough-ish."
There are several things I would do differently if I were to make this recipe again. First, I would change up the criss-crossing as I noted above. Second, I would put both loaves on the same baking sheet, so that they can bake on the same rack and, thus, be a bit more even. I'd probably also be a bit more patient with the second rise, and perhaps also with the bake time.
Next time, though, I'm going to try a different recipe. I'm already looking forward it.