The year was 2020, and basically everyone was suddenly so into sourdough, grocery stores ran out of flour. I know this because I was one of those people cultivating a sourdough starter and fighting the constant existential dread with bread.
I’d been following Tara Jensen on Instagram since I read one of her essays for my graduate Food Writing course. She is a writer and baker whose first book, A Baker’s Year, forever changed the way I make pie. In 2020, she began a series of Instagram stories about the care and keeping of sourdough. I needed no further convincing. I gathered my materials, started a starter, and embarked on the sourdough journey.
I can’t count the number of times I wished for a comprehensive book about sourdough. I loved Jensen’s stories and found other helpful resources online, but I’m a book human, and books are how I like to learn things.
Jensen must have heard my pleas through the interwebs, because she wrote the bread bible I dreamed about. It’s called Flour Power, and it came out last month. I am obsessed.
I don’t often review cookbooks because they’re such a unique genre and depend very much on a person’s preferences and comfort in the kitchen. But I just couldn’t resist the urge to arm flail about this magnificent tome that now graces my full-to-bursting cookbook shelf.
This book is so comprehensive, it even includes a guide to milling your own flour if that’s your jam. There’s plenty of guidance on how to cultivate different varities of sourdough starters, including the science behind how the heck a starter works in the first place. Essentially, everything I wanted to know about sourdough between two covers.
Following the guidance in this book for the care and keeping of a sourdough starter, I’m cultivating a new one (my first died from neglect, and also the fact that I was apparently never taking care of it properly in the first place.)
So far, I have tried three of the sourdough recipes in Flour Power. It amazes me how slightly different combinations of flour, water, and starter can produce such different loaves. Like she leveled up my pies forever, Jensen’s instructions and guidance for bread making are changing my sourdough game as well.
Jensen approaches bread making like the artist that she is, and her recipes include photographs and careful instructions that make them easy to follow. Her writing chops make the book a pleasure to read even if you’re not actively using it to make anything. I’d know, because I sat on the couch reading through it when it arrived.
If you have any interest in learning to make better bread, I highly recommend starting with this book. I wish I’d had it during my first foray into bread baking, and I’m delighted to have it around now.
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