Revised Classic Sourdoughs by Ed and Jean Wood is an entirely different book. Different in many ways but especially in describing how the baker uses changes in temperature and proofing times to influence the flavor and quality of the crumb. They advocate three entirely different proofs : first of the fully active culture, then of the dough and finally of the loaf to produce the final product. The time and temperature of each gives the baker three opportunities to change the final result as desired. The revised book shows how to make a proofing box from a Styrofoam cooler with a light bulb equipped with an ordinary dimmer switch for accurately regulated temperatures to produce sharper flavors and better texture when the right temperature is used at the right time.
They will lead you into a better under standing of the fermentation process in which higher temperatures increase the activity of the bacteria but inhibit the wild yeast which allows the baker to closely control flavor and leavening. You will become convinced that 1 quart glass canning jars are by far the best containers to house your cultures since each time you feed them the lactobacilli make them slightly more acidic. In time this makes the cultures too acidic and inhibits both organisms. The 1 quart jars require discarding some of the mixture each time they are fed or the jars will overflow. This helps to keep the cultures from becoming too acidic. Larger containers do quite the opposite, discarding is not required and the cultures become too acidic.
The Woods use unbleached all-purpose flours which they think produce equal or better sourdough breads than flours from hard red winter or spring wheat. In addition for better “oven spring” Ed, for most of his baking, puts the loaves in a cool oven, sets the temperature to around 375° and only then turns it on.
The Authors’ qualifications
Ed is an M.D. pathologist with a background in baking. He received a Ph. D. at Cornell where he studied under Dr. Clive McCay one of the foremost pioneers in early nutrition research. In 1983 he became Chairman of Pathology in a new hospital near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He had long been fascinated with the organisms that produced man’s bread for 5,000 years. Knowing that the Middle East was the historic birthplace of bread he and Jean began a quest for sourdough cultures passed through generations of bakers from the beginning of civilization that had never used commercial yeast. Their adventures, ranging from the humorous to the serious produced a collection of sourdough cultures and recipes from around the world dating back to antiquity. Four years and hundreds of experiments later he and Jean with her degree in Pharmacy produced the first book on the science and art of sourdough baking.
In 1993 they collaborated with Egyptologist, Dr. Mark Lehner, to determine how man made his first leavened bread. National Geographic Magazine, January, 1995. In the process they captured a wild culture which Ed says dates straight back to antiquity. He named it “La Giza”and says she is the Queen of the pyramids and older than all of them combined.
On the night of October 12, 2010, Jean lost a contest with a cerebral aneurism and died instantly. Ed and Ten Speed Press chose to dedicate this revised edition of Classic Sourdoughs to the one person most responsible for its production.
“Brings the tradition of sourdough cooking into focus. It is easy, interesting reading and doesn’t make sourdough baking seem complicated.”—Sharon Maasdam, The Oregonian
“A Match Made With Leaven: A True Story of Loafing, Lust, and Loss” —headline of review with recipe tested by The Palm Beach Post
“This is one of the best books I have read (I have read many) on the history of sourdough. Also, includes instructions for making your own starter and many recipes. I whole heartily recommend this book for those folks interested in making sourdough products (my favorite is sourdough and cheese biscuits).” R. Kimball
“Excellent book for the novice and expert home baker alike! This book really is for the home baker who doesn’t have the special ovens and tools of the artisans like Daniel Leader’s Bread Alone or Nancy Singleton”s La Brea Bakery. Ed Wood’s book gives instructions that can be used with any sourdough starter although I have produced far better sourdoughs with his starters than any I captured myself. There isn’t a baker’s yeast recipe in the entire book. If you’re a novice baker or an old hand, you can learn a lot about sourdoughs from this book.” – Mary Sanders
“The best sourdough cookbook. This is the only book I have found that really tells how to make sourdough bread the right way without having to use yeast. The book gives explicit instructions from the moment the starter comes from the refrigerator until the finished loaf leaves the pan. The step by step methods tell how to produce an active starter every time so the bread always rises well. Each recipe gives different options for length of proofing cycles using different proofing temperatures. I was never able to control the temperature during proofing until I read the description for making an inexpensive proofing box described in the book. It made all the difference between success and failure.” – Helen Goode
“I wish I’ve had purchased this book earlier, when my interest in sourdoughs has started to evolve. I had lots of questions on sourdoughs in general which I couldn’t find answers to, even in some very well known books by well known authors. Nor was I able to find a decent book entirely dedicated to sourdoughs. I didn’t find this book too scientific or complex like suggested by some reviewers, but this is not at all to any disadvantage to the book itself. On the contrary I appreciate that the book is easy to read, concise and straight to the point giving me the information I am looking for. The recipes are very easy to follow with the described result. I am fully satisfied with the book and would definitely recommend to anyone interested in sourdough bread making.” – David Kalen