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The smell of fresh bread right out of the oven is one of the most comforting aromas around. It draws people to the kitchen like no other scent, and is the demise of many a homebaked loaf which never makes it to the dinner table.

My absolute favorite breads are all made with a sourdough starter, which is a bit different than using baking yeast for a leavening (rising) agent, and it lends the bread a unique 'sour' taste. The sourness of the finished loaf isn't always pronounced, as it depends on several things, such as the age of the starter, the age of the 'proof', and the strain of the sourdough culture.

Sourdough baking is one of the traditional breadmaking techniques which is disappearing from our kitchens, perhaps due to the aura of mystery surrounding it. Baking with a sourdough starter takes a bit more time and attention than baking with a commercial baking yeast, but once you get the rhythm of it, it's not any more difficult. A great homemade sourdough bread really rounds out a fall harvest meal, especially when paired with vegetable soup.

While the baking of sourdough bread is a bit beyond the scope of this article (but fodder for a future one), the very first step you need to take in your journey to learning sourdough bread baking is to start a starter (or if you've got a sourdough-baking friend, have them give you one the next time they feed theirs).

On the next page, discover how to make a sourdough bread starter.