I’ve been baking bread more regularly again. This consistency is definitely helping to improve the results. My sourdough culture stays nice and active, and I know what to expect from it in terms of rise and acidity. Predictable rise times also make it easy to fit bread baking in with other activities; I can time things so that the long rises happen overnight or during the day, when I don’t want to be actively monitoring the dough.
My standard bread these days is a whole grain Kamut sourdough, baked in a cast-iron pot. The pot method has proved surprisingly successful – it enables me to control the moisture level and achieve a much nicer crust. That’s not possible otherwise, since our gas oven is vented and any injected steam immediately disappears.
Baking your own bread is a small cost saving – grain and energy cost about 25% of what I’d pay for bread from the bakery; but it gives you a big feeling of accomplishment to pull that golden loaf out of the oven. Plus you can’t beat the wonderful smell of bread baking in the oven.