Friday, November 9, 2012

Sourdough Bread

I've become quite fond of the process of making bread. It's a new foray for me, something I always relegated to the category of too time-consuming and complicated to be worth it. Somehow despite my initial reservations, it's become a joyful task for me.

A friend passed along some sourdough starter she had in her family. It took me a few batches to feel comfortable with the process, but I was absolutely smitten with the discovery and joy in each step of bread-making. There is something so cathartic in kneading your own dough and watching it slowly rise. If that doesn't excite you, I can assure you the rich smell filling your house while it bakes will win you over.

I haven't branched out yet; I want to master the basics first. One day I am sure I will try other bread types and make buiscuts, pizza dough, artisan breads with dried fruits and nuts, or other tasty items. For now, it is simply enough to follow the steps listed out for me. I'm not ready to give up it's simplicity quite yet.

There's a raw and rustic feel to it. This may seem to be an odd comparison, but in the same way that you could easily go to the store and buy a quality knife, you could instead choose your wood and whittle a handle and forge a blade with your own hands, time, and patience. Likewise, I could go buy a bag of wonder bread at the store, or I could mix the starter, knead the bread, let it rise, punch it down to rise again, and then bake it. It's a slow process but the accomplishment and intimate value of the end result is far more when you make something yourself.

Sourdough Bread Recipe:

Feeding the starter:
Every 3-5 days:
     -1 cup warm water
     -3/4 cup sugar
     -3 Tbsp potato flakes

Add this to existing starter (*stir with wooden or plastic spoon) and let sit out for 1-3 hours.

Then, gently stir, measure out 1 cup to use for baking and return remaining to fridge for 3-5 more days. Note that eventually you will have too much starter for your container, so either dump out the extra, make a double batch, or give some away. Always have at least 1 cup of starter as your base.

Baking the bread:
To the cup of starter add:
-1 Tbsp salt
-2 Tbsp sugar
-2-3 Tbsp oil (I usually have to use 3)
-1.5 c warm water

Mix this (with wooden or plastic spoon). Add 6 cups of flour (I do 4c white/2c whole wheat). Mix well. Knead until mixed. You want a good happy medium between dry and sticky. Form into large ball, spray the top with cooking spray or a thin layer of olive oil or butter, and cover with a very thin dish towel in a warm or sunny place until it doubles in size (usually 4-6 hours).

(6-12 hours later) Punch down and knead slightly. Divide dough into 2 or 3 loaves and place into 3 greased pans (don't use metal!). Let rise for another few hours covered with the dish towel.

Bake 350 for 25-30 minutes

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