Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Love Sourdough!

It's a little after 8:30 a.m. this lovely Saturday morning and I woke up with a craving for some crusty sourdough bread. Since sourdough bread, from start to finish, can take 3-4 days, I had better start now. Today I'll be working out of Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" (2008). I tried to make sourdough starter (and subsequently, sourdough bread) out of a packet from the store but the attempt failed and now I'm left with all this gooey, white substance that will be going down the drain shortly.

Here is an excerpt from Bittman's instructions so that you can acquaint yourself with starter if you're new to it: "Note that the first time you make this will take longer, because you have to create a sourdough starter (unless someone gives you some.) But after that, it's a straightforward and simple process. The starter must be used every few weeks, though, or it will die (I've left mine for a month and it was okay, but I felt it was risky). You can simply feed it some flour and water, but every time you make bread you're replenishing it, so as long as you make bread every now and then it will be fine." (p. 858)

Here's how I used Mark Bittman's recipe (in my own words)...

3 1/2 c. bread or all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1/8 tsp. plus 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2 tsp. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour

Three days in advance, mix together 1 1/2 c. of the bread or all-purpose flour, 1/8 tsp. yeast, and 1 1/2 c. warm water. Stir with a wooden spoon, cover loosely, and put on top of your refrigerator or out of the way. Sir every 8 to 12 hours. It will become bubbly and develop a slightly sour smell. After three days, it's ready.

When the starter is ready, the night before you want to actually bake the bread, feed the starter by mixing in the remaining 2 c. flour and about 1 1/2 c. warm water. This can be done in a food processor or a bowl. Mix until smooth. Cover and let it rest overnight; the mixture will bubble and foam.

Then, transfer 1/2 of the mixture to a covered Tupperware and refrigerate until the next time you want to bake bread. With the 1/2 of the mixture remaining, put in the food processor with 1/2 tsp. yeast, the salt and 1 c. flour. Pulse the machine and add a little water at a time until moist, "slightly shaggy but well-defined balls."

Now, the process is the same as when making a typical loaf of bread: place the dough into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let sit until it doubles in size (about an hour or so).

Punch down the dough and shape into a large loaf, small loaves or rolls on a greased baking sheet(s). Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

When the bread is ready to be placed in the oven, drop the oven temperature down to 375 degrees and proceed with baking. Bake until the crust is "golden brown and the internal temperature of the bread is at least 210 degrees."

Well, here goes...I'll make the starter today and upload pictures of the bread making process and final product in three days. Check back to see how it turns out!

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