Friday, January 04, 2008

Foray into Sourdough

Well, this is a food blog, right? At least it used to be. And it's been a while since I wrote about food. This entry is especially easy to write about because I'm so excited about the topic: Sourdough!

My guys love sourdough bread. They like to buy it at the grocery store on Sunday after church. And anytime I tell them I'm going shopping they ask me to pick up some. Well, I like to make bread. (I don't use a bread machine. I use my KitchenAid stand mixer) So I decided to do some reading about sourdough.

I found this recipe in my favorite book, "Cookwise," by Shirley O. Corriher. She has a recipe for starter with yeast, which only needs 10 to 12 hours, rather than a week, to ferment. So I made the starter Tuesday night and then the bread on Wednesday. Altogether it was a 20 hour process, but the bread! Oh. My. Gosh. And to really make it all worthwhile, the bread used all the starter! So I didn't have to begin a long-term relationship with a bowl of fermented flour.

I have skipped all the instructions about how to form loaves.

Starter with Yeast
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour*
1/2 cup semolina (durum) flour
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1 3/4 cups cool water (65 to 70 degrees)

Combine flours in a mixer bowl. Stir yeast into warm water in a small cup. Let stand 2 minutes, until foam appears, indicating yeast is alive and well (I skipped this. I use instant yeast and I use yeast so much that I always know it's alive). Add dissolved yeast and cool water into flour. Blend on low speed about 1 minute. Knead on low-medium speed for 5 minutes. Place in a plastic or glass container and cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the starter to prevent crusting. Let stand in a draft-free area at a temperature about 71 degrees for 10 to 12 hours. The starter is now ready to to make bread. This is enough to combine with 1 pound (about 3 cups) or enough for two loaves, or one large round.

*I used an unbleached, "white whole wheat" flour by King Arthur. Normally I buy unbleached white flour, but I was intrigued by the whole wheat, so thought it might be good to try. I've had mixed results. The first time I baked bread with it, I made a basic cuban-style bread and I thought it was too dry. I really think whole wheat flour requires more moisture. This flour worked great in this recipe. When I made the bread, I added bread flour to this whole wheat starter for a bread that was darker in color but not so dense as all whole wheat.

Yeast Starter Bread

makes one 10-inch round, or two 7-inch rounds

1 recipe Starter with yeast
1/4 500-mg vitamin C tablet, crushed*
1 teaspoon barley malt syrup**
1/4 cup crushed ice
3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon oil for bowl
Coarse cornmeal as needed

Place the starter, vitamin C, barley malt syrup, and ice in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer with the dough hook. Mix on low speed just to blend. Add the bread flour and salt and knead on low-medium speed for 5 minutes, until dough is very elastic. The dough should be firm. Add a little flour or liquid if needed.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning so that it is coated. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough, and divide in half if making two loaves. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Shape the round loaf (or loaves). Place on a baking sheet that is heavily sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle the loaf with some flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let the the dough rise until doubled, about 3 to 4 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, place a baking stone on the lowest slot of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. (I use 4 unglazed quarry tiles.) About 5 minutes before baking, turn the oven down to 375 degrees and carefully place a shallow pan with 1/2 inch of boiling water on the oven floor. Slash the loaves and place the pan directly on the hot stone.

(I put my tiled rack on the second slot, and in the bottom slot I put another rack with another baking sheet on it. I preheated the oven with the other baking sheet in there so that it was nice and hot. When I put the bread in, I first tossed a dozen or so ice cubes on the preheated baking sheet. Then I put the bread on the tiled rack above that to bake.)

Bake until well-browned, 45 to 55 minutes total baking time.

*I skipped the vitamin C because I was out. I do usually do this, though. Corriher says it helps gluten development and produces lighter breads. I tend to agree with her on this.

**A couple of months ago, I accidentally pulled the jar of barley malt syrup off the shelf while reaching for something else. Broken, sticky glass all over the place. YUCK! I used Agave nectar in its place for this recipe because I was giving a loaf to a diabetic. But really any liquid sweetener would do: honey, molasses, corn syrup, etc.

We really enjoyed this bread! And I was so pleased with how photogenic it was! It had a wonderful crunchy crust and a nice crumb. I'll make more this weekend using all white flour to achieve a lighter texture.

1 comment:

Burkinator said...

Although I haven't baked much bread, I tried using all whole wheat for pizza dough, and it was AWFUL. Had to go half and half to get it right.