4.26.2009

Sweet Sourdough

I just love bread. Many different types of bread. But one that is near and dear to my heart (and sometimes my mouth) is sourdough. It's in my blood, you know. My mom being a sourdough baker and her father before her. One day I shall pass it along to my own offspring.

That's why the idea of Bread Week appealed so much to me. So I created it, thanks to Susan, who planted the idea in my head.

Side Note: I will offer my photos here, however, it's a faulty loaf of bread. I didn't follow my own advice, and had some issues. I'll share those later. Just know that yours will probably look much more smooth and lovely than mine.

My sponge took off quite well yesterday, once I obtained some fresh starter. Sorry, Susan, I don't know how to start a starter from nothing. I just get it from someone else - typically my mom. If you really don't know anyone at all from whom you can get starter, you can order it from King Arthur Flour. My sister has some from them and she really likes it.

My starter is a milk-based starter. There are also those that use water. It's just a personal choice.

To make sponge:
1 cup starter
1 1/2 cups warm, not hot, water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 cups flour

Mix it up in a glass, plastic, or stoneware bowl (no metal), cover it with plastic wrap and let it set 18-24 hours. If it's warm where you leave it, it'll happen quicker. If it's cold, the opposite. You should get a very active, bubbly sponge. When first mixed, it will be fairly thick, but that's fine. Also if your bowl is not real big, and there's a chance the sponge could run into the plastic wrap, spray it with oil first.

Happy, bubbly sponge
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The next day, after it's become all bubbly and happy, add 1 cup flour and 1/2 tsp baking soda. I use my awesome dough hook for this part. Then knead in anywhere up to another cup of flour. Use your hands. They will feel silky soft afterward. Really. The dough will still be a bit sticky, which is fine. That's what you want.

My beautiful dough hook
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Side note: bread making is not an exact science. There are too many individual influences, such as temperature, humidity, and altitude. The more you bake bread, the more you'll get to the place of knowing how your dough should feel. Sometimes, when it's very dry (like in Colorado), you'll need a little less flour. And vice versa.

At this point, you'll need to put your dough into some sort of pan, bowl, etc. I bake mine in a 2-quart round Pyrex bowl. Greased first, of course. You could just make it a big blob and bake it on a stone. You can also get those nifty little couches, bagette pans, etc. Yes, King Arthur carries those as well. No, they're not paying me. They don't even know I'm writing about them. But my mom, sister, friends, and I all get things from them. We love them. A lot.

Anyway, back to your bread recipe in progress.

You can pretty much make this in whatever shape floats your boat. I happen to like the round Pyrex bowl shape. Once placed in its container of choice, cover with greased/sprayed plastic wrap and let it rise for a couple of hours. Or so. This stuff is so flexible. As long as it's not too warm and doesn't rise right up over the sides of the container and fall down the edges. Then you left it for much too long. And that's not good.

Yes, mine is all lumpy and less-than-lovely. There's a valid explanation for this. In another post. You can read about it here.
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Now, before you pop that baby in the oven, take a very fine and sharp item, such as a razor blade. No, not the Mach 3 or 4 or 20 that your husband has in the shower. A good old-fashioned, super ultra sharp, double-edged razor blade. I keep mine in a special index card all folded into an envelope and taped closed in my cupboard. Out of reach of children and teenage boys. Take the blade and ever so gently make 3-4 thin cuts along the top of your loaf. If you skip this step, your loaf will likely burst on the side, and no longer be a lovely round (or whatever) shape any more. There are some sort of gases that just need to be released in the baking process. And they'll get out one way or the other.

Preheat your oven to 375. You could obviously do this a little sooner than here and now. Or you could be like me and wait until now. That's okay, too. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, depending upon size and shape. Like if you made two small loaves, you may want to check them at 30-35 minutes. And so on.

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In order to determine doneness, I typically look at the bottom of the loaf. It's a pretty good determiner of how done (or not) my bread is (or isn't). Then if I think it's done, I slip it out of the Pyrex bowl (using mitts) and turn it over to take a closer look. You should be able to tap on it and get kind of a drum-type sound.

Now you can let it cool. Only enough to be able to cut it without burning yourself. Because hot, fresh sourdough bread with melted butter on it? There's nothing like it. So go forth, bake bread, and eateth it with delicious melty butter. Or maybe honey.

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I know, I know, this is getting terribly long. If you're satisfied you know enough about sourdough now, feel free to go leave me a comment or click away to some other part of the blogosphere. If you want to find out what I did to botch my bread, click here as I've put that part of the story in another post.

Oh, a little linky love here. While I'm far below the radar of Pioneer Woman, I did find that she's been playing along with Bread Week, unbeknownst to her. And me. So check out her awesome bread-type posts. They're fab, of course.

PW's pretzels
PW's bagels


2 comments:

Susieqtpie said...

Love all the tips!! WOW I feel that we should let PW know that she was playing along! LOL

Donna@WayMoreHomemade said...

I like how you titled it sweet sourdough. Explains why you use the baking soda... to neutralize that acid that gives the tangy flavor. I like the tangy, but I'll bet it's good.

And I hadn't thought about cooking it in a bowl like that. Well, kind of I had, but not necessarily the bowl used for the final rise. That's a good idea to consider.

Thanks for sharing. I am learning that it is very much an art form. And one that am really thinking I will enjoy.

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