Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sourdough Bread

I am a bread-lover.  I LOVE bread.  So when I found this sourdough recipe, I knew I had to have it.  I did some research, and learned that you can substitute whole wheat flour for some of the bread flour in sourdough, but for these first loaves, I just wanted plain, white, sourdough.  So there may not be a whole lot of nutrition here, but let me tell you, this bread is worth it!  It has perfect texture and perfect flavor.  I may have found a new everyday bread (although then I WILL have to start subbing in some wheat flour :) )! The final raise of this bread is 8-12 hours, so I started making the dough at 4:00 pm, and the timing worked out perfectly to bake it at 7:30 the next morning.

 The Starter
Sourdough starts out with a basic "starter".  It ferments and gives the bread its sour flavor.  There are many different starter recipes, and if you already have one, it will work great for this bread.  Here is the one I used.

Sourdough Starter:
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2 cups warm water
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs active dry yeast
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Pour water into 2 quart glass bowl or jar.  Stir honey to dissolve.  Mix in yeast.  Gradually whisk in flour, stirring until smooth.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set in a warm, draft-free spot.  I left mine on the kitchen counter, and it did great.

Leave starter to ferment for 2-5 days, stirring once a day.  When the bubbling has ceased and a sour smell is present, cover and transfer to the refrigerator.  It is now ready to use.

Your starter is now a living creature in your refrigerator, and it needs to be maintained.  Some people even recommend naming it :)  Fortunately it is a low-maintenance creature and only needs to be baked with or fed every two weeks.  For every one cup of starter that you use, simply stir one cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water back into the starter and let rest at room temperature for 12 hours before placing back in the refrigerator.  This is "feeding".  If you do not intend to bake with it for over two weeks, simply remove one cup of starter and discard it.   Follow the same "feeding" process as above.

The Bread
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2 1/2 cups warm water (100* F)
4 tsp yeast
1 Tbs honey
1 cup sourdough starter
5 1/2-6 cups bread flour, plus more as needed
1 Tbs melted butter
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs flour mixed with 1 Tbs cornmeal

In bowl of electric mixer, stir water, yeast, honey, and starter just until smooth.  Cover and let rest for one hour.  Using paddle attachment, set mixer on low and add in 3 cups of flour, butter, eggs, and salt.  Set speed to med-low and mix for one minute.  Add 2 more cups of flour, and beat for 2 more minutes.

Change to dough hook.  With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1/2-1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Continue to knead on low until dough is smooth and elastic, adding 1 Tbs of flour at a time if needed, about 6 minutes.

Transfer dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl and turn once to coat.  Cover and let raise until doubled, about 1 1/2-2 hours.

Punch dough down and knead slightly to get rid of any air bubbles.  Sprinkle flour/cornmeal mixture onto a baking sheet.  Shape dough into two tight ovals and place on prepared baking sheet, several inches apart. Rub flour gently onto the tops. Cover loosely with plastic and let raise in refrigerator for 8-12 hours.

When ready to bake, place a baking stone on the bottom oven rack and preheat to 450* (if you don't have a stone, use a baking sheet turned upside down).  Using a sharp knife, slice three shallow, parallel lines across the top of each loaf.  Place baking sheet on preheated stone and bake for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 400* and bake 25-30 minutes more (sourdough has a darker crust than other breads, so let it bake about 5 minutes more after it "looks" ready, within the set baking time).

Transfer to cooling rack, and let cool completely before slicing.

Source:  Annie's Eats, and Williams Sonoma

3/31/11 Note:  I made this bread this week, subbing whole wheat flour for the first 3 cups of bread flour, and, if possible, I think it tastes even better this way!  I think I will try making one of the loaves in a bread pan next week to have for "normal-shaped" sandwiches--stay tuned for that update!


Carolyn said...

There's definitely a little timing involved to getting it done when you want to eat it! Good things come to those who wait :)

Emily said...

Yes, planning ahead and timing are important for this one! But totally worth it for me!