Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kitchen Adventures; Sourdough Bread

Round 1 - with the in-laws
My husband grew up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. His mom sometimes had a lot of free time, so she made a lot of food. One of the things she made was fresh bread. Upon finding out that I, having lived within mere minutes of civilization my entire life, was not regularly fed fresh baked bread while growing up, he decided to share some of his childhood with me. 

A while back, Tim started making his own fresh pizza dough. Of course, it was amazing. Kind of a no-brainer there. Fresh baked goods are always better.

Then we registered (and received) a bread machine when we got married last year. We used the heck out of it right off the bat. Ingredients in, push start, and walk away. Amazing. 

But there is something to be said about doing it yourself. Yes, I have a magic robot to make bread for me, but how gratifying is it to get your hands a little sticky and then brag that that fresh baked bread on the counter was made by you. No bakery, no machine - just flour, water, yeast and your hands. 

On our last trip down to see the in-laws, we started talking about baking - this happens pretty frequently.  

My MIL mentioned her sourdough starter and how every week she has to take a cup out and throw it away because it just keeps growing. My initial thought was "well, then lets make sourdough bread right now so we won't waste any" and then I thought... why not give that cup of starter to us?

So, we made bread. Duh. It was glorious. Duh.

Hubs also turned the sourdough his mom and I made into amazing pizza crust. Blow ya mind.

And I took some sourdough starter home. HOO-RAY!

And since then I have been working on perfecting my sourdough. It's silly, but I'm having a lot of fun.

First go round at home, we were impatient, didn't let it rise long enough. One of two things need to happen with sourdough. If you're cool with relatively mild (as in, not sour) sourdough, then skip the salt. It will rise faster. How-ev-ah, if you want it to taste like real sourdough bread, you gotta add the salt and let that baby chill the F out.

Round 2 - first solo attempt

Second solo attempt something weird happened. The water in my starter separated out and turned brown. I didn't know what to do. It smelled a little odd, but still mostly sourdoughy. What could I do? Mix the water back in? Had it gone bad? Did I need to throw the whole thing out?

Terrified at the thought of losing my precious starter, I mixed it back in.

Maybe not the best idea in hindsight, but it was a problem that would fix itself over time. NBD.

I don't know if I need to say it, but the result of mixing in said sorta-stinky water made the bread smell weird too. It also wasn't an awesome texture and I know why.

According to our original sourdough starter provider, my brother-in-law, the water separating and darkening was because it had overfermented.

...How can we combat this going forward? Well, every time you take a cup out of your sourdough starter, you have to "feed it", so it can replenish and re-ferment.  You basically get rid of the "overfermented" stuff in one replenishment.

If if ever separates and turns brown again, just pour off the water on top and do a "mini feeding" - add a half a cup or quarter cup of water and flour instead of a whole cup of each.

For our anniversary gathering on Sunday night, I made a fresh batch of sourdough. I knew I wouldn't have the necessary time for it to rise, so I skipped the salt. was eaten so quickly I didn't even get to take pictures... but it was awful pretty (and delicious)

Monday night, late, I got another batch started (batch 5). I included the salt this time and let it rise overnight. Woke up the next morning, turned it out, cleaned the bowl and put it away for its second rise.

When you take it out after the second rise, it should be thick and doughy, but also kinda slimey and bubbly this...

Batch 5 baked up a little differently than the previous batch, but the outside on this loaf was extra crunchy and it had a wonderful true sourdough flavor that previous batches had been missing.

I had sourdough and avocado for dinner last night. It was delish.

I know not everyone has a sourdough starter just laying around in the fridge, but if you do and you're dying to use it to make fresh artisan style sourdough, this is what you'll need:

Sourdough starter
Stand mixer with a dough hook
Dutch oven (or other covered baking dish - anything you can put in the oven with the lid on). If you have two cake pans that are the same size, that will work too. You'll be using one as a lid.
Bread flour (All purpose works, but you'll notice the difference if you use bread flour
Plastic wrap

Recipe adapted from Instructables 


1 c. starter
6 c. bread flour (AP OK)
3 c. cool water
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp melted butter


Combine 1 c. starter and 2 c. water in a bowl, using a standmixer and dough hook attachment, blend them together (about a minute) on low.
Add 3 cups of bread flour and 1/4 tsp of yeast and let the dough hook do its thing, mix until smooth
Add the final cup of water, mix until smooth
Add the rest of the flour (3 cups) and the 1/2 tsp. of salt, and, again, mix until even consistency.

You'll have a big glob of dough. Cover it with a towel and put it somewhere safe. (I put mine in the microwave) Then leave it alone for 10-15 hours. The salt slows down the rising process, but helps the dough get really sour and bubbly (this is good). This is a good time to go to sleep.

When you think its risen enough (or when you get up in the morning), cover your hands and cutting board with flour and scoop around the outside of the dough to free it from the bowl. It will collapse a little bit. That's OK. :)

To turn it out, you basically just flip it over. :) It's a like a mini-knead, but don't actually knead it.

Clean out your bowl and coat the inside with olive oil. Plop the dough back in the bowl.

Cut a sheet of static cling wrap and spray one side with nonstick spray. Put the nonstick side directly onto the surface of your dough, cover bowl with towel, and put away for another 5-8 hours for the second rise.

Heat the oven and your baking pans or dutch oven to 450 degrees F

When you're ready to bake, remove the pans from the oven and sprinkle a little oatmeal or cornmeal evenly on the bottom of the pan. I've tried both and prefer cornmeal.

Uncover your dough and gently plop into your baking pan, brush a little melted butter over the top, cover and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until shiny and golden brown.

Easy peasy. It just takes forever. It's worth the wait though. I promise.

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