First off, let me just say I love this book:
Right, now that’s taken care of, on to the blog post.
After nearly 2 years of slacking, I recently resumed making sourdough bread again. I mixed my starter last Saturday afternoon, thinking I would make some bread this past Tuesday or Wednesday. As anyone who has dealt with any kind of starter knows, you usually end up increasing your quantity each time you use and then replenish it. This is especially true if you forget that you only made half a recipe when you initially mixed the starter but replenished with the full amount. Twice. Needless to say, unless I can find a good home for 20 ounces of starter, I’ll be baking a lot in the next few days. I thought I might as well document today’s bread with pictures.
Here is the starter. It actually looks better than it smells.
I use a recipe for natural sourdough starter I adapted from The Professional Pastry Chef(mine is the 3rd edition).
1.5 cups (12 fluid oz) warm milk, at body temperature
1 oz sugar
12 oz bread flour
In a plastic or crockery container with plenty of room for expansion, dissolve sugar in milk. Stir in flour using a wooden spoon until mixture is smooth. Cover loosely and let stand at warm room temperature, preferably around 80 degrees (a busy kitchen on a hot summer day is just the place) for 2-3 days. Mixture should bubble and have a strong sour smell (but don’t let that put you off). Stir starter down once a day during the time it is fermenting. After that, it should be stored in the refrigerator.
In order for the starter to get going, yeast needs to be present in the kitchen from recent bread baking–around here, that’s the perfect excuse to have homemade pizzas for dinner. Also, starter must be replenished after each use, and it needs to be fed every 10 days even when not used. To replenish/feed, add:
1/2 cup warm milk
4 oz bread flour
1/2 oz sugar
Mix well and allow to proof, loosely covered, at room temperature before refrigerating again.
So, on to the bread making. Again, my chosen recipe is the one from The Professional Pastry Chef for this starter, but I imagine you could play around with trying the starter in other bread recipes. I just haven’t been that brave yet.
1 packet dry yeast or 1/2 oz fresh compressed yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 tsp salt
2 TBSP honey
10 oz sourdough starter
1 lb to 1 lb, 3 oz bread flour
In mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add honey, salt, and starter. Kneading with dough hook on low speed, incorporate enough bread flour to make a firm (not sticky) dough. Continue kneading at medium speed until dough is elastic and pliable.
I call this the cling-clean stage because the dough clings to the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn over to oil the top. Cover, and let it rise in a warm place for 2 hours. I forgot to take pictures of the dough before-and-after the rising process today, but I won’t forget to remind you that the bowl needs to be quite a bit bigger than your ball of dough in order to contain it all once fully risen.
This dough is very versatile. It does equally well as rolls, free-form loaves, and loaves baked in pans. Today I made loaves with 3 different sizes and types loaf pans: a crockery mini-loaf, 2 coated medium-sized, and a full size Doughmakers.
Here’s how to turn your oven into a proof box:
Preheat your oven for 1 minute only and then turn it back off. This will warm it up just enough. Next, place your bread in the oven and spray the loaves with water to prevent a crust from forming on the top of the dough.
Take a spare pan and fill it about half-full with boiling water. The steam adds humidity and more moisture to prevent the dough from crusting. This is when an electric kettle comes in super handy.
Close the oven door and walk away. Do not open the door. Stay away from the door. Keep the door shut. The idea is to trap the warm air and steam in the oven to help your bread rise. If you must check on the progress, just turn your oven light on and peek through the window, but resist any temptation to open that door.
In about an hour, the dough will be slightly less than doubled in volume and ready to bake:
After about 20-25 minutes in a 400 degree oven, you’ll be rewarded with yummy bread!