Monday, August 4, 2014

Sourdough bread, step by step

My friends have asked me for my sourdough recipe.  It took me about four years to learn to make good bread. It is actually quite easy if you keep making it. Things you will need: a glass jar (25 oz or bigger), good white bread flour (I use King Arthur brand), salt, water, a large plastic or wooden bowl w/ tight fitting lid, a dutch oven, cornmeal or oatmeal, and a hot oven (a pizza tile in the oven is better if you have it).

  Step 1. Make the sourdough starter.  Mix flour and water in a glass jar, stir together with fork, cover, let sit a day or more until bubbly. Keep it in fridge, feed and water it about 1 x per week with 1/4 c flour (use white bread flour only) and a little water, stirring it with a fork until well mixed.

The starter lives in your fridge. It only needs a small amount of white flour and water given weekly to be happy and healthy.
To store keep it on the dry side
to bake, add enough water to make a thick, pourable batter.

Step 2. Make the bread dough. Mix together 2 cups white bread flour... teaspoon of salt... full dry measure cup of the liquid starter thinned as stated above...

...and enough water (about one full dry measuring cup of water) to make a rough shaggy dough that sticks together with a fork. One option: you can add with the dry ingredients 2 heaping tablespoons of whole wheat flour for a nice flavor.

Step 3. Cover with tight fitting lid...

...put in warm place several hours or overnight. This is one of my good spots. The other is the inside of my oven (unheated, but with the pilot light on) with oven door closed. Write yourself a note to check the dough. You don't want to forget about it!

In several hours it should look like this: bubbly, sticky, full of air holes.

Step 4: scrape out risen dough onto floured surface. It will be very squishy, sticky, soft. Fold several times with more flour. It should feel soft yet firm (I always say like a baby's bottom). If you poke it, it should spring back.

Step 5. Flour the bottom of the rising bowl generously.

Dump the dough back in, close the lid...

 ...put in the fridge for several hours or overnight. The dough will swell and expand somewhat by then.

Step 6. Baking the Bread. Turn the oven to 450F. Place the dutch oven w/ lid inside (preferably on a pizza tile). Close oven door and preheat for 10-15 min. While the dutch oven is preheating, remove the rising bowl from the fridge and let the bowl sit on the counter to warm the loaf up a bit. Don't take off the cover of the rising bowl until you are ready to bake.

Transfer preheated dutch oven to stove top. It will be very hot! 

 Coat the bottom with cornmeal, oat meal, oat bran, whatever you like. You can cook the toasted oats later as hot cereal. 

Carefully scrape loaf from bowl with spatula. Dump into hot dutch oven, flour side up.

Looks good!

Step 7. Cover and bake 30 min at 450 F.

Step 8.  Check the loaf. When the crust is golden brown, transfer the dutch oven to the stovetop.  Remove the loaf with a wide wooden spatula. It should come out easily. Tap the bottom of the loaf. It should sound hollow.

If the crust is still pale in color, put the cover back on and bake another 10 minutes and check again.

 Step 9. Cool the loaf. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool.  It will start to crackle. Let it cool until it stops crackling (10-20 min). Although the loaf is really hot at this point, it's also really cool to hear it crackle!

Step 10. Slice carefully. The bread will be very soft and fragile. The crumb should be full of airholes. Use a long bread knife.  If you keep feeding your sourdough and baking, you will have lovely bread whenever you want it.

I have a great, authentic Alaskan sourdough starter that a friend in Fairbanks gave me. It originated in Arctic Village and was given to a Native family by Hudson's Bay Company traders many generations ago. If you would like a sample I would be happy to send you some dried starter and instructions to revive it.

Happy Baking.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Diane!!

    I can't wait to try it!