Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sourdough Like You Mean It

A few days ago I showed you my mom's gift and shared my excitement to try and make my own sourdough.  There are the easy ways to do it where you put everything in the machine like you could with many other breads, but real sourdough flavor means time, and letting the natural yeast in the starter work for itself - not adding additional commercial yeast.  So when it came time to make mine, I let my machine do only the mixing, and time and I took over after that.  I admit, I slept for most of it - but 16 hours later, I had some GOOD bread!  You really don't even need the machine at all, I just wanted to save the time since I'm busy (lazy).

Let's start at the beginning.  Ingredients!

1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup warm water (cold slows down the yeast cultures, hot kills them)
2 and 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

Notice: no extra yeast!  Sourdough starter is alive and has all the yeast you need, though at its own pace.  It won't work as rapidly as a packet of yeast, so try to plan ahead when you want this bread!  You of course CAN add yeast if you're in a hurry, though I suspect the flavor won't develop completely.

Dough in a bowl
OK, mix your ingredients.  Remember, I'm busy or lazy, so I had my machine mix for me.  My machine's dough cycle also lets the dough rest and rise, but since I didn't want to leave it in the machine I removed it as soon as it was done mixing - about 30 minutes in.  When I removed it, I put the dough into a bowl that I had coated with a thin layer of olive oil - you'll realize why as soon as you pick up the dough.  It is the stickiest thing in the world and you will feel like a movie villain that has sour dough for hands.  Coating your hands in flour before picking up the dough probably would have been a good idea.  IN to the oiled bowl it goes!  I also put a sheet of plastic wrap over the dough (not tightly, it's going to grow), and then a cotton towel over that.  Pardon the low light in the pictures - this was at 9 o'clock at night.  I figured I needed a lot of time for it to rise and do its thing, so what time better than overnight for it to be left alone and for me to not poke it all day!

So that was at 9 on Friday night - take a look at what I found at 9 on Saturday morning!
Whoa!  First of all, the light is BETTER.  But more importantly, this about quadrupled in size.  Look on the side of the bowl - see all those bubbles along the sides?  That's what the whole loaf is doing.  The yeast in the sourdough is creating gasses and bubbles that get trapped in the dough, and cause it to poof up like that.  As such, this is going to collapse when we touch it, but that's ok!  We actually NEED to break those larger bubbles, so we're going to pop this out of the bowl and do a little punching.  FIRST, we'll put some flour on a board, and some flour on our hands, too.  Even with the oil in the bowl this will stick, which oughta tell you what you're up against!

 Get your dough out of the bowl and on to your floured surface (some will stick, and do the best you can) and PUNCH IT.  You're not trying to give it a concussion, you're just trying to point out that there's a SlugBug, ok?  Now it's all flat and all the big bubbles have popped out of it.  This doesn't look like a loaf of bread!  No, it doesn't - because that's not what it is, yet!  We're actually going to do this AGAIN!  Pick up your dough and pull it in to a ball, basically folding the edges inward and leaving a small, round, taut surface.  It's pretty.

Then it doesn't matter how pretty it is, because you're chucking it back in to the bowl to rise again.

I don't bother putting plastic wrap on this round, because it's not going to rise as far as it did the first time.  Also, it won't take as long to rise either - it'll take about half the time, if even that.  At least in my house, it's much warmer during the day than overnight (maybe 68 vs 55), so mine was ready to go 4 hours later.  Repeat the steps again - flop it on a floured board, pull it back in to that pretty ball, but some slits in the top, and throw it on a stone (or a baking sheet) in the oven!

I'm still getting used to the oven part of this.  I tend to start at 350, and when it starts to expand it get a light colored crust on it, I turn it up to 400 to get the golden color on it.  Maybe I should start at a higher temp, I don't know.  So far my method is working for me, so if someone introduces a better method, I'll try it then!  When all goes well, I get this:

It's not a tumah!  Even cutting slits in it, I still tend to get weird growth patterns with my bread, but that doesn't matter.  I'm not selling it, I'm not trying to impress anyone.  I have my own tasty, ugly bread, that's deliciously chewy in the middle and with a crunchy, crusty crust.

Aren't you drooling yet?  Make this already!

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