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Sourdough Bread

February 20, 2011


I wrote about starting a sourdough starter about two weeks ago, sharing my high hopes for my newest project. Well, after many, many feedings and much anticipation, here it is! I finished off the first loaves two nights ago and am currently making another batch for Sunday Family Dinner tonight.

I have to share that I before the loaves were baked I wondered if this was really worth all the effort. The very first starter has to be started two weeks before you can bake, then the night before you have to make a leaven and various other steps. I wondered if my end results would really be that spectacular, or if it would be something I would repeat.

My answer is YES. The flavor of the sourdough was comparable to any bakery made loaf: chock full of holes, crispy crust and amazing sour taste. I will say that the first loaf was half gone before the second was out of the oven (they only take forty minutes to bake!) and every person that has tasted it agrees that it is amazing.

Since bread is the food of life and feeds our family as well as our souls, I have decided the bread is a staple in this family. Once your starter is ready to bake, you can feed it everyday (it becomes habit, really) and bake a loaf every day if needed. I am so proud of my bread and the whole process to make it. It really is worth the time and effort to know you, yourself, can make a loaf as fantastic as any bakery’s.

The recipe came from Martha Stewart Living, January 2011 issue and it is the Tartine Country Bread. This is the recipe I followed but found some flaws in it for my style and climate in my kitchen.

Sourdough Country Bread

Starter:

1135 grams Bread Flour

1135 grams Whole Wheat Flour

455 grams lukewarm water

 

Per Feeding :

150 grams flour blend

100 grams lukewarm water ( you might need 50 grams more)

 

Now, I know this seems like an excessive amount of flour and a whole long list of ingredients, but trust me, it is spread out over two weeks and it is worth it.

You start out by mixing the 1135 grams of each flour and reserving this blend. You will use this to feed the starter for the next two weeks. The starter is made by mixing 315 grams of flour blend with 455 grams lukewarm water with your hands till it is a thick lumpfree batter. You use your hands to get any wild yeast off them. Cover with a tea towel and let sit in a cool dark spot until bubbles form – about three days.

Feeding: at the same time everyday, remove 75 grams of starter and discard the rest. Mix 150 grams of flour blend with the starter and 100 grams of water. It should be a thick lump free batter, so add a little more water if needed. I need 50 more grams of water for mine. Repeat these feeding for 15-20 days until the starter rises and fall predictably with each feeding.

 

Leaven:

200 grams lukewarm water

1 tablespoon starter

100 grams bread flour

100 grams whole wheat flour

The night before you wish to bake, take 1 tablespoon of starter and discard the rest. Feed with 200 grams flour blend and 200 grams warm water. Cover with a kitchen towel and let sit for 10 to 16 hours in a cool dark place. You will know the leaven is ready to use when a spoonful dropped into a bowl of water floats. If it sinks, it is not ready and needs more time to mature. It should change smell from sour and ripe to sweet and fermented.

Bread:  (makes 2 loaves)

750 grams lukewarm water

200 grams starter

900 grams bread flour

100 grams whole wheat flour

20 grams salt

(Save the leftover leaven since this is the beginning of a new starter)

Pour 700 grams of warm water in a large bowl and add 200 grams of leaven. Whisk to dissolve. Add the flours and mix with your hands until a ball forms. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes. Add salt and remaining 50 grams of water and fold over itself to incorporate.  Let rest, covered for 30 minutes.

Now you can start the bulk fermentation. At first I thought this was silly, but it gives the bread an amazing texture and airiness. Fold dough, repeating every 30 minutes for 2 1/2 hours by wetting a hand and grabbing the underside of the dough and pulling it up and over itself. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat. Each fold should have 2 or 3 times per fold. It is really quite easy even if it sounds complex.

After the 3 hours the dough should feel airy and softer and be about 20-30% bigger.

Pull the dough out of the container onto a floured board. Dust the top lightly with flour and cut into two pieces using a dough scraper or knife. Work each dough until it is a nice taut round ball. Dust top of balls with flour, cover and let rest for 20- 30 minutes.

Once rested, line two bowls with tea towels and dust generously with flour (I forgot to do this and it WILL stick!). Gently pick up dough balls and place each in bowls, flour side down. Let rise, covered with a towel for 3- 4 hours. Go have a glass of wine.

Twenty minutes before you’re ready to bake, heat the over to 500 degrees with the rack at the lowest position and place a dutch oven or cast iron pot inside. Turn first loaf into hot dutch oven and score with razor blade or sharp knife. Cover with lid and reduce heat to 450 degrees for 20 minutes.  Carefully remove lid and bake for another 20 – 25 minutes more.

Transfer loaf to wire rack to cool. Allow to cool (if you can!) for at least 15 minutes before cutting. It should feel light and sound hollow when tapped.

To bake second loaf, reheat oven to 500 and place lid on pot to heat up and repeat baking steps.

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