Saturday, October 24, 2009

My First Sour Dough Bread!

The idea of urban homesteading is very appealing to me. It's why I do my own canning, have made several not so successful attempts at composting, belong to a CSA and obsessively shop at the market. Anything I can do to decrease my carbon foot print and be as independent as I try and do.

For the last 10 days I have been coddling my very own sour dough starter which is made with equal parts water and flour, every day (mostly) you pour half off and "feed" your starter with more flour and water. There are many, many ideas about starters some involve yogurt and grapes, but I went for the basic old fashioned kind just flour and water. To makes things easier I also decided to use a Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery sour dough no knead bread recipe as it just seemed easiest. Some of the recipes I've read are insanely time consuming, it basically requires you to be home for 2 days to make a loaf of bread!

My first attempt was after day 8 of my starter, I used a recipe that called for a cup of starter and I think in this instance a cup was too much. The loaf had a great sour flavor and a wonderful crust but was more akin to a shot put then a loaf of bread. My second attempt on day 11 I used a recipe from this awesome site Breadtopia that used only 1/4 cup of starter and some whole wheat flour.

The Dough is fairly wet, it rose nicely and I was very excited when I was about to put in my preheated covered pot, but the minute I turned it out of the bowl it had been rising in it deflated something fierce. I was able to re-shape and put it in the covered pot, but was anxious that it was going to be another hard flat deadly weapon. Luckily it puffed up nicely even though I wished it hadn't spread quite so much. The guy from Breadtopia talks about all the many variables and how if you add more flour it has better shape but smaller holes - to me it's a fair trade off to get the bread looking nice and round.

The recipe is as on Breadtopia, but the basics are:

1/4 sour dough starter, 1 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 2 1/2 cups bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour. Mix, cover with plastic and let sit for 18 hours.

Place the wet dough onto a slab of marble and shape it with minimal flour and what ever utensils you like (I use a silicone spatula but you could use any non stick utensil that works for you) let sit covered for 15 minutes and then either wrap in a well floured bread cloth or put in a bowl lined with the well floured bread cloth and let double - 1 1/2to 2 hours.

30 minutes before it's finished proofing heat the oven to 500F and put your covered baking dish in the oven to preheat as well.

Transfer the proof dough into the hot covered pot and bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes or until nicely brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

Let cool before cutting.

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