Monday, February 28, 2011

February 28, 2011: Sourdough Bread Recipe

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How is your sourdough starter doing? By now your little refrigerator pet should be ready to use, so let’s start out with a basic recipe for sourdough bread.

First things first: you have to make your sponge (the proofed starter). Take your jar of starter out of the refrigerator the night before you want to make this bread. Pour it into a mixing bowl and add 2 cups of flour and 2 cups of warm water. Stir it together, cover it with a cloth, and set the bowl in a warm place. The next morning, the sponge should be ready, bubbly and frothy. This may only take a few hours, depending on the temperature in your home, but to be on the safe side, set it out the night before. The longer it proofs, the more sourdough taste your bread will have.

Sourdough Bread

2 cups sponge
2 T. olive oil or softened butter
4 t. sugar
2 t. salt
3 cups flour

Remove 2 cups of sponge and place in a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Add a ½ cup each of flour and warm water to whatever is left, put in a clean jar, and stick it back in the fridge for next time.

Note: Try this once as a purist - without adding yeast. But if you find your dough doesn't rise, you can "cheat" and add one packet of yeast dissolved in a 1/4 cup of warm water to the following recipe.

Add the oil or butter, sugar, and salt to the sponge and mix it in well. Add the flour, a half cup at a time and knead in with a spoon and/or your hands. If using a stand mixer, add 2 cups of flour all at once and mix well, then add in the remaining flour one half cup at a time. The amount of flour is approximate. The idea is to create a smooth, elastic dough that does not cling to the sides of the mixing bowl.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Just like regular dough, when you poke a finger in the top and the indentation remains, the dough is ready to shape and bake. Note: sourdough takes much longer to rise than yeast dough so this may take a couple hours or more.

Punch down the dough and knead it a few times. Shape into a circle and placed it on a greased or cornmeal-sprinkled cookie sheet or pizza stone (or place in a greased loaf pan). Split the top, if desired. Cover it again and let it rise one more time, until doubled in bulk.

When it has risen, place the sheet or pan into a cold oven and turn it to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown (check for doneness by thumping on the bottom of the loaf; it should sound hollow).

Making sourdough bread isn’t hard, but it is time intensive. That’s why it’s best to proof your starter at night and get a good jump on making the bread the next morning.

Tip: For faster rising, turn your oven on for a couple minutes, then turn it off. Place the dough inside the warm oven (make sure it’s not too hot by touching the side of the oven – if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot for your dough).

If you find your sourdough isn't rising, it could be that you let your little fridge pet die. It needs weekly or at least bi-weekly feedings to keep the yeast brewing.

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