Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Sourdough --OR-- Third Time's a Charm


I have done it people. I have successfully made sourdough.

A year and a half ago I attempted my first batch of sourdough starter. Two days later I took my new little bundle on a vacation. It didn't make it. Then last year, in the midst of Christmas madness and nearly freezing to death in the funky Victorian, I started and failed another batch. The first attempt was a matter of pure neglect. The second attempt I chalked up to the cold. But this time, when I saw the December Daring Bakers' Challenge was sourdough (from scratch, from the beginning), I knew I didn't have anymore excuses. It was do or die. Literally.


It was a rough start, but catching wild yeast never did sound like an easy task. But I did it. I did it, I did it, I did it!

I know that is not an incredibly eloquent way of telling about the whole experience, but I really can't think of anything else to say. I understand now why Clotilde squeals every time she pulls out another loaf of her natural starter bread or her pain au levain--it is just that exciting. I too, did a little dance when I realized my serious sourdough woes were comfortably behind me. Once you get a dough to sour and rise in your own kitchen properly, you know you can do it again and again and again. And I plan to.


I've heard it likened to having a gold fish, but along the way, I found myself smelling my starter, or chef, as the professionals call it, just like I would smell the top of my newborn baby's head. Now I know why bakers name them. It is way more like having a baby than a gold fish, and so much more interesting. The chef is slightly less demanding than a baby, and if we're really trying to nail down a true comparison, the commitment level and difficultly of caring for the chef is somewhere in between.

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

We were supposed to pick one starter--either rye or wheat--but I couldn't decide, so I chose both. I wanted to increase my chances for success. Do yourself a favor and just try one at a time. My starting both at once was like having twins: twice the work, twice the headache, (twice the love), and twice the dough to chase around when the chefs are finally active. While you're doing yourself favors, be sure to watch Jessica's video links. They are what took my first awful flop of a loaf (dense, wet, wet, wet wheat slop) to the normal, open-structured glory we ate on Christmas Eve with the soup.


We were also supposed to come up with a showcase recipe in addition to playing with wild yeast. Well, with the first flop, I didn't want to eat it, but the flavor was so good, I didn't want to throw it away either. So, I made bread pudding. And now we have the showcasing.

We've done bread pudding and caramel before, but I assure you, the recipes are different enough to try each. The previous persimmon one is soft and gooey with the sauce poured on at serving time, but this one is hearty and caramel crusted. I like them both for different reasons. I hope you do too. Happy souring.


Sourdough Bread Pudding (pudding recipe adapted from my Nana's microwave pudding, bread recipes exactly as Jessica gave out)

This is one of those should be the easiest-thing-you've-made-ever recipes. Use what you have, don't fret about the caramel, it cooks more in the oven, and ponder toasting the walnuts a little before you add them. The recipe is your reward if you actually made sourdough from scratch, regardless of how beautiful (or hideous) it turned out.

4-6 cups cubed sourdough bread
2 cups milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts
butter, for the pan

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Add bread, walnuts, and raisins and stir well. Let sit to soak for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan with the brown sugar, stirring constantly. Cook until bubbly and golden brown.

Pour bread mix into the prepared pan, mashing it down and pushing it around a bit if it is not wanting to fit, and spread the caramel sauce over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, give or take ten minutes, depending on the amount of bread used, or until golden brown, puffed, and no longer liquid in the center. Serve hot, alone, with yogurt, or ice cream. Enjoy!

Russian Rye Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves and excess rye starter to keep for further baking.

Rye Starter - Day 1:

Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
Total scant ½ cup (110 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)

Directions:
1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86°F/30°C if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer. It should be a very sloppy, runny dough, which will bubble and grow as it ferments.

Rye Starter - Day 2:
Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
scant 1/2 cup (110 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant 1 cup (220 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)

Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.

Rye Starter - Day 3:

Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
scant 1 cup (220 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (330 ml) (9 oz/255 gm)

Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place. If you notice it has a grey liquid on top, just stir this back in and continue as normal.

Rye Starter - Day 4:
Ingredients
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (50 ml) (25 gm/1 oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) water (at 104°F/40°C)
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons (330 ml) (255 gm/9 oz) starter from Day 3
Total about 1¾ cups (440 ml) (12 oz/340 gm)

Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!


Rye Starter, ready for baking.

Russian Rye Bread - Step 1: Production Sourdough
Ingredients
1/4 cup less 2 teaspoons (50 ml) (50 gm/1 ¾ oz) rye leaven (starter)
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) whole (dark) rye flour
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) water
Total 2½ cup (600 ml) (500 gm/17½ oz/1 lb 1½ oz)

Directions:
1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. Cover and set aside for 12-24 hours, until bubbling. Set aside the remaining starter for further loaves – see the Notes section for tips!

Russian Rye Bread - Step 2: Final Dough
Ingredients
2 cups (480 ml) (440 gm/15 ½ oz) production sourdough (this should leave some (½ cup) to become your next loaf of bread!)
2 1/3 cups (560 ml) (330 gm/11 ⅔ oz) rye flour (light or whole)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm/.2 oz) sea salt or ½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm/.1 oz) table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons (200 ml) (200 gm/7 oz) water (at 104°F/40°C)
Total 5 cups plus 3 tablespoons (1245 ml) (975 gm/2 lb 2⅓ oz)

Directions:
1. Mix all the ingredients together to form a soft dough. With wet hands, scoop the dough up and put it in a well-greased loaf tin.

2. Put the tin inside a large plastic bag, blow it up, and seal it. This should make a good little dome for your bread to proof inside. Set aside somewhere room temperature to warm.
3. The dough should be ready to bake with in anywhere between 2-8 hours, depending on how warm it is. I proof mine by a sunny window in about 4 hours. If the dough was halfway up the tin when you started, it will be ready when it reaches the top (i.e. almost doubles in size).
4. Preheat the oven to very hot 470°F/240°C/gas mark 9. For a large loaf, bake for 50-60 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after about 10-15 minutes. If baking in small loaf tins, bake for 35-45 minutes, reducing the temperature after 10 minutes. If you are unsure about whether it is done, give it a few minutes longer – it is a very wet dough, so the extra time won’t hurt.
5. Leave to cool on a cooling rack, and rest the loaf for a day before eating it.


Shaping it for the tin


Fully proofed dough.


Cross-section of rye loaf. Good, open structure – also what you want to see in your wheat loaf. The rice loaf will be a bit denser.

French Country Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf plus extra wheat starter for further baking

Wheat Starter - Day 1:
Ingredients
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
Total scant ½ cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)

Directions:
1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86 F if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer.

Wheat Starter - Day 2:

Ingredients
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
scant 1/2 cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)

Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.

Wheat Starter - Day 3:
Ingredients
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
4 teaspoons (20 ml) water
scant 1 cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8-1/10 oz)

Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place.

Wheat Starter - Day 4:
Ingredients
3/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons (205 ml) (120 gm/4 ¼ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup less 4 teaspoons (100 ml) water
1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8 oz) starter from Day 3
Total scant 2⅔ cup (625 ml) (440 gm/15½ oz)

Directions:
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!

French Country Bread
Stage 1: Refreshing the leaven
Ingredients
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (225 ml) (160 gm/5 ⅔ oz) wheat Leaven Starter
6 tablespoons less 1 teaspoon (85 ml) (50 gm/1¾ oz) stoneground bread making whole-wheat or graham flour
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
Production Leaven Total 2¾ cups plus 4 teaspoons (680 ml) (480 gm /1 lb 1 oz)

Directions:
1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. It may be fairly stiff at this stage. Cover and set aside for 4 hours, until bubbling and expanded slightly.

French Country Bread
Stage 2: Making the final dough
Ingredients
3/4 cup less 1 teaspoon (175 ml) (100 gm/3 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (510 ml) (300gm/10 ½ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons (7½ ml) (7 gm/¼ oz) sea salt or ⅔ teaspoon (3⅓ ml) (3 gm/⅛ oz) table salt
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) water
1 ¾ cups (425 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) production leaven – this should leave some (1 cup) for your next loaf.
Total 6 cups less 2 tablespoons 1415 ml (1007 gm/35 ½ oz/2 lb 3½ oz)

Directions:
1. Mix the dough with all the ingredients except the production leaven. It will be a soft dough.
2. Knead on an UNFLOURED surface for about 8-10 minutes, getting the tips of your fingers wet if you need to. You can use dough scrapers to stretch and fold the dough at this stage, or air knead if you prefer. Basically, you want to stretch the dough and fold it over itself repeatedly until you have a smoother, more elastic dough.
See my demonstration here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqS3raEGdwk
3. Smooth your dough into a circle, then scoop your production leaven into the centre. You want to fold the edges of the dough up to incorporate the leaven, but this might be a messy process. Knead for a couple minutes until the leaven is fully incorporated in the dough. See my demonstration here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPO97R4iO4U
4. Spread some water on a clean bit of your work surface and lay the dough on top. Cover with an upturned bowl, lining the rim of the bowl with a bit of water. Leave for an hour, so that the gluten can develop and the yeasts can begin to aerate the dough.
5. Once your dough has rested, you can begin to stretch and fold it. Using wet hands and a dough scraper, stretch the dough away from you as far as you can without breaking it and fold it back in on itself. Repeat this in each direction, to the right, towards you, and to the left. This will help create a more ‘vertical’ dough, ready for proofing. See my demonstration here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDoJRCMfclE
6. Heavily flour a banneton/proofing basket with whole wheat flour and rest your dough, seam side up, in the basket. Put the basket in a large plastic bag, inflate it, and seal it. Set aside somewhere warm for 3-5 hours, or until it has expanded a fair bit. It is ready to bake when the dough responds to a gently poke by slowly pressing back to shape.
7. Preheat the oven to hot 425°F/220°C/gas mark 7. Line a baking sheet with parchment, then carefully invert the dough onto the sheet. I like to put the baking sheet on top of the basket, then gently flip it over so as to disturb the dough as little as possible. Make 2-3 cuts on top of the loaf and bake for 40-50 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after 10 minutes.
8. Cool on a cooling rack.


A wheat loaf, with a slightly rumpled crust.

10 comments:

  1. I can totally relate to this post - I did it too! And I was so proud! That first photo looks especially delicious, and the bread pudding was an inspired way to use it.

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    Replies
    1. Good job, sourdough is such a ridiculous triumph!

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  2. I have not done sourdough yet, but I very much like the way how you describe your experience. By the way, you have a lovely blog here.

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  3. Hi Amanda! Amazing breads! I hate telling you this on such short notice via blog comment, but I guess it's better than nuthin: There's a Davis Food Writers meeting at the conference room of the Davis Food Co-op tonight from 8-9. I believe it will be an ongoing monthly deal! Understand if you've already got plans, but I had to pass on the info. See you tonight or around the cheese counter!
    -Sally Hensel (sallyhensel@gmail.com)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oops! It's 7-8, NOT 8-9!
    -Sally

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. Hi, Amanda! I ran across your blog just now... and I've got sourdough bread rising in my kotatsu. :) (I'm in Japan and I have one of those delightful tables with a blanket over the top and a heater inside.) My sourdough starter is about 5 years old, and it began in my kitchen in Vancouver! I miss your soups. I hope you're doing well. :)

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    Replies
    1. Doing well, and hoping now that you'll send me some of your tried and true sourdough recipes. My inbox is waiting...

      Delete
  6. Just a note: I commented wrong on my own blog, how embarrassing. So then I tried to delete it, and it left a very serious-sounding...This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. Good grief!

    ReplyDelete