Kelly the Culinarian: Stand mixer Sunday: Homemade sourdough

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Stand mixer Sunday: Homemade sourdough

Man, I love a great sourdough. Really, there's nothing better than the slightly bitter taste of a well-developed, airy sourdough loaf. And let me tell you, it's a labor of love.

It all started with developing a starter. Then you have to feed it everyday for a week like a pet of some sort.

Here's how you get the party going:

Get a glass or plastic jar or bowl. Don't use anything metallic, it will give the starter a weird flavor or prevent it from developing all together. Start with one cup of all-purpose flour and one cup of bottled spring water at room temperature. Mix together well with a wooden or plastic spoon or some type of silicone whisk in order to infuse the mixture with air. Place in a warm, draft-free place. Every day, feed the starter by removing half of the mixture and adding a half cup more of both water and flour and mixing vigorously. That's it. It's really very simple. It will start to smell like beer and get frothy and bubbly. That's how you know the natural yeast is growing. Ta-da!

Before you can make a loaf, you have to make a sponge. Weird term for it, but I don't make the rules. Essentially, take your starter and add one cup flour and one cup filtered spring water at room temp and wait for it to foam up. It will probably take a couple of hours, so it's best to start this the night before. I put my spong thing in the microwave with some warm water to foam overnight. Next, remove two cups of the sponge for the bread. Take the rest and put it in a glass or plastic container and keep it in the fridge. Take it out once a week and allow it to warm to room temperature for one hour, feed it as you would a starter and then put it back in the fridge after an hour. There's a bakery in France that claims it's been using the same starter since the age of Napolean, so keep that starter healthy!

For the actually loaf, now about one week in the making:

2 cups of the sponge you set aside

2 Tablespoons softened butter

4 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

3 cups flour (I used all purpose)

Put the sponge, butter, sugar and salt in your stand mixer with the whisk attachment and blend on a low setting for about a minute or until all the ingredients are incorporated. Switch over to the dough hook attachment and then add the flour one half cup at a time. I found that I had to add a bit of filtered water to the mix to keep it going, but it all depends on the liquidity of your sponge.

The dough will be sticky but shouldn't be wet or stiff. Put it in a greased bowl and allow it to rise until doubled. Again, I put it in the microwave with some warm water and let it sit for about two hours. Turn the dough out and knead it for a minute or two and then form it into a loaf. I went with a single round loaf, but I should have gone with two.

To form a round loaf, knead out the bread into a flat circle. Turn the edges into the center, then flip the loaf over. Roll the loaf between your hands until the surface is smooth and taught like this.

Put this form on a greased baking sheet and allow it to rise until doubled again, for about an hour. Next, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then put slits in the top of the loaf with a serrated knife to allow the bread to properly rise. You can do little X's, a square or a circle pattern like a little starfish, whatever suits your fancy. Cook the bread for 20ish minutes, then take it off the cookie sheet and place it directly on the oven rack so the bottom doesn't get gummy. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the whole thing is golden brown.

This may seem like a lot of work, but most of the process is passive. The taste of real sourdough, fresh from your own oven, is really magnificent. It's very satisfying too. Give it a try, it's tasty and fun! Plus, now that I have the starter going, I can keep baking all sorts of sourdough items with the same starter -- pretzels, pancakes, rolls, crackers, who knows.

Next week: Rosemary foccacia


David T. Macknet said...

There's a faster way to get your starter going (thanks to Breadtopia):

• Step 1. Mix 3 1/2 tbs. whole wheat flour with 1/4 cup unsweetened pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for 48 hours at room temperature. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. (“Unsweetened” in this case simply means no extra sugar added).
• Step 2. Add to the above 2 tbs. whole wheat flour and 2 tbs. pineapple juice. Cover and set aside for a day or two. Stir vigorously 2-3x/day. You should see some activity of fermentation within 48 hours. If you don’t, you may want to toss this and start over (or go buy some!)
• Step 3. Add to the above 5 1/4 tbs. whole wheat flour and 3 tbs. purified water. Cover and set aside for 24 hours.
• Step 4. Add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup or less purified water. You should have a very healthy sourdough starter by now.

Me, I've had mine going for two days now - so I'm just finishing up the first step - and I've already got yeast growing. Apparently the pineapple juice acidulates the environment enough to allow the yeast to get going, so you skip the first three to four days of bacterial nastiness.

And in slashing the loaves I must admit that I tend to cheat & use scissors. :)

Rosie said...

Hi Kelly, Funny thing, I have just been reading about sourdough in one of my books! This also took over a week for the starter and just been reading DaviMack tip :) You can't beat homemade bread and yours DOES look perfect! Thank you for posting this I have really enjoyed reading :D

Rosie x

daphne said...

that's great recipe! Love a good sourdough bread.