Sunday, October 21, 2012

Breaking Bread: Sourdough Loaves

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex? – Julia Child

The smell of baking bread fills your home.

Here’s a recipe for two sturdy little loaves that will stay fresh for several days. And they most certainly don’t taste like Kleenex. The secret is in the sourdough “preferment.”

This is the dough when all the ingredients are in. The liquid
you see at bottom left is the preferment.
Sourdough extends the shelf life of your bread. It uses what is variously called a preferment, sponge, poolish, biga – or any of several other names depending on the country you're in.

Starters were the best way to keep yeast alive before the time you could get it in packets at the store. You used what you needed and then fed the starter to keep it going.

Some starters were even passed down from generation to generation. You can make your own starter at home quite simply with water and flour. The mixture captures the yeast in the air around us. 

Making starter the old-fashoined way takes days, though. The modern baker will probably prefer to speed up the process with packaged yeast. I did. But I want to try to “grow” my own some day soon.

Preferment does two basic things to bread. First it add a delicious distinct tangy taste, and second it helps keep the bread fresh longer than doughs without a preferment.

Kneaded and ready for its 8-hour rise.
Even though I made this bread on Friday-Saturday it would be great made for a weeknight get-together. The timing is in eight hour increments, so if you want you can do the preferment in the evening, mix the rest the next morning and bake the bread just before mealtime.

I started this bread before I went to work on Friday. The preferment rose all day. Then when I came home I mixed the remaining ingredients in and let it rise overnight.

It's easy, too. There’s hardly any kneading to be done. About three minutes is all it takes.

Come morning it was a simple process to deflate, shape, rest and bake. Fresh warm bread was ready before I knew it!

Sourdough bread is a wonderful accompaniment for any meal. It also is stunning for sandwiches because it is a "sturdy" loaf that has no huge holes for ingredients to fall through. I like mine best served warm with just lots of butter.


After rising pull the dough away from the sides. Your
fingers will leave marks in the dough (top).
Sourdough Bread
Total time: 16 hours  |  Yield 2 medium loaves
Preferment: 8 hours
1 cup warm water (no more that 110°F)
2-1/2 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup flour
To finish: 8.5 hour rise  |  Bake 35 min
1 cup water
1/4 tsp yeast
4 cups flour (start with 3-1/2) 
1 tsp salt

Make the preferment by mixing the yeast, water, sugar and flour in a medium sized bowl. The mixture will rise significantly so you need the room. 

Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise for 8 hours. After the rise you will have a “spider webby,” very wet mixture that has a distinct sour smell.

Mix the remaining water, yeast and salt together ina large bowl. Stir in all of the preferment mixture. Then add the remaining flour. Start with 3-1/2 cups.

Let the dough rest after shaping for at least 1/2 hour. I raise
my bread on top of a hot water radiator. It's perfect.
Add enough flour to make a dough that still sticks to your hands very slightly. It may take the extra 1/2 cup flour and it may not. Knead for 3-4 minutes in the bowl, or on an flourless surface.

Oil the inside of the bowl. Roll the dough in the oil, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise for another 8 hours.

After the 8 hours, uncover the dough and pull it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingers. This will deflate it. No need to “punch it down.”

Divide the dough into two even pieces and make each piece into a football shape. Do this by pulling the dough underneath itself with your palms. Place on a baking sheet and let rest in a warm spot for 1/2 hour or more if you wish.

Preheat the oven to 450°F and place an empty pan on the bottom rack. Two minutes before placing the bread in the oven pour 1/2 cup of water in the pan. This creates steam in the oven and hemps the bread rise in the oven.

Slice 3 diagonal marks on the sides and up over the loaves. Dust with flour if desired.

Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

I was serenaded by the crackling and snapping of the
crust as the bread cooled.

If you like this post feel free to share it using any of the links. If you repost, please give me credit and a link back to this site.
Questions? Comments? Derogatory remarks? Just ask!

No comments:

Post a Comment