Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sourdough Bread for Dummies

You probably expected to see an entire loaf of sourdough bread, right? Well, it went too quickly for that, I'm afraid.

I've been baking sourdough bread for about a year now, and, while it's not complicated, it can be time-consuming. The process begins with the "sponge." This is the sourdough bread starter, and it can take a while before it's ready for sourdough bread (or as an added ingredient in other recipes).

I started my sponge with special sourdough yeast found at a local grocery store. The key is to remember to take it out every few weeks for its "feedings." This ensures that the yeast remains viable. I generally will remove about half a cup of sponge every time I bring it out, being sure to replace with a half cup of flour, a little warm water, and a tsp of sugar, or so.

Here's a recipe for the sourdough bread--once you've got the usable sponge.

1 cup warm water
3 & 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of yeast (optional / as bread insurance)

The yeast is optional. If your sourdough sponge is sufficiently active, it's not necessary. Of course, the yeast is added to a little bit of the warmed water and sugar prior to adding to the rest of the ingredients; it has to be activated.

I start the sourdough in the bread machine, then I transfer the formed loaf to a gently warmed oven. (Be careful not to leave the heat on in the oven, as 200 degrees is even too warm for the rising bread.) I generally give the bread three or four hours rising time total. This seems to improve the flavor.

Bake for the first ten minutes at 475, then lower to 450 degrees until nicely browned.  I always put a little water in a bake-safe dish as it improves the bread's texture.  

Don't forget that sourdough starter can be used in many different kinds of ways. I frequently use it in bread recipes instead of sour cream. It's particularly great in pretzels and pancakes. Be creative!

1 comment:

  1. A special note to London user at IP address who has visited this page about 80 times since April 2010... I'm curious what you're up to. Could you drop me a note? ThankQ!