Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sourdough Odyssey

I've been on a bit of a bread roll (HA! sorry, that was cheap.) as of late, mainly inspired by a book that was given to me, The Bread Baker's Apprentice.  It's a pretty spectacularly comprehensive book, for anyone out there who's looking to start baking bread at home.  It can, however, at times be a bit too comprehensive, to the point of exhausting.  Which is why I turn, as I often do, back to the blogosphere (to the detriment of the printed word, unfortunately).  Web content is just so accessible and amorphous in a way that can be beneficial to the cook with a curious, rambling mind.

But let's stay on topic here: I'm making bread!  And it's such fun!  My most recent favorite blog for these endeavors has been Wild Yeast.  And for supplies and further recipe research, the King Arthur Flour website is indispensable. 

At first I aspired to make sourdough bread using only wild leavening - meaning, instead of prepackaged yeast, I would use a starter built up from just flour and water, left to ferment and "bloom" over a series of days and weeks.  I'm proud to say that I've built a rather ripe and potent starter over the past few weeks, and encourage you to do so as well.  How does one do that, you may ask?  The short answer is: mix 1 part flour to 1 part filtered water in a wide-mouth jar, let it sit out at room temp until bubbles form, and BLAM-O, you've got a starter.  The long answer can be found here.

Here's a glimpse at what a maturing starter looks like:

Funky, huh?

After the first frustrating attempts to make a delicious, springy sandwich loaf using my starter, I had a Eureka! moment and realized that a combination of wild and commercial yeast would serve me best.  Luckily, I found a fabulous recipe that fit the bill on the King Arthur Flour site, which is my new go-to when I need to satisfy my Daily Sandwich Requirement (DSR).  I made a few changes to the original recipe, but the gist remains the same.

Multigrain Sourdough Loaf  printable version
Adapted from the King Arthur Flour Multi-Grain Sourdough
(makes 1 large sandwich loaf)

1.5 cups boiling water
1 cup grain/seed blend (ex.: rolled oats, millet, quinoa, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc.)
2 cups sourdough starter, recently fed and ready to use (read: bubbly and happy)
2 cups KA whole wheat white flour
1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sesame seeds (or any other type of seed) for garnish (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, combine the grain/seed mixture and boiling water.  Let it cool to lukewarm.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix and knead - either by hand or with a mixer or food processor - until you have a soft, tacky but not sticky, dough.  Add additional flour or water as needed to get the right texture.
Cover the dough in the same bowl and let it rise until it's almost doubled, about 1 to 1.5 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface and gently fold a few times to deflate.  Shape into a large round.  Place the dough into a large ovenproof enamel pot (I used my Le Creuset) that's been sprayed with non-stick baking spray and dusted with sesame seeds or cornmeal, and cover.  Alternately, you can place the dough on a sprayed sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the loaf rise until it's puffy, another 1 to 1.5 hours.  When the dough is almost risen, preheat the oven to 450°F. 
Just before baking, brush with water  and sprinkle with the seeds (optional).  Use a sharp knife to score the top of the loaf in a crosshatch pattern.
Place the bread in the oven, lower to 425°F, and bake for 30 minutes covered (if using the pot) and another 15 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center reads 190°F.
Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool 5 minutes.  Then turn it out of the baking vessel and cool on a rack.

* Note: If your dough isn't rising nicely and it's making you really sad, don't dismay, just improvise!  I turned some wussy looking dough into nice little seeded flatbreads, see?  Just remember, your first loaf won't be your best loaf - and may not even be a loaf at all!


Molly Neuman said...

Fabulous!! I was supposed to get a sourdough starter from someone recently and it didn't come through. I'm trying to eat mostly yeast free and really want to make real sourdough. Thanks, Eve!

Chef Eve said...

Thanks, Molly! I'm sure sometime soon my starter will grow too big for its britches, so I'd be glad to hand off some of it to you if you'd be interested.

Sandy said...

The loaf in the pot looked totally scrumptious!

Chef Eve said...

Thanks momma :)