Sourdough 2.0 (and 2.1)

After nurturing my budding starter all week, I woke up early Saturday to take another whack at bread. I decided to take a look at Bill’s beloved Rose Levy Berenbaum’s “Bread Bible,” and was astonished to read that she very nearly didn’t include sourdough at all! Turns out she thinks sourdough is too unpredictable… she also thinks yeast is a plant. Still, she did have some good info in there, and I picked up a few ideas.

I tried a second bread, based on one in her book (but of course I couldn’t just use it as written). Here’s what I did:

I mixed 1 1/3 c. of warm water and 200g of liquid starter (RLB very clearly loves adding tons of flour to her starter to make it stiff and more dough-like, while every other source I’ve read uses a liquid starter. I’m sticking with the liquid for now, so I probably won’t use 90% of her recipes).

I whisked together 2 c. bread flour, 1 scant c. whole wheat flour, and 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (the Fleishmann’s Bread Machine yeast… this was to help boost my young starter and finish up the process a bit faster). Then I added the liquids and mixed it all together, and let it rest about half an hour.

I sprinkled on 1 1/2 tsp. salt and kneaded the dough for about 12 minutes… it was a little bit sticky but manageable and nice to work with. I like kneading by hand.

I let it rise in an oiled proofing box in the oven with the light on, for about two hours. It didn’t quite double, but it did rise up nicely. I turned it onto the lightly floured counter and gave it two “business letter folds,” then gave it another hour in the oven. Then I shaped it into a nice boule and let it rise on the counter for an hour while preheating the oven to 475 (with the same baking stone/cast iron pan as last time). I was going to let it rise in a basket I got, but it was too wide, and I let it rise in the bowl again… this one was smaller than last week’s loaf, about a foot across, and I was determined to slash better, so I thought it would be OK.

I inverted it onto the peel, sprinkled with semolina, slashed it with a tic-tac-toe pattern, and popped it into the oven with a big handful of ice cubes in the cast iron pan for steam. I lowered the heat to 450 after 5 minutes… the oven spring was amazing, you could actually watch it puff up!

After about 30 minutes, and some considerable debate between Bill and myself, it came out of the oven. It was a beautiful deep brown, and immediately started crackling… and smelled wonderful. We let it cool for a few moments, and tasted it… still not terribly sour, but closer than last week. It was done all the way through, at least, thanks to Bill’s insistence on leaving it in the oven longer than I wanted to.

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We finished it off this morning (Monday)… I wonder how many loaves I’d need to make to keep us in bread each week?

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For Sourdough 2.1, we also wanted to try the King Arthur recipe for sourdough waffles, so I set up the sponge that night and made them on Sunday morning. They were light and crispy and airy and delicious, and while they didn’t taste terribly sour, they sure smelled like sourdough while they were on the iron! I topped them with our real maple syrup and Tahitian vanilla bean butter. Seriously awesome brunch material, my friends.

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