Now that I successfully have three different batches of sourdough under my belt, I feel competent to post about them, recipes and all.
I will admit, in the same way I never really understood high school math, I didn't understand sourdough at first. The whole concept of baking bread from a sourdough starter made me feel a bit lost and, even though I had two wonderful books to consult, it took me quite some time and reading to really understand what was going on here. And still, I'm learning. I think making good sourdough bread is something a class could really help. I've never thought I needed a class for anything--just hands on experience--but I'm changing my tune. As of now, I think a class would be good for sourdough bread baking basics as well as for Japanese and Central South American cooking. These are just culinary categories that I know I am not "a natural" at performing. I need experiential exposure from an expert to really "get" them.
Anyway, back to the bread.
This is a basic sourdough with the addition of rosemary. This time, I used Rose Levy Beranbaum's Bread Bible as my consulting force. She describes things differently than Peter Reinhart, which I liked for some things and didn't like for others.
The bread took over 24 hours from start to finish. I don't know if that's typical or if it's because I made it on the coldest weekend in forever (what, like 13 degrees?), but that's just how it went.
Here's the deal. I'll start the recipe for you, but you need to already have a sourdough starter in the works. Consult breadtopia.com if you need help with this.
If I understand correctly (and this is what I did), you first need to convert your liquid starter into a storage starter, and then into a stiff starter.
- So, you take about 1/4 of your sourdough starter and put it in a bowl.
- Mix in 1/3 c flour and 1 T water. Mix with a wooden spoon, and then knead with your hands until its a cohesive blob. Put blob in oiled glass container, cover with plastic wrap, leave for a few hours.
- Now mix in another 2/3 c flour and 2 T + 2 t water. Leave to rise another few hours (about 4?).
- Now you have your stiff sourdough starter. You don't have to make the bread right now. You can wait until you are ready and put the starter in the fridge until then. If you decide to do that, just let it warm up 1 hr on the counter before you use it.
Put 2 1/4 c flour in a bowl. Mix in 2/3 c water until all incorporated.
Let sit 20 min.
Cut or tear 2/3 c stiff starter into pieces. Discard the rest.
Mix pieces of stiff starter into the flour/water mixture on low speed for 2 minutes. Then mix on high speed for 3 minutes. Add the salt and the rosemary. Continue to mix another minute. If not mixing well, stop mixer, do a few letter folds with your hands, and then put back in the mixer and mix.
Oil glass container. Drop dough in. Wrap with plastic wrap so dough doesn't dry out. Let rise 1 hour. Take out. Do 2 business letter folds. Put back in container. Let rise 1 more hour. Repeat folds. Let sit 4-5 hours, or until dough has doubled in size.
Now you can shape it. A plain ol' ball of dough is a good shape. In french, it even sounds fancy. It's a boule.
Shape it, put it on a baking sheet on parchment, cover in plastic wrap, and leave about 5-6 hours.
Preheat oven to 475. Put a cast iron pan on the bottom rack of the oven. When its hot enough, put bread in on baking sheet. When bread goes in, throw about 10 ice cubes into the cast iron pan and shut oven door. Bake 5 min. Lower heat to 450. Bake for 20 min.
Remove from oven. Let chill COMPLETELY before eating, as it bakes as it rests! IF you cut it before it's cool, it will dry out. This part takes lots of patience. It's true.