Dear Gentle Reader,
Sorry for the delay in this post. Getting a USB cable for my camera proved more difficult than just going to the local electronics/camera store. Damn you, Kodak, and your special cables.
Additionally, this post is not the promised post of intellectual proportions. Sadly, Mr. Kelly's topic has become a bit unwieldy - he even gave me readings! (I feel like I am back in grad school already). So naturally, I will need an extension. Thank you for understanding in this time of mental strain.
However, I have had another post fermenting for quite some time, so you all get that. As I have
And without further ado, I would like to introduce the world to Whoville.
|Whoville working hard on some flour.|
Speaking of Whoville, perhaps now is a good time to learn a bit.
Here is that beautiful Scientist/Chef Alton Brown on yeast:
Whoville is so cute in sock puppet form, and is the most delicious baked pet ever. Watch the whole episode if you have time. I love Alton, and his stuff on bread is fairly solid.
Perhaps you want to start your own flour-loving yeast community. Guys, it's so simple. You will need a sanitized glass jar (I use the ones with the wire bail), a cup of flour, and a cup of warm water. You mix the water and flour and leave your jar out in a warmish spot (I just stuck it on the counter). Everyday for a week or two, take out one half cup of the mixture (throw it away), and mix in a fresh half cup of flour and water (This is called feeding). Once you start seeing bubbling and smelling alcohol, your little community has formed. I kept up the daily feeding schedule for a week after the starter got going, until it would nearly double in volume in a day. After you feel the starter is strong, you can stick it in the fridge and feed it once a week (I just use my feeding as a means of starting my bread for the week). Your starter will produce liquid. You can either drain this off or I just tend to mix it back in.
Some notes: When I did this I actually used two cups of flour and water with a one cup feeding. I found that having a full cup of starter left each time I feed it allows it to come back sooner, which is nice, since I tend to dip into my starter more that once a week (to make pancakes, et al). On flour, I use a hard whole wheat for my starter and tend to bake with either a good unbleached all purpose or even better bread flour. In all honesty though, play. Try different flours and recipes. Go nuts. If something fails, you waste about a buck and a little bit of time. For your starter, though, stick with something more neutral, either a white bread flour or a whole wheat. If you are buying flours in bulk, hard flours are what you want. They have a higher gluten content. Soft flours are for pastries, and should certainly be in your pantry but not in your breads.
Some suggested reading:
Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food
Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking
Anything from Peter Reinhart, but especially The Bread Baker's Apprentice
The Fresh Loaf (Tips, lessons, and blogs!)
So now that I have overwhelmed you with breadnerdiness (and hopefully inspired you to attempt some sourdough produced thanks to your own local microfauna), here are some photos of the work Whoville and I have done together:
|Multigrain Sandwich bread and Batons. Did you know homemade sourdough makes for delicious PB&Js?|
|This an experimental rye loaf. I presoaked the flour in my smokest black tea, then mixed in dried orange peel. My friend Christina and I enjoyed this warm with just a spot of butter. Delicious.|
|Sourdough doesn't come in just bread form. Still working on perfecting my sourdough pancake recipe. These weren't an unwelcome imperfection. I am hungry just thinking about them.|
To end this doughy affair, I just wanted to give you guys a simple recipe that I have been following for some delicious loaves.
3-5c unbleached flour (bread best, but AP works)
2Tbs Olive oil (pick something with a strong taste)
1Tbs Kosher Salt
(*optional, will change flavour of bread, but will help with the rise. I tend not to use it, but you can)
1. Mix stater with 1c water and 1c flour. Allow to set at least 6 hours (I have done up to 24). The longer the sourer.
2. Take this sponge and add rest of water, olive oil, sugar, salt, and 1c flour. Let set 10-30 minutes.
3. Knead dough, incorporating remaining flour. Trust yourself to know if the bread needs more flour. Should be fairly manageable and sticky to the touch. If it is easy to knead but not liquidy, you are probably good. This dough does well with more hydration. Knead until you can window pane the dough (meaning, you tear off a small piece of dough and stretch it to see if you can get it thin enough to allow light to pass through). In all honesty, if you give it a good 18-24 hours of sitting, you won't need to knead it at all. The yeast will align the glutens for you.
(Video on kneading - for pasta, but idea the same):
4. Cover and let rise until double. Time will depend on your starter. Roughly 2-6 hours, but sometimes over 12. I will often mix it up in the morning, give it about 30 minutes then stick it in the fridge till I get home that evening.
5. Fold dough and shape. (Here is where you get to be creative. Batons! Loaves! Batards! Boules! - I tend to alternate between my trusty loaf pan and a ceramic bowl for baking/shaping). Let rest until risen again around double.
6. Score if wanted (1/2-1 deep). Place in cold oven above a pan of water. Heat to 450F. Done in about 40-60 minutes or until hollow when tapped on the bottom.
7. Cool. Slice and enjoy.
That is it, my friends. My first (and perhaps only) sourdough post. Feel free to email me with questions if you decide to embark on your own doughy adventure.
Thanks for your time,
Your humblest Author (and baker)