Adventures in Baking by Margo Elfstrom
Today, I’m sharing my adventures in sourdough bread making, based on Tanya Steele’s list of top 10 list of most difficult recipes (she added a question mark to her title and I agree with her, most of these are intense but not as hard as one might think). Although this one had me sweating a few bullets.
The toughest part for me was the starter. I went out on a limb and cultivated my own and I have to say that it’s a little like bringing a drunken friend home from a bar. It needs constant babysitting and smells like someone who went on about 50 brewery tours. There are a lot of great starter recipes of the internet, here’s the one I used. I’ve read over and over that it’s like a living creature and honestly, I believe it. I may be developing unnatural and nurturing feelings towards it because the other day, I was at the gym and turned to my ‘body buddy’ (that’s what I call my workout partner) and said, “OMG, I need to get home and feed my starter”. The look on her face was definitely what I would describe as puzzled. When I explained it to her, she gave me that ‘you need help’ look and continued her reps. If you have misplaced maternal instincts, I highly recommend this recipe. However, here’s the warning, popping your dough, with your carefully cultivated starter, into the oven might evoke feelings of guilt. Trust me, the end result is well worth it and any guilty feelings will dissolve when you take your first bite.
I’m also going to add my cooking tip for the day. When at 5 am, you stumble into the kitchen to fold your dough, make sure you get the olive oil bottle. My dough was nearly ruined when I realized that the bottle in my hand was not actually olive oil but balsamic vinegar and I’d managed to put about a teaspoon on my creation. Gak, I think I can safely say that I’m not a morning person and luckily I was able to mop it out and get rid of the tainted part. As Shakespeare wrote “All’s Well That End’s Well”.
I’m still babysitting starter but it’s easier because I can relegate it to the refrigerator. Although this bread dough takes hours to rise, you can walk off and leave it without worrying about it, as long as you take an occasional peek to make sure that it’s not forming too many bubbles. The recipe I used can make one large loaf or be separated into two. I went with the two loaf option so that I could give one away because otherwise, I would have sat in my kitchen and eaten the whole thing (I consumed one without hesitation). Gotta tell ya, this is one of those crusty, crunchy, artisan style breads on the outside and so soft and melty on the inside that you want to curl up in it and take a nap. Add a little butter and you’ve created a creamy, carb heaven that’ll make you forget that the world and all it’s problems exist.
Thanks Tanya, without your article, I wouldn’t have ventured into this challenge or even considered trying to make this bread. I love the feeling of accomplishment when you stretch out of your comfort zone and realize that you’ve succeeded in doing something you didn’t believe you could. Not done yet, join us again next Sunday, when I do my take on baked Alaska….promise it’s be interesting and hopefully pretty and delicious as well. Feel free to join us on our culinary adventure! Choose a recipe from Tanya’s Top Ten, make it, post it on your site on Sunday and send me an email or on FB so we can link up! Make sure you also check out Comfortably Hungry, where Sam Bilton is posting her amazing souffles!!!
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 6 cups bread flour
- 3 cups water
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup yeast
- Add two cups of room temperature tap water into a large bowl. Add 1 cup of sourdough starter and stir it in. Stir or whisk vigorously.
- Stir in 1/4 cup of yeast and 3 cups of bread flour. Mix until smooth.
- Stir in a 3rd cup of water, add salt and mix thoroughly.
- Stir in the remaining 3 cups of bread. Stir until well mixed. (You don’t need to knead this bread, the yeast take care of it.)
- Cover with a towel and let stand in a draft free place and allow to sit for 12-15 hours. (If it’s getting a little crusty, add a light layer of olive oil).
- Sprinkle some additional flour over the top of the bread and get your hands thoroughly floured up. Scoop the dough up and over and add more flour to your hands. Turn the dough onto a well floured surface.
- Scrape and rinse the bowl and dry it completely. Oil the inside of the bowl, add dough back and allow to rest for another 2-3 hours.
- Heat oven to 450 and preheat a pan or dutch oven for 30 minutes.
- Create a loaf with the dough or two loaves and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 15 minutes to brown the top.
- Cool on a cooling rack and enjoy!!!