Completing the Trilogy ~ Sourdough Bread

bread flour and whole-grain rye flour
bread flour and whole-grain rye flour

It’s been a crazy-busy few weeks, with daughter in the school play, holidays fast approaching and company nearly every weekend for a month. Hardly any time for peeking at my favorite blogs, even less to post something on mine. The play is now over (six performances for a high school play!?) and there is a little time to breathe before Thanksgiving.

For weeks, I have been perusing sourdough recipes (thanks to Nabeela, who sent me the first one) and planning this bread in my mind. I wanted to use only the sourdough as leavening, with no yeast at all, so it took me awhile to find the recipe that would work with my starter. I mostly baked from this very detailed recipe.

***Disclaimer: I took one or two liberties with timing and the amount of starter used. I have written out the steps I followed in simplified form, based on knowledge of my own starter and the way it worked for me. However, in no way do I claim the recipe or methods — full credit goes to Mr. Joe Jaworski, to whom the original recipe belongs.

Do visit Joe’s site for the original recipe with great hints and tips as well as a trouble-shooter page.***

Sourdough Bread
very special thanks to my very special sourdough benefactor!

First I brought out my old faithful sourdough starter. To this, I added 1/2c unbleached, all-purpose flour and 1/2c warm water (100-108F). Let it stand until all was good and bubbly. Then I began:

Step One: Rye Starter

sourdough starter mixed with rye flour
rye starter before first proof

1/4c sourdough starter
1 TB whole-grain rye flour
1/2c bread flour
1/2c warm water (100-108F)

Mix all this together in a small bowl. Set aside in a reasonably warm, draft-free place (microwave oven, regular oven) until the mixture is bubbling and smells pleasantly sour. It should develop bubbles throughout. How long this takes depends on your starter. Mine took about 3 hours.

rye starter after first proof
rye starter after first proof

Step Two: Extending the Rye Starter

To the bubbly rye starter, add:

1c bread flour
1c warm water (100-108F)

Mix all this together in a larger bowl. Again, set aside in a warm, draft-free place as above. Depending on the strength of the starter, it could be another 8-12 hours before this sponge has developed sufficiently. I actually let this sit almost 24 hours before I made it into dough, and it worked fine.

rye starter after second proof
rye starter after extending (second proof)

Step Three: Making the Dough

2c rye starter from above
2c bread flour
3/4 tsp kosher salt

Mix all this together in a large bowl. It will be fairly dry at first. Turn out onto a lightly floured bread board and begin to knead. Resist the temptation to add water. Once you have kneaded a few minutes, you should be able to work the last bits of flour in. After kneading another 15 minutes or so, the dough will begin to develop that nice elastic feeling. Knead 5 minutes more. Form into a smooth ball, and place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides with oil. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and a clean cloth. Let rise in a warm place for about one hour.

dough after kneading
ball of dough after kneading

After the hour is up, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Very gently, punch the dough down using your fingers. Don’t work in too much more flour here. Just flatten it slightly and then work it back into another ball.

deflate the dough lightly with fingers
deflate the dough very lightly with fingers before the final rise

Step Four: Final Rise and Baking

Sprinkle cornmeal (or grits, in a pinch!) on a baking sheet or bread stone. Place the dough on top and cover with the oiled plastic wrap and towel. Set back into the warm place for the final rise. The original recipe calls for 3-4 hours rising time. It was so late last night when I got to this stage, that I let the dough rise overnight (probably about 8 hours all together). It still baked up fine. Remove the plastic wrap. Wet the blade of a very sharp knife, and shake off the excess water. Make a few slashes on the top of the loaf as shown.

sourdough bread ready to bake
sourdough ready to bake after final rise

Now it’s ready to bake! Preheat oven to 350F. Place a small pan of water on the floor of the oven (cast iron frying pan worked well for this). This will help create the steam necessary for a crispy crust.

Bake 15 minutes. Several times during the first 15 minutes, either spray down the sides of the oven with a mister (as shown in the original recipe) or toss a few ice cubes on the floor of the oven, or even pour small amounts of water directly onto the floor of the oven as I did. It will create steam almost instantly and not cause a flood. After 15 minutes, raise the heat to 400F. Continue to bake another 45 minutes, until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. For best results, tear off chunks, or slice with a serrated knife.

What I have learned thus far:

1. sourdough is *very* forgiving!
2. rye flour makes a batter that tastes, when raw, just like real (from the bakery) sourdough bread
3. next time I will try adding just a little more rye flour, as my loaf wasn’t as tart as I like
4. you don’t need fancy/specialized equipment to bake real bread
5. best of all my kids feel very special with homemade bread to eat! 😉

sourdough bread
homemade sourdough bread

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9 Comments »

  1. Nabeela said

    oh my oh my oh my!!!! what a WONDERFUL looking bread you have there Linda. Congratulations on your very first sour dough bread…it looks like a huge success!!

    Thank you Nabeela! Coming from you I take that as a real compliment 🙂

  2. mm said

    I agree……the bread looks absolutely wonderful. Grits in a pinch? Coarse ground grits would be preference of choice for my taste! Thank you for posting this success story! mm

    Thank you mm… maybe I’ll have to come up with a couple of grits recipes just for you 😉

  3. Vaishali said

    Oh, I too would feel very special with homemade bread to eat. I would have felt even *specialer*, had I been there with you throughout the process. I must say, your write-up was detailed and satisfying. I almost felt the aroma from the oven wafting into my nostrils. 🙂

    Thanks Vaishali — I would love to have you come by anytime 🙂

  4. indosungod said

    Linda looks wonderful I can almost get the aroma of fresh baking bread….
    heaven

    Thank you ISG! 🙂

  5. Monisha said

    That is a beautiful loaf of sourdough! Thank you for the detailed instructions, I’ve already put the ‘no knead bread’ on my list of breads to bake, will be adding this one too ! Happy Turkey Day!

    Thank you Monisha — happy Thanksgiving to you, too! For a real good treatise on sourdough, check out the site I linked to as well 🙂

  6. Krithika said

    OOoh !! what a beauty ! looks just like store-bought ! Happy thanksgiving

    Thanks so much Krithika! Wishing you a happy holiday too 🙂

  7. Anupama said

    Linda, I think baking bread is the epitome of baking. And you have reached it successfully. So Congrats! As to your query on my blog regarding Eno Fruitsalt.yes it is available at the Indian Grocer.

    Thanks, Anupama! I have trouble finding that fruit salt. Every time I ask for it (in several shops now) they look at me funny 🙂 Today one other lady shopping suggested perhaps I wanted black salt, so I got that. Will keep looking though!

  8. DilipUK said

    Linda, wow. Great looking (and I a sure great tasting) bread. I have tried so many times to bake bread. But never comes out as expected, even though I followed the recipe exactly. Ah well, I don’t have the bakers tough I guess…~grin~….I will just have drool over your bread pics…~soft smile~….peace..

    Hi Dilip, and thanks for your kind words. You should definitely try breadmaking again. It’s all about patience, which I am learning these days 🙂

    Go for it — if I can do it, anyone can!

  9. Anita said

    Wow! I want my own sour dough bread now. This is going to be the next bread project for sure.

    And for an Eno Fruit salt substitute, use half soda bi carb (baking soda) and half citric acid crystals – that is what is essentially is! Making instant idli or dhokla??

    If you’d like some starter, Anita, just drop me a line. The fruit salt was for dhokla… that’s on my project list now. Thanks for the substitution tip!

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