Monday, September 10, 2007

Sourdough bread recipe

There are some facts we need to know about working with sourdough.

When making sourdough bread, there can be a big difference in how much flour to use. The amount of flour to use will vary depending of the "dryness" of the flour type you use, how compactly you measure your ingredients and the amount of liquid alcohol present in the sourdough batter. All yeast bread has some alcohol in the making of it. Yeast breaks down the starch in flour into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. Due to the longer fermentation times in sourdough, it's just more pronounced.

(Note: As the use of alcohol is a personal call, I wanted people to know about the slightly higher levels of alcohol in the unbaked dough. I don't drink alcohol - it's against my religious beliefs. We do eat yeast breads and I do use small amounts of extracts in my baking. Extracts are distilled in alcohol. The alcohol does cook off as it bakes, but I still choose to not add alcohol to my other foods.)

When you are making sourdough bread, add about 1/3 of the flour the recipe calls for. Then start adding flour a little at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (Remember we don't use metal bowls or spoons with sourdough, though I do use metal pans to bake in.)

Another tip is to add your ingredients by weight, which is how professional bakers and serious hobbiest bake all their goods. You will need a digital scale for best results. One that you can reset the tare and that will measure small amounts as well as larger ones - so you can measure your flour all at once instead of cup by cup, but also still be able to measure portions of a teaspoon.

One cup should be 8 oz. or 227 gm.
A teaspoon is 1/6 oz or 4.73 gm ,
A tablespoon is 1/2 oz or 14.18 gm.
(see for a conversion calculator.)

As with all yeast breads, you are going to have to knead this dough. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead until it's elastic and smooth. Add extra flour a little at a time, so you don't make the resulting bread too dry. The dough is ready when it's not sticky and springs back when you poke it with your finger. (Like when you try to pat out pizza dough before it's rested enough and it shrinks back from where you just patted it to.)

Also remember that all bread doughs need at least one rising to develop the texture. Let it rest for about 10 mins and then shape into a loaf and let it rise. Or you can let it rise until doubled, punch it down, knead it a few times, then shape it into a loaf and let it rise the second time in the loaf pan. Sourdough takes longer to rise by about 1 1/2 to 2 times as long. So normally it takes about 30 mins to an hour for a loaf to double. Sourdough takes 45 mins to 2 hrs to rise.

Until recently, I never had a scale and didn't know about "baker's percentages". I just eyeballed splitting the dough up and it worked just fine for me. But then again, I can eyeball two spots on the wall to hang a picture and when measured, they might be 1/8" off. So perhaps I'm just a talented eyeballer. (American for the ability to look at two or more things and see if they're the same size, shape or on the same level.) If you're making more than one loaf or are making any of the shaped rolls that I posted about in Aug., and have used the scale to measure out your ingredients, then use the scale to weigh your portions. The bread will get done at the same time instead of one being ready to bake or cooked before the other is ready.

Once you have allowed the dough to rise, place it in a greased bowl or loaf pan to rise, grease top and cover with a damp towel. Allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free place. Remember, the cooler the place the bread sits in, the longer it will take to rise. If you have a pilot light, just place the bread in the oven without turning it on and close the door. If you have an electric oven, heat a couple of cups of water (stove top or microwave) to boiling and put that in a bowl on the lower shelf of the oven, then place the covered bread on a higher shelf. Close the oven door. Remember to remove the bread AND the bowl - especially if it's plastic, BEFORE you preheat the oven! lol

When the dough is almost doubled, preheat the oven. It only takes my oven 10 mins at the most to preheat, so you don't need to start it preheating as soon as you place your bread in the loaf pan - unless your going to cook something else while the bread rises.

A basic sour dough bread recipe:
2 cups batter
2-4 or more cups of flour (Whole wheat, 1/2 and 1/2, or plain white)
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs oil or shortening, melted an cooled a little.
1 Tbs vital gluten (Skip if you're using regular AP flour. Optional if using whole wheat.)

Mix 1/2 of the flour, sugar and salt together. Mix batter and oil together. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the wet mixture and mix that together. Then start adding enough flour to make a soft dough - this is where it will pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead for 10-15 mins. Place in a greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise until doubled.. Bake at 375 F (192 C) for one hour.

I use very thirsty whole wheat flour, so it only takes me 2 cups instead of the 4 called for and I use honey to sweeten this and stir the honey into the oil/batter mixture. You can also use molasses, brown sugar or whatever sweetener you like. (If it's dry, add to the flour mixture. If it's wet, add it to the wet mixture.)

You can also substitute 1/3 cup - 1 cup of a different flour - rye, spelt, etc. for the same amount of the normal flour. (Since I only use 2 cups of flour, I don't want to use a whole cup of rye. That would make it 1/2 and 1/2 and it wouldn't rise very well - if I'm making a loaf in a pan. But if I wanted a "peasant bread" then 1 cup would work very well. I just know to expect it not to rise as high and that it will be a denser loaf.

I saw a suggestion of adding the juice of one orange and some orange zest to make an orange sourdough bread. You could do the same with lemons, limes or probably even apples - use a little apple juice or cider and grate some peeled apple or use applesauce.

Most of us who use whole wheat flour know that you let whole wheat rise until ALMOST doubled. However, I will also add 1 Tbs of vital gluten to this recipe so that I will have a different texture to my bread and it will be foldable, instead of crumbling as whole wheat will do and this will allow the bread to be able to rise until doubled, otherwise, the bread would collapse before it doubled. If that should happen, just reshape the loaf and let it rise again. It will take less time for the second rising that it did for the first - there will be more yeastie beasties by then.

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