Friday, March 27, 2009

Sourdough Bread

Written By Food Editor Bessie Baker Cook

 Ms. R. shared a recipe with me years ago from her friend Mrs. C., for sourdough starter. I will share it here, with my variations.

2 cups flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups warm water

Combine all ingredients in a 4-6 cup plastic or glass pitcher, using a plastic or wooden spoon. Cover with cloth and sit in a warm place free from drafts. Let ferment 2-3 days, stirring several times each day. 

Refrigerate with the pitcher lid on, feeding every ten days with equal amounts flour and water (usually 1 cup). Before making bread, leave the starter out overnight, take out what you need in the morning, and put the starter back in the fridge. 

I made this years ago, and had the starter for a long time, but did not keep it up. In the interest of frugality I got out the recipe again and made a new starter. I calculate that I am saving $250 a year (possibly more) by making my own bread. I have a one-month-old starter now, and as I found that I was making bread every day or every other day, I left the starter out on the cupboard. Also, I fed it a little more so that I could make a double batch of bread every once in a while. It is alive so far, and my children and I make several batches of beautiful bread every week. 

I take out the starter I need when I make bread, then immediately stir in flour and water to replace the amount I took out. 

Above: a beautiful mixing bowl can work for your starter, keep a plate or a towel over the top. I have recently switched to a pitcher I ordered from Pampered Chef that has a "plunger" in it; this enables me to stir it frequently without the messy spoon.

The Bread

First you make the sponge:
Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into bowl. Add 1 teaspoon yeast and stir gently. Add 2 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp sugar, and stir (I have used molasses in place of the sugar, and even left out some of the salt, with good results). Pour in 1 cup starter (1 cup ricotta cheese is optional, for a moist bread). Add 1/2 cup oatmeal and mix well. Add 3 cups flour, one at a time, and mix well. Put uncovered into oven (oven should be off!) and let rise for an hour. 

Then the dough:
After an hour, gently stir sponge down and stir in 1cup flour (you can also put in flax seed meal, or other favorite grains). Put 1/2 cup flour on the table and turn out bread dough to knead. Knead 6-8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Divide into two and roll out with a rolling pin. Roll up into loaves and up in greased loaf pans. Let rise 1-2 hours. Bake a 350 F. for 35 minutes.  

I rarely roll my dough out for loaves; I use the "squish" method, which works just as well, but perhaps the top is more lumpy. I do many different things with the dough, as a matter of fact. As my starter is souring but not yet really sour, I even make cinnamon rolls with it. 

Here's a baking tip: I cover my small table with freezer paper, shiny side up, and tape it around the edges. It makes for easy clean up and provides a giant protected work surface for when the children help!
Above: Here is my one-pan method of baking for the family. Dinner rolls, bread sticks for the evening stew, and a loaf of bread for toast at breakfast. I made enough dinner rolls so that everyone could have one fresh out of the oven. 

Above: after the rising; below: after the baking. 

While on the subject of bread, this book makes for an interesting read- Bread: The Breads of the World and How to Bake Them At Home by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter
I am enjoying this book, and learning a lot about the history of bread and the art of bread making. 
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