Just Messing around in the Kitchen #3 – Sourdough Bread from Scratch
When my daughter was young one of the thing I use to love to do was do cooking demonstrations for her school class. Fortunately I had the support of the teacher and the school administration so every month or so I would come up with something I thought the kids would enjoy and off I would go to the classroom. I always made sure that what I did was something where the kids could get their hands dirty. We did things like make flour tortilla from scratch and turn then into quesadilla (everyone got to eat there own),we made pickles ( the kids cut the cucumbers with plastic knives and everyone got to take some home to mom and dad), and my all time favorite making bread (and butter) from scratch. We started with water, and flour. I explained how what made bread rise was yeast and that yeast was everywhere (it was just invisible). We then mixed our starter (flour and water) in a jar and set it on the window sill. Each day for 2 weeks a different student got to put add a tablespoon of flour to feed the starter. In a few days it began bubbling. At the end of 2 weeks I went back and made a dough from the starter and we let it rise. I also brought some cream and we put it in a jar and the kids passed it around,shaking it hard until it separated into butter and buttermilk. At the end of the day we baked the bread and everyone got a slice of fresh, hot, buttered bread.
I‘ve made Sourdough bread since then and even used the same starter for about a year. Recently I revisited this project. Today I an baking my first loaves in quite some time. Even though it is only March I was still able to get a starter going. I didn’t really measure as there are some many variable that technique seemed more important than recipe.
I mixed a bit of flour and water together in a jar until it was a consistency between crepe batter and pancake batter. Each day I added a little more water and flour to “feed” the starter. On some of the milder days I set my starter outside to take advantage of the yeast that comes with the warmer temperatures. After several days my starter became all bubbly and I knew it was ready for the next step.
I put about 3 cups of bread flour into a bowl and added a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of sugar and my starter. I then mixed it into a dough and kneaded it until it was smooth and elastic. I checked to see if it would pass the windowpane test. This is where you see if you dough stretches thin enough to almost see through. If you can do this without it tearing your dough is ready. I formed a ball and set my dough (covered) in a warm place to rise. I let it rise for about and hour before placing into my refrigerator overnight.
The next day I gently deflated my ball of dough,formed it into a ball again,place it on a cutting board that I coated with cornmeal and set it in a warm place for a second rise. This took about 2 hours after which it was time to bake. I preheated my oven to 350 degrees and carefully slid my dough onto my baking stone. After 25 minute I checked my loaf. I gave it a tap to see if it sounded hollow. It did but the loaf was still a little heavy so I gave it 5 minute more after which it was done. Pleas not that when I took it out of the oven the first time the loaf got an egg white and water glaze and a sprinkle of Kosher salt. If you didn’t want to use Kosher salt you could use poppy seed or sesame seeds.
This being a “Just Messing around in the Kitchen” effort I just used my experience and instincts to guide me. For more formal information on wild yeast starter and baking with them I would like to suggest Wild Yeast which is a blog dedicated to baking with wild yeast. Of course if you want to be “Just Messing around in the Kitchen” the results can be very rewarding too!