Thursday, January 28, 2010

sourdough bread


first, the starter...

A sourdough starter is a wild yeast living in a batter of flour and water. 

There are sourdoughs that are centuries old which have been zealously fed and cared for by generations. 

The area you come from plays a part in determining the personality of a sourdough starter. The particular strain of wild yeast thriving only in the San Francisco area of California can alone produce the unique flavor of San Francisco sourdough breads. Your area may harbor a wild yeast with its own exciting flavor.  The one we started in class last week will have that yummy "ORLA classroom #10" essence!

Keeping a sourdough starter is somewhat like having a pet because it needs to be fed and cared for. But its requirements are simple and not time consuming. With a minimum of effort, you can keep one in your refrigerator to use whenever the impulse strikes. Unlike more traditional pets, you can put your sourdough starter “on hold” by freezing or drying it. And like that ancient Mediterranean baker, you can capture a wild yeast at any time and create a new starter that will be ready to use in a few days.

In a 4-cup jar or plastic container, blend 1cup flour with 1cup water.
(If your tap water is treated w/ chlorine, let it sit out overnight before mixing w/ flour.  Or use bottled water)
Mix with a fork until all lumps are gone.  It should be the consistency of pancake batter. 
That's it!
Now just let it sit in a warm spot with a lid sitting loosely on top.  Do not seal it closed, as the yeasts in the air are what you hoping to attract.
Stir once or twice a day for the first two days.  You should begin to see some action, like bubbles or foaming.  

This is a good sign.  By about the third day you will begin to notice a yeasty, sour smell.  It is ready to use.  

{If you are not ready to bake with it, transfer it to a clean jar and refrigerate until ready to use.  Stir 2Tbsp flour in to feed it once a week.   To reactivate after refrigeration, let sit out for a few hours at room temperature then feed it another 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.  Sit in a warm place until bubbling action resumes.  Then, it's ready to use again.}

Stir your starter before measuring out amount to put in your recipe.  After using some of it, replenish the jar by stirring in 1 cup flour and 1cup water and letting sit out until bubbly.

 for 2 large sourdough loaves:

1 cup starter
1 cup water (lukewarm)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 - 4 cups AP flour 

 In a large bowl, combine starter, water, sugar and salt.  With a wooden spoon, stir in 2 cups of flour.  Then add 3rd cup. 
 As dough gets thicker and harder to manage with the spoon, begin to knead it by hand.
 It will still be sticky, but add flour now only a bit at a time until it is completely incorporated.  You may only add about 1/2 cup more, maybe less. 

 Remember how the dough felt in class when it was well-blended.  It will be moist, but not sticky.  It will hold together and get smoother as you gently knead it.  Keep kneading for 5 minutes.

Place in a bowl, cover with a warm, moist dish towel or plastic wrap, and set in a warm place for 4 hours.

Remove from bowl, deflate and cut in half.  Now you have two loaves to form.  Flatten dough with fingers:

roll dough from bottom up:

then pinch the seem tightly closed all the way across

Now place loaves on a baking sheet lightly sprayed or lined with parchment paper.  Cover again with towel or plastic and let rise for one hour.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Use pizza stone if you have one.

spray loaves with water, and make scoremarks with a sharp knife

 Spray the insides of oven quickly with water and bake loaves for approximately 20-30 minutes, turning pan every 10 minutes.  Loaf will be golden brown when finished (though check the bottom, which may brown faster).

yum-yum, hot & sour!

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