~my thoughts about life~

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Homemade Sourdough Bread

I'm experimenting with something totally brand new to me....homemade sourdough bread from a "starter!"  A friend from church brought a gallon ziplock bag full of smelly goop to me last Sunday.  I have made Amish Friendship Bread from a starter dozens of times (and LOVE it) but I had never heard of sourdough bread from a starter.  I'm a huge fan of sourdough and could start naming which restaurants serve the best sourdough bread or rolls. 

My friend didn't give me much information about the starter.  I'm not the Rachael Ray kind of chef who just guesses on amounts and throws things into the pot.  I like to bake according to strict science!  So I wasn't happy to just wing it and try a few different things.  I googled and I searched.  I found a lot of information online that really helped me gain some understanding of what this whole sourdough starter thing is.  This is an extremely helpful website. 

Here are some tips that I found to be helpful:
  • It takes 2-3 days for the Sourdough Starter to ripen and develop flavor.  If it isn't bubbly or has an off aroma, discard and start over.
  • Let your starter ripen at least 3 days.  Ripening happens at room temperature.  Once that process has happened, your starter goes in the fridge. 
  • If your starter ripens in a place warmer than room temperature (72 to 74 degrees F), it may require more flour and less water to ferment.  Cooler temperatures slow development, which may require an extra day of fermenting.
  • Sourdough Starters should be fed at roughly 12-hour intervals, but you don't have to set your alarm clock.  Instead, find times that work best for you- say, just after breakfast and just after dinner. 
  • Ripened starters (in the fridge) only need to be fed once a week.  They can last forever in the fridge if you feed them.  Discard half of the starter before refrigerating.  Feed it equal parts of flour and water.  (If you have 1/4 C starter, stir in no more than 1/4 C each flour and water.  Increase this amount incrementally over time.)
  • The riper the starter, the paler in color your loaf will be.  Acidic batters and doughs resist browning.
  • The loaf freezes well when wrapped whole in plastic wrap.
  • Sourdough Starters are a matter of taste and preference.  Experiment with different types of flours and allow them to develop over longer and shorter periods of time to find your favorites.
Here is a recipe for regular Sourdough Bread or Rolls:

3 C bread flour, divided
1 1/4 t quick-rising yeast
1 1/4 C Sourdough Starter
2 T light brown sugar
1 1/2 t salt

The sponge after sitting overnight
1.  Combine 1 1/2 C bread flour with yeast in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, stir together starter, 1/4 C lukewarm water, and brown sugar.  Stir in flour-yeast mixture.  Cover loosely and let sit overnight.  (This mixture becomes what you call a "sponge.")

2.  The next day, stir 1 C flour and salt into sponge until thoroughly combined.  Stir in remaining 1/2 C flour, 1-2 T at a time, until shaggy dough forms.  Knead dough on a lightly floured work surface or with electric mixer fitted with dough hook 3-5 minutes, adding more flour if necessary.  Roll dough into an 8" cylinder.  Place in a 9x5" loaf pan coated with cooking spray.  Cover loosely, and let rise 1 hour, or until dough is 1/4" above top of pan.

The dough, before rising

The risen dough

3.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cut a 1/2" deep slash lengthwise down center of loaf with serrated knife.  Bake 45 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 198 degrees F.  Run knife around pan edges to release bread.  Unmold, and cool 45 minutes before slicing and serving.

My Thoughts:
-  The bread was delicious!  Hubby said it reminded him of something that came from Panera.  It was very heavy and dense and the outer crust was very crispy.
-  The first time, I tried to make the bread all in one day.  I started it early in the morning and hoped that I would have enough time for all the steps by dinnertime.  I wouldn't advise this, as I felt very rushed.  I feel like the dough could have risen longer.  I didn't give it the full amount of time it needed.  The second time, I started the night before and I thought the final product turned out much better.
- All the articles and recipes I read said that it's less about a recipe and more about feel.  Well, it's tough to know how it's supposed to feel when you've never done it before.  My first loaf was a little too dry.  The second time, I didn't add quite as much flour.  The dough was slightly sticky and turned out much better.
The best thing since sliced bread!
- Over the weekend, I might try my hand at sourdough pretzels.  They look so yummy in all the recipes I've searched!  I'll let you know how that turns out.
-  I don't have the instructions for making a starter yet since mine was given to me.  My friend is supposed to give it to me sometime this week.  I will post it as soon as she does.

Let me know if any of you are daring enough to try your hand at homemade sourdough bread!  I would be interested to hear your results!


k said...

I once had some of that Amish starter bread marinating on my kitchen counter. I apparently didn't close the baggie well-enough after letting out some of the air and the damn thing oozed out all of the counter. I was ridiculously bummed as I had 7 days of attention invested into it.

Mimsie said...

The pretzels sound like a great idea, and your loaf looks so yummy.

Amaranthian said...

This is great, I've always wanted to try making my own sourdough bread. The pictures of each stage are really helpful, thank you!

Courtney said...

I worked in a bakery when I was in high school and college. One was a pastry shop, another was a bread shop. The bread place was the best. I love sour dough. Can't wait to try this. Thanks!