January 1, 2012

Saturday Sourdough

  You may have noticed that we love bread in this household!  My husband and I in particular love sourdough, and it's typically the only bread we buy at the store.  My adventure with sourdough began about 5 years ago after I ordered a starter from King Arthur Flour.  To make a long story short, I think I've ordered starter from them on 3 different occasions.  The bread was great when I kept up with it, but inevitably, as life got busy, I had to pitch each neglected starter. :(  

Well, my husband got the sourdough bug after reading one of my bread books.  He began a starter using rye, fed it diligently, and waited with anticipation like an expectant father!  The result of all his efforts was a bland, dry loaf-not the most encouraging experience for him.  So, when King Arthur was giving away a free starter with the purchase of their crock recently, it was too tempting to pass up!  I told my husband "just one more time"-that was about a month ago!  I've been making this weekly ever since, which everyone's thrilled about, especially hubby!  After experimenting with rolls and baguettes, I found the most delicious recipe for our weekly sourdough-King Arthur's Extra-tangy.  Although it's not as sour as a San Francisco bread, it has a wonderful flavor with just the right amount of tang.  It's a heavy bread, not one you can easily rip apart, but perfect for slicing and toasting.  My children love it!  So if you've ever wanted to make your own sourdough and have been afraid to try, don't be.  It's really quite simple, it just involves planning ahead.  I'm affectionately calling this my Saturday sourdough but it will have its beginnings on Friday mornings.  The extra rising time gives it an incredible flavor-definitely worth the wait!   If you order starter from King Arthur, you will get a very thorough instruction sheet on how to care for it.  Again, it really isn't rocket science :),  just planning.  Most of my friends run and hide when I ask if they want any starter, but I have one friend who's been making this with me the last 4 weeks.  She loves it so much and now her dad has gotten the bug!  The main thing you need to remember to do with sourdough is simply to feed it weekly, takes about 10 seconds, then plan on using it later or refrigerating it.  If we're away, I just give my crock of starter to a friend to feed, it's  easier than caring for goldfish!  I'm including our favorite recipe for the extra-tangy bread, along with a few notes on timing.  Have fun!   One additional note:  After a few weeks of making this, I've noticed the bread seems very "heavy" by the second or third day.  It still tastes great toasted, but it's just so dense.  I tried decreasing the amount of flour I add after it's been refrigerated (try adding 1 to 1-1/2 cups instead of the additional 2) and that seems to do the trick!  I ended up with the same great flavor, but with a much softer texture.  

1 cup (8-1/2 ounces) "fed" sourdough starter
1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) lukewarm water
2-1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
5 cups (21 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Pour the cup of starter into a large mixing bowl.  Add the warm water and 3 cups of flour.  Beat vigorously.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest at cool room temperature (68 to 70 F) for 4 hours.  Then refrigerate overnight, or for about 12 hours.  Add the remaining ingredients, kneading to form a smooth, soft dough.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise till very puffy though not necessarily doubled, about 5 hours.  Divide the dough in half, and shape into two oval loaves.  Place on a baking sheet, (I lightly greased mine with canola oil), cover and let rise till doubled, about 2 to 3 hours.  Slash the tops of the loaves, and bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven, and cool on a rack.

There's really a lot of flexibility with timing, but this is what works well for me..............    
I take my starter out of the refrigerator to feed about 8 a.m. on Friday.  After leaving it out until about 4 p.m., I proceed with this recipe and let it rest for the 4 hours, or until 8 p.m.  Next, I refrigerate the dough overnight.  I proceed with the next step (adding remaining ingredients) at 8 a.m. Sat., and allow this to rise until 1 p.m.  Next, I shape into loaves and let rest until about 4 p.m., then bake for 30 minutes.  This can also be baked in loaf pans.

One other note, when you get into making sourdough, the first thing you always do is stir the starter and throw away 1 cup.  You can also give this cup to a friend, (if they want it!)  :)
I've actually been using this extra cup, feeding it also, in a separate bowl.  I end up with 2 cups of "fed" starter in this extra bowl, enabling me to make a triple batch of this weekly.  This may sound like a long process, but honestly, each step takes from 10 seconds to just minutes.  Enjoy!

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