Monday, November 10, 2008

Sourdough Bread

Well hello friends, today was surprisingly overcast and hazy day in the desert. A day for baking bread!

A few weeks ago I started a food allergen elimination diet that forced me to take a close look at what I was eating. I had to cut out most store-made bread because ingredients included high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and such. However, after a week with no bread - I still refused to pay $4.50 for a loaf of bread, so I decided to look into making my own bread sans breadmaker.

As it turns out- making bread is not that difficult to make. (However, perfecting the art of bread-making is a challenge suited for a kitchen guru.)

Sourdough bread is an interesting challenge because you must first create a starter. This is excruciatingly easy and yet overwhelmingly confusing. I found directions on Sourdough Baking.

Over the course of a week I feed my starter every day, checking and smelling it many times a day hoping for "a pleasant sour or beery smell." When I finally got tired of waiting for that pleasantly sour smell I added some yeast to make sure some was in the starter and set off to make sourdough bread.

The recipe is very easy:
Take the starter and add 1 C flour
1 C warm water
Mix together and let the starter get "frothy" (another ambiguous term- I will post a picture next time I make sourdough so you can see what frothy looks like)

Then take 2 C of frothy starter (which is now called a sponge)
Add 2 TBSP Olive Oil
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
Mix together.

Mix/knead 3 C flour into the sponge 1/2 C at a time. When the dough seems doughy set it aside and let it rise until doubled (~1 hour). (However, if you live above sea level, like say about one mile above sea level, there is a more accurate test to see if the bread is done rising. The yeast will rise faster the higher you are above sea level, so instead of waiting the full hour, check it at 30 minutes by poking it with your finger. When the dough does not spring back quickly from the hole created by your finger, the bread is risen.)

Knead the dough back down and shape it into a loaf shape. Place onto a baking sheet with cornmeal or whole rolled oats. Cover and allow to rise again.

Finally place into a cold oven set at 350 degrees. Bake for 30-45 minutes until it reads 200 degrees on a meat thermometer.

This might seem like a lot- but the end product is worth it. My bread was a bit on the sour side, but thats okay, now I have a reason to make it again!
Good luck- and enjoy!

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