Born and Bread

Or born in bread. Or a bread is born.

Good morning, today I am writing about bread. Not just any bread, sourdough bread. I have said before that I started experimenting with sourdough a year ago. Since then, I have come up with a process that works for my life. I can make a sourdough loaf in a total of 2 days. I only need to make one loaf because it is just Matt and I. I have made more than one at a time but the process is still the same. It does take a little preplanning, but it is totally worth it. I know exactly what is in my bread. I have played with different recipes and the use of whole wheat flour, grains and seeds. The loaf I’m making this weekend is just a typical sourdough.

Day 1: In this case day 1 was a Friday. I took my jar of starter out of the fridge at about 6:30 am, before work. I set it on the counter and went to work. After work I fed it: 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of warm water, stir, stir, stir. I left the jar in the sink, just in case it overflowed as it tends to. Then I went and had wine with my gal pal. When I got home I had dinner and then I made my dough before bed. Here’s what is in my dough:

  • 1/2 C fed, bubbly, starter
  • 1 1/4 C warm water
  • 4 C Flour
  • 1 tsp salt

I have a special baking bowl, its ceramic and it works great for bread. The warm water goes in first, then the starter. I use a fork to combine. I let it rest for a few minutes before I add the flour. I add all the flour at one time and stir with a fork until the dough has just come together, then I add the salt. I leave the dough a little shaggy and let it rest for about 10 minutes before I work it into a ball. I use a technique that I learned from a great bread book called Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa. Essentially I just fold the dough upon itself moving it in a circle in my bowl and pressing the folded section into the center. Once I have formed my dough into a ball, I cover the bowl with damp towel and I put it in my oven with the oven light on overnight. Last night I put it in about 10 and I took it out at about 9 this morning. So, I let it ferment for about 11 hours. Usually I let it ferment between 10-12 hours.

Day 2: 9am Saturday, I took my dough out, dumped the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured counter using floured fingers to coax it out. I repeated the process from the previous night of folding the dough but am careful not to press the air out. Air equals holes. Then, I flip the dough over and cradle the edges of the dough between the palms of my hands and apply pressure from the areas by my pinkie fingers, as I do this I twist it slightly and press. By doing this multiple times turning the dough in a circle I am again tightening the ball of dough. Next I place the dough in my floured banneton or proving basket. Its ok if you don’t have one, I didn’t until recently. I used a floured towel in a bowl and it works the same way. I put my dough back in the oven to rise for 2 more hours.

At the end of the 2 hours I prepped my dutch oven with cornmeal in the bottom and sharpened my knife. When the 2 hour mark hit I removed the dough from the oven and turned the oven on. Sourdough bakes hot, 450 degrees. The dough had almost doubled in size.

I flipped the dough into the dutch oven and scored the top to allow steam to release from the dough as it bakes. You can do a simple single slash, or an x, or your can get creative. I change my score every time. You do you. Most recipes suggest baking the dough for 30 minutes with a lid on and 20 minutes without. That is what I do. If you don’t have a dutch oven that’s ok, you can put a pan of water into your oven for the first 30 minutes and remove it for the last 20. I do a little additional time with the bread right on the rack at the end. Unfortunately it depends on the loaf as to how long. Finally, let the bread cool before you cut into it. If you cut it too soon (and I cannot explain why but I know from experience) it just won’t be right. I know it is hard, believe me.

Baking Instructions:

  • 450 degrees
  • Dutch oven with lid: 30 minutes covered, 20 minutes uncovered, extra time on rack
  • Dutch over without a lid: 30 minutes with dish of water also in oven, remove dish and bake 20 additional minutes, extra time on the rack
  • Extra time on the rack: I carefully pick my dough up from the dutch oven and place it on the rack, based on the density of the dough (how much air) it might be longer or shorter. My time typically is about 10 minutes. I know this is not a guide, but bread sings. Crust makes cracking noises. That’s one way to know your bread is baked. You can use a thermometer and stick it into the loaf to check it’s internal temp- it should be around 200 F. You can also tap on the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow if it is done.

Go bake some bread! But I must warn you, once you start…. you’ll never stop.

2 thoughts on “Born and Bread

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