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Simple sourdough

Here’s a beginner’s guide to delicous homemade bread with minimal kneading.

June 19, 2020
By Emilie Raffa - Grit Magazine , Farm News

By EMILIE RAFFA

Grit Magazine

Creating a starter from scratch is simple, and ultimately marks the beginning of an ongoing relationship. It's also the most intimidating part of the sourdough baking process, because it's often misunderstood. Here, you'll get step-by-step instructions for making a starter, as well as a couple of recipes in which to use it.

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-Submitted photo by Emilie Raffa

Try adding different purees to sourdough for different flavors. Such as a pumpkin puree used in this seeded pumpkin cranberry recipe.

Start your starter

Sourdough starters can be made a few different ways, with methods that include fruit juices, grapes, honey, and even potatoes to boost natural fermentation. In my experience, all you need are two simple ingredients: flour and water. Once combined, the culture will begin to ferment, developing the wild yeasts and bacteria needed to make your bread rise.

When creating a sourdough starter, it's vital to begin with whole-grain flour to jump-start the fermentation process. Whole-wheat, rye, and spelt flour are great choices. Temperature and location also play important roles, so for best results, find a warm spot for your starter to thrive. My starter lives in a cozy cabinet next to the fridge.

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The overall process will take about seven days from start to finish. My best advice is to be flexible with timing, because developing yeast can be unpredictable. Your starter is ready when it has doubled in size and has produced plenty of bubbles on the surface and throughout the culture.

Tip: Place a rubber band or a piece of masking tape around the jar to measure the starter's growth as it rises.

Tip: If your starter isn't ready at this point, which is quite common, continue the feeding process for another week or two, or until it smells pleasant.

The last step is to transfer your starter to a nice, clean jar. In keeping with tradition, you can also name it, if desired. My starter is called Dillon, after my oldest boy.

Soft honey whole wheat

Yields 1 loaf.

Anytime you add whole-wheat flour to bread, you run the risk of the loaf becoming dry and dense. Want to know my secret to a whole-wheat loaf that's both soft and delicious? Plenty of sourdough starter for strength, milk to soften the crumb, and just a touch of honey for sweetness. The best part is the melted butter brushed over the top when finished. Work this loaf into your baking routine, and bake several to freeze for the week.

For lighter bread, let the dough rest for a full hour before the bulk rise. This will jump-start gluten development without kneading, adding great texture and height to the finished loaf. I also recommend using a stand mixer if you have one, for added air. This loaf can be stored in a plastic bag at room temperature, but it's best consumed within a day or two of baking.

3/4 bubbly, active starter

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm milk, whole or 2 percent

2 tablespoons warm water

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons oil

1 cup whole-wheat flour or white whole-wheat flour (White whole-wheat flour is one of my favorite flours to work with. It's milled from a wheat variety that's lighter in color and more mild in taste than traditional whole-wheat flour-it's not bleached wheat flour).

3 cups bread flour

11/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

A few days before baking, feed your starter until bubbly and active. Store at room temperature until ready to use.

In a large bowl, whisk the starter, milk, water, honey, and oil together with a fork. Add the flours and salt, and mix to combine. Using your hands, continue mixing until a rough dough forms. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Replenish your starter with fresh flour and water, and set it aside, storing it according to your preference.

After the dough has rested, gently work it into a somewhat smooth ball; this should only take about 15 to 20 seconds. The dough will feel supple and smooth when it comes together.

Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature (70 degrees Fahrenheit) until doubled in size, about 6 to 8 hours. The dough will look nice and domed when ready.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently dimple the surface with your fingertips to release any large air bubbles. Roll the dough into a log, tucking the ends underneath. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Lightly coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with a little additional oil.

With floured hands, cup the dough and pull it toward you to tighten its shape. Gently pick it up and place it, seam side down, in the prepared loaf pan. Cover the dough with a clean towel, and let rest until it has risen about 1 inch above the rim of the loaf pan, about 11/2 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Bake on the center rack for 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove bread from the oven and brush with melted butter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer bread to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Seeded pumpkin

cranberry

Yields 1 loaf.

A simple, yet artful, way to expand your sourdough is to add different purees to the dough. In this case, a generous dollop of silky pumpkin puree stains the crumb a beautiful brassy-orange color. The pumpkin flavor isn't pronounced, but cranberries soaked in fresh orange juice, cinnamon, and spices give the bread that familiar seasonal taste. My dad likes to fry day-old slices in a hot skillet with melted butter.

After mixing, this dough will feel more sticky and stiff than usual. Once it rests-the longer the better-the texture will morph into a soft, mousse-like mass.

It should be noted that I've tried many different ways to get nuts and seeds to stick to bread dough-egg wash, egg white, milk, cream, you name it. The technique outlined in this recipe is guaranteed for better sticking, and is worth the few extra pumpkin seeds that'll inevitably land on the floor.

This bread is best eaten the day it's baked. It can be placed in a plastic bag and left out at room temperature, but it doesn't store well for more than a day.

1/4 cup bubbly, active starter

1 cup plus 2 teaspoons warm water

3/4 cup good-quality pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour

11/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1 cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground ginger

Pinch of ground nutmeg

4 clementines or 1 orange

11/2 cups pumpkin seeds

A few days before baking your bread, feed your starter until bubbly and active. Store at room temperature until ready to use.

In a large bowl, whisk the starter, water, and pumpkin puree together with a fork. Add the flour and salt, and mix until a stiff dough forms. Using your hands, continue mixing until the flour is fully absorbed. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Replenish your starter with fresh flour and water, and set it aside, storing it according to your preference.

Meanwhile, place the cranberries, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Halve the clementines or orange and squeeze the juice over the ingredients in the bowl. It's OK if the cranberries aren't completely submerged. Stir well to combine. Don't drain.

After the dough has rested, add the cranberry mixture, including the juice, to the dough, and gently knead until the fruit is incorporated, about 1 minute.

Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature (70 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 6 to 8 hours, or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and shape it into an oval. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Line a 10-inch oval proofing basket with a towel, and set aside. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a damp kitchen towel.

With floured hands, gently cup the dough and pull it toward you to tighten its shape. Brush the surface and sides of the dough with water. Using a bench scraper, place the dough onto the pumpkin seeds, wet side down. Lift up the sides of the towel and rock it back and forth to coat the dough. Place the dough in the prepared basket, seam side up. Cover the dough, and let rest until puffy, but not fully risen, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit your baking pot.

Place the parchment paper over the dough and invert the basket to release. Make a long cut down the length of the dough using the tip of a small serrated knife or a razor blade. Try to be quick and precise with this-your blade will inevitably catch on some of the seeds. Use the parchment paper to transfer the dough to the baking pot. Cover with a lid.

Bake the bread on the center rack for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, and bake for another 40 minutes. Additional baking time inside the pot, instead of baking directly on the oven rack, will protect the seeds from burning.

Remove the bread from the oven, and cool for 1 hour before slicing.

Excerpted from Grit. To read more articles from Grit, please visit www.grit.com, or call 800-803-7096. Copyright 2020 by Ogden Publications Inc.

 
 

 

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