Basic Sourdough Bread (makes two 1 1/2 pound loaves):
firm starter, removed from the refrigerator one hour before you want to mix up the dough, and cut up into 8-10 pieces, covered with plastic wrap (this will help remove the chill from the starter)
1 pound 4 1/4 ounces (4 1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour or high-gluten flour
1/2 ounce (2 tsp) salt
12 to 14 ounces water (the book calls for lukewarm, but I tend to use room temperature or even a little cooler)
-Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bow, add the starter and enough water to bring everything together as you mix it (you can use a spoon, your hands, or a mixer with a dough hook on low speed).
-Turn the dough out onto a work surface sprinkled with flour and knead by hand for 12 -15 minutes, adjusting the water and flour as you go.
It will look like this right out of the bowl:
At about 5 minutes into kneading your dough should look about like this:
And after 15 minutes of kneading it will look like this:
You want a somewhat firm and tacky dough. You'll feel it change as you are kneading it, it will become more elastic as the gluten develops and smoother as the flour becomes more hydrated. Alternately you use the mixer with a dough hook and mix for 4 minutes on medium speed, allow the dough to rest for 8-10 minutes and then mix for another 4 minutes). Place the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled large bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it ferment like that for 3 to 4 hours or until nearly doubled in size:
First in the bowl at 2:55pm (Pacific):The growth of the spawn at about 6:55pm:
-Gently turn the dough out of the bowl and divide it into two pieces (about 22 ounces each).
Shape the dough as you would like. I'm using oval shaped bannetons (which are proofing baskets...you can get expensive ones or you can go to goodwill and get some baskets. Either will work, you just have to line them with cloth-I'm using "flour sack towels" and then dust generously with flour) so I'm shaping my dough into stumpy batards that will fit into the bannetons.Be careful while you shape so as not to knock out too much of the gas that has formed in the dough. You want to degas as little as possible so your sourdough will have lovely fairly open crumb. Also note, that if you are using bannetons or baskets to place the bread in seam side up, make sure your seams are fairly secure. Mmmmm, I can't wait until this is baked tomorrow. You can also do free form loaves, just make sure the sheet pan you are going to have them rise on is dusted with cornmeal or semolina flour. When your loaves are comfortably nestled in their rising apparatus, mist the tops with some pan spray or oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap, or I'll be placing mine in this handy dandy huge 10 gallon zip lock bag (I'm not sure where he got them from, but G found them for me for bread and they rock).
-At this point, you can do one of two things. You can proof your loaves for 2 to 3 hours to bake the same day, or you can retard them in the refrigerator overnight for more flavor development. I prefer to retard them overnight, so into the fridge go the spawn of Dudley, and we will continue with this tomorrow! The first step tomorrow will be to remove the loaves from the refrigerator about 4 hours before you plan on baking them. Fingers crossed that the spawn of Dudley does well and makes some nice loaves...
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