While Heather is most definitely the chef in our house, I have liked to bake from time to time. And recently it's taken a whole new turn...I received a sourdough starter from a friend at the River Valley Waldorf school. In truth I begged for it, and here I am now with it.
Monday, March 16, 2009
For those who are sane enough to have not done artisinal baking, a primer: there are generally two classes of bread: leavened (eg: Italian loaf) and unleavened (eg: banana bread). And for leavened bread there are those that are straight dough and those that require a "starter". A starter is a portion of bread where you "pre-ferment" the yeast to it rises a little differently, thereby bringing out the sugar in the flour. And within the "starter" group of breads, there are those that you make from "old dough", or things like Poolish, or Bigas, and those you make from sourdough starters. PHEW - good times!
So, here we are with this sourdough starter, that... you have to feed daily. Feed daily. Feed daily. With more flour. And more flour. And throw out the excess. And more flour. And throw out the excess. And pretty soon you have this crazy living thing in your fridge.
Owen named ours "Chupa." We don't know why or what it means, but the name stuck.
And I can't stand throwing out the excess, so I have been making bread non-stop. I was making about 6 artisan sourdough loaves a week. I was also making about 5-10 baguettes/french bread a week.
I played with the sour dough recipe that I had:
Original (loosely translated from the original)
1.5 C flour
2/3 C water
2/3 semi-firm starter
1 tsp salt.
Mix flour and water together, knead (in mixer) until gluten starts to form (IOW, turns to dough). Cover, let rest 20 min.
Mix in 1/3 C of starter, knead
Mix in 1/3 C of started, knead
Add salt, knead.
Move to oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 hour. Punch down (if it has really risen), turn and let rise 5 hours. Shape into boule (round shape that is pretty), cover in a little flour, sit it in a towel lined bowl and let rise 2 hours. Put it on a silpat lined sheet, score the top, sprinkle a little flour on it (for that rustic look and flavor) and pop in the preheated 450 degree oven (put the pan on top of a pizza stone if you can). Bake 20 minutes, until you thump it with your finger and it sounds hollow. They also suggest dropping ice into a pan beneath the bread if you did not flour it. It's supposed to keep the crust moist letting the yeast do a hot rise until it dies. Nope, not doing that, using flour.
With some experimentation, I modified it to make it take less time and conform to my schedule:
1. Mix all ingredients together, knead for a while.
2. Let rise for 4 hours
3. Shape in to boule
4. Let rise for 2 hours
5. Bake as above.
Note: this did not work. It tasted good, but was mighty dense. Good to practice jaw strengthening, not good to give to friends or Heather's colleagues (sorry Nikki!). Oh well, stick with the first option above.
After we totally carb'd out a couple weeks ago, and Heather kept saying "I can't stand it, there is flour all over the kitchen," I put Chupa in the fridge, so I only have to feed it weekly. Now I make one loaf once a week and maybe some baguettes from time to time (those are our favorite). These are coming out quite nice.
The boys, but Kyle in particular, say they like my bread better than the "Yummy Bread Store" (Texas Roadhouse for real). Now, this is a real compliment, but I harbor suspicions that he is just trying to make me feel good, although he does eat it all. But then again, this kid can eat.
Heather used to tell me that she liked to read cookbooks like they were fiction; I used to think that was crazy. Now I understand: I've been using two baking books that I love: The bread bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum and The bread bakers apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I have read them both at night and they sat on my bedside table for a while. Good reads (if you can call them that).
In addition to the regular Sourdough (which is regularly being given away at this point), our favorites are the baguettes (and these are Heather's top favorite) from the bread bible and the pain a l'Ancienne (this one is super easy to make and really good - although it does not seem to get as airy a crumb as I would like - any tips on that?) from the bread bakers apprentice. The carrot bread (not a leavened bread) in the bread bible is really great too. I find that where we live, in the winter, that I require quite a bit more liquid than the bread bible calls for (but I am also measuring and not weighing).