Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sourdough Bread

I canceled my piano students this week, and drove to the cabin to spend some time with my daughter. While she studies and does her required rotation in Grand Marais, I get to stoke up the brick oven, cook, read, knit and snowshoe. Three whole days of bliss! Where should I start??? The trek to the oven....on snowshoes of course...

This sourdough bread recipe called for forming the loaves the evening before, and letting them rise in the refrigerator overnight. They looked positively beautiful in the morning! But alas, the journey to the oven deflated them a bit....

Somehow though, this brick oven can make things poof...and magically turn blobs of deflated dough into loaves of bread!

It is hard for me to tell when bread is done. Various bread books say to tap the loaf and it should sound hollow. hmmmm...I don't get that. How does hollow sound exactly? This digital thermometer took that stress away! According to the recipe, it should register 200-205 degrees. Now that I can understand!

Ahhhhhh....a quick cool-down in the snow....and then, please pass the butter...

Sourdough Bread
from Annies Eats

Sourdough Starter
2 cups warm water
1 tbsp. sugar or honey
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Pour warm water into glass bowl. Stir in sugar or honey to dissolve. Stir in yeast. Gradually whisk in the flour. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel (not plastic wrap) and place in a warm area. Let it develop at room temperature 2-5 days, stirring once a day due to the separation that will occur. When bubbling has subsided and a sour aroma has developed, stir again and refrigerate until ready to use. I used a screw top glass container.

To maintain the starter, replenish it every time it is used by adding 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water, and letting it sit at room temperature for 12 hours. This should be done every 2 weeks.

Sourdough Bread (makes 2 large loaves)

1 1/2 cup lukewarm water (100 degrees F)
4 tsp. active dry or instant yeast
1 tbsp. honey
1 cup sourdough starter
5 1/2 -6 cup bread flour, plus more as needed
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. bread flour mixed with 1 tbsp. yellow cornmeal

Using an electric mixer bowl, whisk together water, yeast, honey and sourdough starter until smooth.

Cover with plastic wrap until slightly increased in bulk and bubbly, approximately 1 hour.

With flat beater, using low speed, mix in 3 cups of the flour, butter, eggs and salt.

Increase speed to medium low and beat 1 minute. Add 2 more cups of flour and beat for 2 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook. With mixer on low speed, add remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time until a very soft dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead on low speed, adding a tablespoon of flour if dough begins to stick, until dough is smooth and elastic, tacky but not sticky... about 6 minutes.

Form dough into ball. Transfer to lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until double in bulk... about 1 1/2-2 hours.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle generously with the flour-cornmeal mixture.

Divide dough into two equal portions, and form into tight oval loaf. Place on prepared baking sheet.

Sprinkle tops with flour and gently rub in.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in refrigerator, 8-12 hours.

Before baking, make three slashes across the top with a sharp razor blade or sharp knife.

Here is where the recipe deviates from Annies-Eats.
For a wood burning oven:

If using a brick oven, the oven temperature should be about 550 degrees, and the hearth about the same. (so much for the exact science of bread baking...)

If the bottom of the loaves seem to be getting too dark, you can use an overturned baking pan and place the loaves on that in the oven. That seems to protect the bottoms from getting burned if the hearth floor is too hot.

Bake until the temperature registers 200-205 degrees. I think it took about 25-30 minutes, but my cell phone was my timer, and I lost service. Another "exact science" moment....

For a conventional oven, here is what Annies-Eats recommends:

Using a baking stone, preheat to 450 degrees.

Place loafs on stone and bake for 10 minutes.

Lower heat to 400 degrees and continue baking for 25-30 minutes.

So I can safely picnic today?