Friday, 20 April 2012

Sourdough Bread

Making sourdough bread is not for everyone. It's not exactly difficult, but it does take patience (a quality that is not usually attributed to me) and persistence. This is a labour of love to say the least, which just goes to prove, I'll go to any lengths for good bread.

You can get the full run-down of how to make a sourdough starter here. I used it to start my starter (no, I didn't stutter, I startered) about a year ago. If you can't be bothered with all the palaver of making your own, then go to your friendly local baker and ask for some. They have to throw half of it away every day as part of the process of maintaining the "mother" so, hopefully they will be only too happy to help you out. After you have the starter, you're well on your way to having the most delicious homemade sourdough bread you can imagine.

Sourdough Bread
from Sourdough Baking

2 cups of sponge (proofed sourdough starter)* see below
2 or 3 cups of unbleached plain flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt

*Proofing the Starter:
Several hours before you plan to make your dough (recipe below), you need to make a sponge. A "sponge" is just another word for a bowl of warm, fermented batter. This is how you make your sponge.

Take your starter out of the fridge. Pour it into a large glass or plastic bowl.

Add a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to the bowl. Stir well, and set it in a warm place for several hours. This is called "proofing," another word for fermenting.

Watch for froth and and sniff. When your sponge is bubbly and has a white froth, and it smells a little sour, it is ready. The longer you let the sponge sit, the more sour flavour you will get.

Make your Bread:
Put the sourdough sponge, sugar, salt, and oil into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix on low speed. Add a cup of the flour and mix well on low speed. Add the rest of the flour a half-cup at a time mixing on low speed until you have a soft, elastic dough. Stop adding flour when there is nothing sticking to the bowl, the dough is sticking to the hook and there is not flour sitting in the bottom of the bowl.

Let the dough rise in a warm place, in a bowl covered loosely with a plastic wrap.  Let the dough double in size. I do this at night and let it rise over night. The longer you leave the dough to rise, the more flavourful and "tangy" it will be. When I make mine, I leave it all night for the first rise, and all day for the second rise, resulting in an almost malty flavoured bread.

Punch the dough down and knead it or about a minute. Shape the loaf and place it on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Smear a little olive oil over the top of the loaf and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap. Place it in a warm place to rise again, until doubled in size.

Place the baking sheet with the loaf in your oven, and then turn your oven to 180 degrees C  and bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven. The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack or a towel and let it cool for an hour before slicing (yeah, good luck with that!)

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