I’ve been experimenting with the recipes and, more importantly, the techniques from the books/web site Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The basic idea is to make up a week-long supply of dough, let it rise, and keep the pre-risen dough in the refrigerator. When you want some bread you break off a chunk of dough and bake it. I bought a big, heavy, baking stone for the oven (or the grill outside in the Texas Summer Heat) and can use the same dough for artisan loaves, pan loaves, pizza, pitas, shaped loaves… whatever.
I have been straying from this technique in making sourdough bread.
It started back in January or so. I filled a little crock with a mixture of whole wheat flour, water, a little yeast, a little sugar, and let it sit until it foamed up… and about four days later it was nice and ripe. That was my sourdough starter. Now that same starter has been through maybe twenty cycles or so, every batch I make I save about a quarter of the dough and reuse it in the next, not adding any fresh prepared yeast.
What makes sourdough so… sourdoughy is a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria that forms over time. After six months my starter is getting to be good. There are a few little difficulties that I’m starting to learn to deal with.
First of all, the acid produced by the bacteria (what makes it taste sour) tends to break down the protein in the flour and makes the dough runny and keeps it from rising as much as it should. So instead of pre-rising it and then throwing a pile onto the stone (where it usually runs out and makes a pancake) I put the fresh dough into a loaf pan and let it rise there. It rises slowly, much slower than a batch of dough with commercial super-dooper (and pretty much flavorless) yeast, so I let it rise while I’m at work.
This is the routine: put the ingredients together before I go to bed at night – mix it up in the morning, setting aside one quarter of the dough to act as starter for the next batch – let it rise all day – bake it in the evening.
—Four cups of flour (all-purpose, bread flour, whole wheat – whatever, in whatever mixture I feel like) with a pinch of salt and a tiny bit of sugar (I find this helps make the rising process more reliable).
—A little less than two cups water
—-Sourdough Starter – dough left over from the previous batch. Let it sit for at least a day or so, any longer than two days, put it in the fridge.
—Extras – in this case, about half a can of Chipotles in Adobo Sauce, chopped (be careful with these beasties, they are hot)
Mix the dough, don’t worry about kneading it or anything like that. Don’t forget to save some starter for next time, then stir in the extras if you want. Dump that in a loaf pan, cover it with something if you think about it, and let it sit out on the counter.
Now, off to work. The little yeasties will multiply and the dough will rise while I’m there.
If you get bored waiting, here’s a video to watch:
Back home again. These twelve hour days are killer. Too tired to do much. Luckily, the stuff has risen like I wanted it to. Pop it in the oven, 450 or so, about forty minutes. I put a pan of water in the oven to help make a nice crust.
Fresh sourdoughy goodness.
Meanwhile the starter is getting nice and ripe, ready for the next batch. I wonder how long I can keep this going. I’ve heard of sourdough starters that keep making over and over for decades.