Thursday, August 9, 2012

Sourdough Bread

“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight...[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” 
― M.F.K. Fisher

Over a year ago, Alanna started a sourdough culture following the recipe in Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen's inspiring book The Urban Homestead. The culture, affectionately known as "Doughy," has now produced many wonderful loaves of bread enjoyed by our family and friends. Lately I've been baking two loaves of sourdough bread every week using the following recipe which Alanna adapted from the one in The Urban Homestead (which was, in turn, adapted from Nancy Silverton's Breads from the LaBrea Bakery).

The day before you plan to bake the bread, take your sourdough culture out of the fridge for an hour or two and give her a good stir.

Then weigh out 12 ounces of culture, 24 ounces of wheat flour (usually a split of whole wheat and white for us), 12 ounces of water and two teaspoons of salt. Mix everything with the dough hook for about 5 minutes until they form a nice dough. Cover the bowl with a cloth and wait for about an hour.

This is a good time to feed your starter. I usually mix in one cup of white flour and one cup of water, then I cover the jar with a cloth and then wait for an hour or two before putting it back in the fridge.

Now split the dough into two equal chunks and hand knead and shape them on a floured surface until you have two decent looking loaves. These loaves then get wrapped loosely in flour-coated cloth and placed in a bowl. They will proof for several hours on the counter before you cover them with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge overnight.

A few hours before baking time the following day, take them out of the fridge. They usually rise quite a bit at this point.

Time to prepare the oven. Preheat to 500° F with the bread stone in the middle and a cookie sheet offset on a lower shelf.

Place some flour on the pizza peel and position the loaves. (This is a good time to score the top of the loaves with a knife, though the loaves pictured were not scored.)

When the oven comes up to temperature, slide the two loaves onto the stone and splash about a cup of water on the cookie sheet. Close the door quickly to capture all the steam. Then lower the temperature to 400° F and bake for about 45 minutes (rotating the loaves once halfway through). When the internal temperature of a loaf is 190° F, the bread is ready. It needs to cool for at least an hour before it's ready to slice.

Then, after enjoying a slice with your favorite spread, you are free of bad thoughts and full of good bread!

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