Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Daring Bakers December 2011- Sourdough Bread

 Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create Sour Dough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with Sour Dough recipes from Bread Matters by AndrewWhitley as well as delicious recipes to use our Sour Dough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen’s Great British Food!

This month's challenge is subtitled: Letting Nature Do the Work- or, Only One of Us Has a Future That Doesn't Include Getting Cozy in a 400 Degree Oven, Sourdough, So Go Ahead, Make My Day. 

It pains me to admit this, my fellow bakers, but I am a 27 year old woman who throws tantrums when things don't go right in my kitchen. My first loaf of sourdough was almost chucked across the room in all it's flat, overly dense, hockey puck glory, sure to tear a hole all the way through the house had it not been for my husband talking me down. I realize that this is neither a rational reaction nor helpful to reaching my goal of becoming a better baker, but there it is. 

The Hockey Puck

As a teacher, I try to help my students overcome the obstacles that they meet in their playing, whether it is an easy fix or something that will take a while to change. As a baker, I sometimes don't allow myself the same room for growth. Like a 5th grader learning a new instrument, at times I expect to just be able to do it right the first time. It doesn't help that most of the time this is true for me in music as well as in the kitchen, so when I do come up against a true challenge and I'm made to feel a little uncomfortable, well I don't like it very much. Until it works. Then I'm really happy. 

As I said, the first try at this month's challenge was a disaster. A big, heavy, brick of a loaf disaster. I texted my dear friend over at The Gingered Whisk basically saying that I failed at this challenge- I wasn't going to have time to try it again, and quite frankly I didn't even want to give it another go. She has known me forever, and reassured me that even she doesn't always have perfect breads. She talked me into trying it again. I'm glad I did, even though it was kind of a race to the finish for me.

In between the first and second tries, I was out of town for three days attending The Midwest Clinic in Chicago. I went to three days of concerts, clinics, and rehearsal labs learning techniques to bring back to work with my students. I came home Saturday totally exhausted, but totally reaffirmed that teaching is what makes my heart glad. Oh yeah, and I was in Chicago, land of Deep Dish Pizza. I ate so well while I was gone! Then it was back to meet the sourdough bread again. 

Deep Dish Pizza from Giordano's on Jackson in Chicago. Delicious!
This second time, I put the starter right in front of the warmest heat vent in the house, put the dough in the oven with the light on to rise, and just hoped that it would turn out better this time. I have to admit that I didn't take many pictures of the process because I wasn't entirely certain that it would work out, and also when your hands are covered in dough it is hard to take a photo. 
The second loaf- most of the rising spread horizontal rather than vertically when I moved it.

I just put together an easy beef stew to eat with the bread. I ladled the stew over a couple slices, which soaked up the broth and made a really nice hearty dish for dinner. I also thought that the Italian Beef Stew recipe I posted earlier would be a good match for this bread, as well as my favorite breakfast "SOS", or Dried Beef, as my prim and proper grandmother called it.

Music for this month isn't a playlist I came up with, but a link to a full album that is lovely for the winter time, not just the holiday. My mom gifted this to me on iTunes last winter, and I think it fits really well with a warm, crusty bread, a homemade soup, fire in the fireplace and snow gently falling down. Sting's "If On A Winter's Night"

French Country Bread
Servings: 1 large loaf plus extra wheat starter for further baking
Wheat Starter - Day 1:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
Total scant ½ cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm)
1. In a Tupperware or plastic container, mix the flour and water into a paste.
2. Set the lid on top gently, cover with a plastic bag, to prevent messes in case it grows more than expected!
3. Set somewhere warm (around 86 F if possible). I sometimes put mine on a windowsill near a radiator, but even if it’s not that warm, you’ll still get a starter going – it might just take longer.

Wheat Starter - Day 2:

4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
scant 1/2 cup (115 ml) (3 oz/85 gm) starter from Day 1
Total scant cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 1, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 3:
4 1/2 tablespoons (70 ml) (40 gm/1 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour
4 teaspoons (20 ml) water
scant 1 cup (230 ml) (6 oz/170 gm) starter from Day 2
Total 1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8-1/10 oz)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 2, cover, and return to its warm place.
Wheat Starter - Day 4:
3/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons (205 ml) (120 gm/4 ¼ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup less 4 teaspoons (100 ml) water
1⅓ cup (320 ml) (230 gm/8 oz) starter from Day 3
Total scant 2⅔ cup (625 ml) (440 gm/15½ oz)
1. Stir the flour and water into the mixture from Day 3, cover, and return to its warm place. At this point it should be bubbling and smell yeasty. If not, repeat this process for a further day or so until it is!
French Country Bread
Stage 1: Refreshing the leaven
1 cup less 1 tablespoon (225 ml) (160 gm/5 ⅔ oz) wheat Leaven Starter
6 tablespoons less 1 teaspoon (85 ml) (50 gm/1¾ oz) stoneground bread making whole-wheat or graham flour
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons (250 ml) (150 gm/5 ⅓ oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
Production Leaven Total 2¾ cups plus 4 teaspoons (680 ml) (480 gm /1 lb 1 oz)
1. Mix everything into a sloppy dough. It may be fairly stiff at this stage. Cover and set aside for 4 hours, until bubbling and expanded slightly.
French Country Bread
Stage 2: Making the final dough
3/4 cup less 1 teaspoon (175 ml) (100 gm/3 ½ oz) stoneground breadmaking whole-wheat or graham flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (510 ml) (300gm/10 ½ oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons (7½ ml) (7 gm/¼ oz) sea salt or ⅔ teaspoon (3⅓ ml) (3 gm/⅛ oz) table salt
1 ¼ cups (300 ml) water
1 ¾ cups (425 ml) (300 gm/10 ½ oz) production leaven – this should leave some (1 cup) for your next loaf.
Total 6 cups less 2 tablespoons 1415 ml (1007 gm/35 ½ oz/2 lb 3½ oz)
1. Mix the dough with all the ingredients except the production leaven. It will be a soft dough.
2. Knead on an UNFLOURED surface for about 8-10 minutes, getting the tips of your fingers wet if you need to. You can use dough scrapers to stretch and fold the dough at this stage, or air knead if you prefer. Basically, you want to stretch the dough and fold it over itself repeatedly until you have a smoother, more elastic dough.
3. Smooth your dough into a circle, then scoop your production leaven into the centre. You want to fold the edges of the dough up to incorporate the leaven, but this might be a messy process. Knead for a couple minutes until the leaven is fully incorporated in the dough.
4. Spread some water on a clean bit of your work surface and lay the dough on top. Cover with an upturned bowl, lining the rim of the bowl with a bit of water. Leave for an hour, so that the gluten can develop and the yeasts can begin to aerate the dough.
5. Once your dough has rested, you can begin to stretch and fold it. Using wet hands and a dough scraper, stretch the dough away from you as far as you can without breaking it and fold it back in on itself. Repeat this in each direction, to the right, towards you, and to the left. This will help create a more ‘vertical’ dough, ready for proofing. 
 6. Heavily flour a banneton/proofing basket with whole wheat flour and rest your dough, seam side up, in the basket. Put the basket in a large plastic bag, inflate it, and seal it. Set aside somewhere warm for 3-5 hours, or until it has expanded a fair bit. It is ready to bake when the dough responds to a gently poke by slowly pressing back to shape.

7. Preheat the oven to hot 425°F/220°C/gas mark 7. Line a baking sheet with parchment, then carefully invert the dough onto the sheet. I like to put the baking sheet on top of the basket, then gently flip it over so as to disturb the dough as little as possible. Make 2-3 cuts on top of the loaf and bake for 40-50 minutes, reducing the temperature to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 after 10 minutes.

8. Cool on a cooling rack.


  1. D, I bake bread once a week, we never buy it anymore, and I can tell you that even recently I've had some of those awful flat disks come out. If you can, cut it horizizontally and use it for a sandwich. Tell them you made a pocket bread. You can even put that in the panini press or grill it in the cast iron. Can you tell I've had to get creative with bread mistakes? Nicely done with the whole wheat starter btw. It's much more finicky than a white starter.

  2. YAY! I am so glad you gave this another go! Your loaf looks amazing! And you are right, often times we teach our children to not get emotional about our failures but then throw temper tantrums ourselves when things don't go our way. I'm just as guilty of that as the next person, especially in the kitchen!!!