Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The sourdough starter has finally done my bidding

A while back I sent for a sourdough starter and started experimenting with making bread leavened exclusively with the starter (no added yeast). The first two loaves tasted fine, but both of them burst along the lower edge.

Nice side:
From Food

Split side:
From Food

I asked some expert bakers for advice and the consensus was that, with this particular recipe*, most of the rising happened in the oven and the outer crust dried out before the inside of the loaf had fully expanded. The suggested solution was to add a pan of hot water to the lower shelf in the oven and to cut fairly deep slits in the top of the loaf right before baking.

Because of poor planning, I had to refrigerate the partially-risen loaf overnight, which is actually good for flavor and texture. In case you need some baking trivia, that is what creates the dark, pebbly texture on the crusts of many artisan breads.

Results: It worked!

This time, along with the heavenly aroma of baking bread, I actually had a pretty loaf of bread. It's also awesome tasting - a tough, chewy, crackly crust with a moist, almost buttery interior. My only regret is that Spork and I made a significant dent in it the very first day. Next time I will make enough for two loaves.

From Food

* My variances from the original recipe: I only needed about 2.5 cups of flour - 3 makes a very stiff dough with my starter. I omitted the oil/margarine and just added enough water to make a slightly sticky dough. I also baked it longer, about 55 minutes total.


bigjohn756 said...

Why aren't you guys fat? Oh, well, I guess I'm just jealous.

Kari said...

... wipes away a tear ... You say the nicest things, John! The only way that could have been nicer is if you were a woman! ;-)