Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Ongoing Sourdough Project - Current Best Recipe

Sourdough Bread - One of the prettiest loaves I've made.
As the title of my blog states, I cook. I love to cook and do so everyday but to be perfectly honest, the bulk of my time in the kitchen is spent baking. I thought of naming the blog Kaitlyn Bakes but it was just too specific.

One of my ongoing baking projects is sourdough bread. I created my own starter last December 2010 and I've fed, nurtured and experimented with that starter ever since. I've made a few stellar loaves of bread with this starter and a few not-so-stellar ones. I just haven't been able to master sourdough. I can't get perfect shape, texture and sourdough flavor to occur consistently. But I still attempt it, constantly learning from my mistakes and my successes.

Baking with something that it alive means that so many things can go right, or wrong. I don't feed or use my starter regularly so I tend to come across problems like the one I had recently:

Two nights ago, after a two month stint in the fridge I pulled my starter out with the intent to feed it (finally) and perhaps bake with it. I thought that the hot thunderstormy weather would be perfect for making sourdough bread. It was warm out and the air actually held some moisture, rare for my high desert home.

As I opened the lid to the jar I peaked in and saw an inch of the lovely black alcoholic liquid bakers call hooch. I normally stir it back into the starter but I normally don't have quite so much hooch hanging out on top. "Whatever", I said and I stirred all that 1 inch of hooch right into my starter. 24 hours later I baked with it. That loaf was the strongest loaf of sourdough bread I've ever baked. We love a strong tasting sourdough but this loaf was too much. It literally tasted like sour beer. I put two and two together and determined that I should have poured most of the hooch off, oh well, next time.

The next day I set about making a second batch of sourdough as my starter always does so well after it's first intense feeding after use. My goal was to make sourdough but I think that subconsciously I wanted just a hint of sour after that hooch bread I made the day before. I put less starter in and the result was a very light chewy bread with a lovely crust and practically no sourdough flavor.

So sourdough is hit and miss with me. But when my starter is behaving properly and I haven't hooched it to death my current sourdough recipe works really well.

Below is my Current 'Best Recipe' for Sourdough. I've had the most success with this recipe. This recipe has created some yummy loaves. Just make sure your starter is very active and rising and falling regularly before you bake with it. Also when forming your loaves make sure that surface area is tight or the dough will rise and spread outwards/down. (I've done this way too many times, you think I'd learn ;-))

Sourdough loaf - THE BEST loaf I've made from Basic Sourdough Bread Recipe

Basic Sourdough Bread
by Kaitlyn McFadden

  • 2 Cups of sponge (proofed starter) 
  • 3 Cups of unbleached flour 
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 4 teaspoons of sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons of salt 
  1. Mix sugar, salt, and oil into the sponge. Knead 1/2 cup of flour at a time. You may not need all the flour. Just add enough to make a soft, flexible bread dough that's not too sticky or hard.  Knead for 10 - 15 minutes. 
  2. Place in a oiled bowl, turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and wait for it to double. Can be anywhere from 3 hours to 24 hours depending on room temp, humidity, and how active your yeast are.
  3. Punch dough down, form into a loaf and place on a greased baking sheet or in a loaf pan.
  4. Cover the loaf and let it double again.
  5. Score the loaf and place in your oven, un-preheated. Turn the oven on to 350F and bake for 30-40 minutes. The loaf is cooked when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. 
  6. Let the loaf cool for an hour and slice and serve.