Monday, July 6, 2009
Easy Sourdough Bread
Now that Ronny's back working and I've already got a sourdough starter, I thought I should learn to bake bread myself since it's not fair to expect him to spend an entire day baking bread over the weekend. There are lots of fascinating recipes available on the Internet these days but since I'm a novice baker I thought I'd try out the easiest one I could find and this was S. John Ross's recipe.
It's very warm in Costa del Sol now and it was 29C at 9:35 a.m. this morning and was getting progressively warmer so I didn't proof the sponge overnight but took it out in the morning. Even though each starter may behave differently one variable that will make any yeast happier is the temperature and I felt that this variable was in my favor.
I put 1 cup warm water and 1 cup flour into a bowl with my starter which totaled to 2 cups of sponge, but then thought I'd better add another 1/2 C each as the recipe calls for 2 cups of sponge and I'd need to put 1 cup of the sponge into my bottle again. So like an afterthought I added 1/2 C water and 1/2 C flour more to the sponge after about 30 minutes.
I washed and sterilized the container in which I normally keep my starter as recommended by S. John Ross.
Because of the additional flour and water I added, I decided to give my starter more than 2 hours and left it for 3hours.
When my sponge was ready, I first put 1 cup of this into my glass container again and fed it with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and put it back into the refrigerator.
Before you start, please note that you must not preheat the oven in this recipe. Not sure why this is the case, but I think it might be a way to get one last rise out of your bread.
S. John Ross's Sourdough Bread
2 Cups Sponge
3 Cups AP Flour (add 1/2 cup at a time and you may not use all of it)
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Tsp Sugar
2 Tsp Salt
Step 1: Mix the sugar, salt and extra virgin olive oil into your sponge and then start mixing in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. This is because flour varies in absorbency and the wetness of your sponge will vary too. The amount in the recipe is only a rough estimate and you should stop adding flour when you have a nice flexible dough.
Step 2: Let the dough rise in a warm place until it's doubled in bulk. Cover loosely with a cloth when doing this. One way to check whether the dough has risen is to poke the dough and see if it springs back. If it doesn't it has risen.
Step 3: Punch the dough down and knead it again. Then make a loaf and put it on oven paper on your oven tray. Cover the loaf and let it rise again until it's doubled in bulk.
Step 4: Put the tray into your oven set at 350F/176C. Do not preheat the oven. Bake your loaf for 30-45 minutes or until its crust is a delicious brown and it makes a hollow sound when you hit the bottom side of it with a wooden spoon.
Step 5: Let the loaf cool on a rack and wait for 1 hour before slicing it.
So was this easy or what? To be honest, I never would have become a sourdough baker had it not been for S. John Ross's site. This is because the recipes on the other sites were too complicated and precise for me and S. John Ross's site was a no nonsense, no frills version of sourdough bread that even a baking dummy like me thought I could handle. His explanation of how this whole thing works was so concise, clear and simple that I had a good idea of what I could do and could not do to keep the yeast alive without following everything to a tee. He kind of gave basic guidelines that sounded more like a elementary school chemistry experiment and I liked it.
I think that once you're comfortable with how to bake basic sourdough bread, you can become more daring like those Daring Bakers or all those wonderful bakers featured in Yeast Spotting and try to make something fancier, but I personally feel it's important to keep things simple when you make your first baby steps in the art of baking bread so that you don't get scared and not bake at all.
Note: The proofing took about 3 hours. The first rise needed 3-4 hours and the last rise needed 3-4 hours. However, the time required depends on your starter and temperature variables so making sure that your dough has doubled in bulk is the only way to know when it's ready.