Tuesday, May 18, 2010

First Sourdough!

It's another rainy day here and Bosewichte's definitely suffering from cabin fever.

Just look at that face. If he had vocal cords, a working knowledge of the English language, and, well, opposable thumbs, he'd be gripping the doorknob and yelling, "LET ME OUT!"

Despite the rain, lots of creatures are still out and about...

...and the flowers are thriving.

A dreary day outside gave me a good excuse to bring a little color inside, in the form of these electric-green spider mums. I decided they needed a little foliage, so I tucked in some lilac branches. Instant sunshine!

A great day, too, for a little bread baking. There's nothing like floury hands and the warm smell of fresh bread baking to make a rainy day seem a little brighter. My sourdough starter has been growing for 2 weeks, so I decided to give it a test run. I chose the Rustic Bread recipe from Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery.

2 2/3 cups cool water
2 cups + 2 tablespoons white starter
1 teaspoon yeast
8 3/4 cups white flour
1 tablespoon sea salt
3 tablespoons cold milk
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

To begin, I tossed 2 1/3 cups water, the white starter, yeast and flour in my KitchenAid. Nancy recommends a little hand mixing to moisten the dough before turning on the mixer, and then mix at medium speed for 6 minutes. After, let the dough rest 20 minutes.

Wow. I use my KitchenAid a lot, but until this recipe, it's barely broken a sweat. This dough was so incredibly stiff! I can't imagine trying to mix this by hand. My poor KitchenAid, jerking, quivering, and steaming, was finally able to beat the dough into submission.

After the 20 minute rest, add the salt and mix a bit to incorporate. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, remaining water, and olive oil, and VERY SLOWLY add to the dough as it's mixing. I thought I was adding at a good rate, but liquid still sloshed everywhere. It was interesting to see the dough, at this point, take in the liquid. It had an almost plastic stretch. I mixed for about 4 minutes for full incorporation. What a sticky dough this makes!

Another rest, this time for 2 1/2 hours. And after...a lovely rise!

The dough was soft, supple, and impressively puffed.

The next part was easy: flour a surface and dump the dough out. It's so wet, it spreads out fairly naturally. However, the move from bowl to surface must be absolutely exhausting if you're a ball of dough, because yet another rest period was necessary...this one for 20 minutes, covered in a dish cloth. After this little nap, the dough must be properly shaped before it's popped into the oven. Gently press it out into an 8 x 10 oval...

...and then dimple the surface.

Yawn! So sleepy! Another 2 1/2 hour nap.

This recipe makes 2 loaves, but I decided to make breadsticks out of the second ball of dough. I used a pizza cutter to slice them, and topped the slices with a little olive oil and poppy seeds. This dough was so alive that bubbles formed after just a few minutes of resting. Can you see them in the photo below?

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees, with your baking stone inside. Carefully transfer the strips to the stone and reduce the temperature to 450 degrees. Spritz the inside of the oven several times in the first five minutes to give the crust that chewy, crunchy, artisan texture. I baked the first batch for 15 minutes but they were a little too done. Well, that's the thing about cooking. It's all trial and error. The next batch cooked for for about 10 minutes and were perfect!

The loaf went in for about 20 minutes. Despite my overly-generous dusting of flour, it turned out just fine.

Ahhhh...the fruits of my labor!


  1. That bread looks so yummy - I recently had to take my Kitchen Aid in for repairs - guess I'd been using it too much :( if you looked at my scale you'd know it's true

  2. I used to bake bread all the time but I've never heard of spritzing the inside of the oven to make the crust a different texture! Do you use plain old water for the spritzing?

  3. Kim - I love my KitchenAid! I make a lot of bread and desserts with it, but I'm going to try to compensate by throwing in some healthier recipes soon.

    Heather - you can use tap or filtered water in any spritzer. Just open the oven door an inch or two and spritz the sides and back of the oven. I repeat three or four times in the first five minutes of baking. It does make a difference, I think! :)