BAKING WITH A SOURDOUGH STARTER
All kinds of wonderful things can be made using a sourdough starter. There are endless varieties of breads that you can try. And sure, everyone has heard about sourdough pancakes and biscuits, haven't they? But you can also make pretzels, cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, pizza dough and cookies. How about sourdough applesauce spice cake? Or better yet, how about sourdough chocolate cake? The list goes on.
To get you started, here is a recipe for a basic sourdough french bread.
Check our Recipes site for more sourdough recipes. You will find links
to many other sourdough recipes on the Sourdough Links page.
A Basic Sourdough French Bread
Remember, sourdough leavens are much slower than commercial bakers' yeast, so it will take longer for this bread to rise. Exactly how long is dependent on your particular starter and the ambient temperature. With sourdough, as with any bread, the longer it is allowed to ferment (without over-rising), the more flavorful the bread will be. Bread rises more slowly at cooler temperatures than warmer, so you may need to do some experimenting to determine what temperatures and times work best for you and your starter.
This recipe involves the building of a two-phase sponge prior to mixing the final dough. It yields an approximately 1 1/2 pound loaf. It can be mixed in a stand mixer, by hand or in a bread machine..
Start with fully activated starter. Unless you have activated your starter recently, it may take more than one feeding to fully activate your starter.
SPONGE - PHASE 1
1/4 cup (2 oz) fully activated starter
1/2 cup (4 oz) water
1/2 cup - 1 cup (2 oz - 4 oz) flour (depending on the consistency you prefer)
Combine to make a thick pancake batter and stir well. Do not worry if
the mixture is a bit lumpy. Let this sit until it is fully activated (might
be as long as 8 to 12 hours, depending on your starter and temperature).
SPONGE - PHASE 2
All of the sponge from above (8 - 10 oz)
1 cup (8 oz) water
1 cup - 1 1/2 cups (4 oz - 7 oz) flour (depending on the consistency you prefer)
Combine to make a thick pancake batter and stir well. Do not worry if the mixture is a bit lumpy. Let this sit until it is fully activated (might be as long as 8 to 12 hours, depending on your starter and temperature).
You can mix your dough anytime after your starter has reached its peak
fully activated state during this phase.
MIX AND KNEAD YOUR DOUGH
Bread Dough Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups of fully activated starter-sponge from above
2 cups bread flour
3/4 tsp salt
Pour the starter-sponge into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of
the flour (reserving the remaining 1/2 cup to use if needed) and knead
until the dough reaches the proper consistency of bread dough - a smooth,
soft, moist ball of dough, not sticky but slightly tacky is okay. Add flour
or water as necessary to achieve the proper consistency. After kneading
for several minutes and the gluten has set up some, add the salt and continue
kneading until the gluten has developed and the dough forms a smooth, elastic,
soft, moist ball.
Place the dough in a lightly covered bowl, turning to coat both the
top and bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it
has doubled in volume or until an indentation remains when you press two
fingers in 1/2 inch. Once again, how long is dependent upon your
particular starter and the ambient temperature.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Gently pat out the dough
to 1" - 1 1/2" and form into a rough circle-like shape. Gently press out
the dough but do not really knead it as you attempt to deflate the larger
air bubbles while retaining the smaller ones (this will help create an
open-hole texture in your bread). Shape the dough into a ball, stretching
the skin fairly tightly across the top. Pinch the seam together on the
bottom of the ball. If you are baking hearth loaves, place your loaf into
your prepared banneton, basket, or bowl seam-side up and cover. For free-form
loaves, the dough on a well-floured board or oven peel seam-side down and
RISE AND BAKE
Allow the dough to rise until it is not quite fully proofed (free-form loaves are best baked just slightly under-proofed). The dough should just begin to hold the indentation of your fingertip when you lightly press into the dough and should not be pushing back at you.
Prepare your oven in sufficient time to fully heat your baking stone/tiles/bricks (usually 30 - 40 minutes to pre-heat to 450 to 500 degrees F).
Uncover the loaves, turn them out onto a cornmeal-dusted peel if they
are in containers, slash (dock) and bake. For a thick chewy "crusty"
crust use steam during the first 5 - 7 minutes of the bake.
COOL AND CUT
Now for the hardest part of all. Allow your loaf to cool completely
(about 2 hours) before cutting into it. A loaf of bread is not fully
flavored until it is fully cool and it is much easier to slice cool.
Now for the fun part - finally! Slice up your loaf, slather it
with lots of fresh creamy butter or thin slices of cheese, sit back with
your favorite beverage and some good friends, and enjoy the fruit of your
labors. It will be great!
Additional sourdough recipes can be found in the Recipes forum at this
site or any of the recipe sites linked on the Sourdough Links Page.
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