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February 17, 2011

So, I like to cook and I like to bake and I like to play with different bread recipes and that kind of thing. I certainly wouldn’t characterize cooking as a passion for me or anything – but I really enjoy it and I really like doing things from the ground up – making things completely from scratch, just to figure out how they all go together.

It never really occurred to me to blog about cooking, until my lovely and talented friend Alyce showed up for a visit with a tupperware container full of honest-to-goodness San Francisco sourdough starter. Girl knows me well – this completely thrilled me. But she made me promise to write about it.

It thrilled me right up until the part where I realized that what she’d *actually* brought me was a pet – one that eats a startling amount of flour and water. And actually takes more effort than Sam sometimes. And if I’m not careful will also start to take up more SPACE than Sam.

Okay, kidding – I am still thrilled with this, but I definitely need to learn to manage it better – sourdough starter multiplies at an alarming rate if you aren’t really baking with it and doing stuff with it on a regular basis. As luck would have it, the day after she brought it my oven decided to die on me…and as a result I had to feed the starter without being able to use it for anything. So now instead of one small container of starter in the fridge, I have four larger containers. Argh. But I’m figuring out what to do with it all!

SO, today I figured it was time to tackle bread making with this stuff. Actually, yesterday I figured that but you need to do the first step a day in advance of baking. Yesterday I made the starter into different starter that I needed to make bread. I stuck it in the fridge overnight and today I got down to business.

I was using this book, which is completely incredible and thorough and a little baffling all at once – it is WONDERFUL for understanding everything you ever wanted to know about the science of breadmaking.

The first step was to bring that starter I made yesterday out of the fridge, cut it into chunks and let it warm up for an hour.

Done! Next up was to mix flour and salt, then add the chunks of starter in with enough water to bring it all together. Now, I doubled the recipe (so it would make four 1.5lb loaves, because the starter was taking over my fridge and I needed to do something), but I decided to mix the batches separately so as not to totally overload my mixer. I weighed out the starter, took half of it, and mixed it all together.

It’s pretty shaggy and sticky at this point. Then I stuck the dough hook on the mixer and let it go for four minutes. Here’s what it looked like after that.

Then I let it rest for 10 minutes or so, then ran the mixer for another four minutes – before running it again I actually added just a little more water. The surface of the dough felt really dry after the first knead, so I figured that would be a good thing to do.

At the end, it even passed the gluten test. Look at me go! (HAH – no idea what I’m doing. At all.)

Aaaand repeat with batch two of the starter. EXCEPT – I decided I didn’t like how hard it seemed to be on my mixer to handle the stiffer dough. And Alyce told me that bread dough can actually void the otherwise awesome Kitchen Aid warranty. So I decided to be brave and try kneading batch two by hand. Which, as it turns out, is bloody tiring but I can TOTALLY do it. I had no idea. Success already I say.

Then the plan appeared to be, cover the bowls and let them rise for 3-4 hours. So I did. I am very obedient about following recipes you see.

After that I shaped all four loaves into boules (I really wanted to get creative here but thought it better to get actually halfway decent at making one shape before going to town) and let them sit for another 2-3 hours. (Is anyone adding up the hours yet? I will tell you for free that when this part was done, it was dark out).

THEN, I got to turn the oven on – I followed the book’s (and Alyce’s) instructions about putting my baking stone on the top third of the oven and the roasting pan in the bottom to throw water in when the bread went in. I baked two loaves at a time – I scored them and then misted them with water, and put them on the stone. Then added the cup of hot water to the broiling pan (trying not to burn the living daylights out of myself in the process) and closed the oven and let them go.

The first two loaves seemed good, but they didn’t puff very evenly – I think that I didn’t make the slashes quite deep enough on those two maybe? I’m not really sure…(Alyce?).

The second two I slashed more deeply and took the cuts closer to the edges….might be why it worked a bit better? Interestingly, these were the two that I kneaded by hand…no idea if there’s a connection.

Here they are!

You can see the two at the back are tipped forward a little – they are the ones I don’t think I scored enough and the bottoms kind of blew out on them a little bit giving them an uneven shape…I think they will still taste ok though.

The only thing I’m not sure about was how long to cook them. I took the second two loaves (the ones that formed better) out the first time and while most of the bread was a nice brown colour, the cracks were REALLY white still…so I thought it was underdone. I used a thermometer to check them (the book said they should register 205 – again, I am a total follower for stuff like this, and my bread seemed to be sitting closer to 180) – so I stuck them back in for a bit, until they got up to 205. So I think they are good but the tops seem a little too dark maybe. I’m just not sure…will consult my bread baking guru. (Alyce? Hello?).

In any case, I made sourdough! I am very much looking forward to breakfast tomorrow, and sincerely hoping that it tastes as good as it smells. I am also sincerely hoping that I get faster at this and find some decent shortcuts, because otherwise I’m going to need a new fridge to hold all this stuff!



4 Comments leave one →
  1. Alyce permalink
    February 17, 2011 5:11 am

    Woo hoo! You go girl! These are totally gorgeous, as was that gluten window – very impressive for your first time, and I’m sure they’ll be delicious!

    Whatcha gonna name the new pet? 😉


  2. Mom permalink
    February 17, 2011 9:59 pm

    Can I have some toast on Saturday? They look awesome! (Now I’m hungry.)

  3. February 18, 2011 5:24 pm

    Toast! Yay! I want some. Also: could use for haloumi + tomato + sourdough salad? 🙂

  4. Angela permalink
    February 19, 2011 2:02 am

    This is awesome! Love all the pictures and description – I was SO wondering about how this was all accomplished! The result (I know:o) was amazing and now you have me intrigued … if I am nice maybe you can share some of that starter … pretty please:o) Seems like kind of a high maintenance pet and I already have one of those, but I sure would like to try.

    Using the mixer seems like the easiest to me – I had no idea they don`t suggest mixing bread dough in it:o(

    All that said *I* should probably attempt some pizza dough first before delving into this, but really your first attempt was superb!

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