Monday, September 22, 2014

Sunday is for Baking

This week, I'm making French Onion Soup. This recipe really pops when you use sourdough bread and Gruyere. Living in Indiana, we don't really have good sourdough here, and the one place we can get it from has a very thin, soft crust that I hate paying $6 a loaf for. It was time to revive my sadly neglected and dormant sourdough starter, living in a Ball jar in the fridge. Since it would take a few feedings to bring it up to happy, I went looking form some simple recipes to use the discarded, not-very-active sourdough in, and King Arthur Flour had just what I needed.

Happy sourdough, fed and doubling in size
Using the semi-active starter discard from feedings three and four, I got some amazingly light and airy popovers, one batch with cheddar cheese and lemon thyme for dinner on Saturday (no pictures, we ate it too quickly!) and one batch for breakfast on Sunday with various jams. You just whisk the five ingredients together and toss it in the oven for 30 minutes; this is a great, easy recipe, and perfect for anyone who is actually discarding and feeding their unused starter weekly as recommended. I may in fact start doing that just so I can make these popovers every weekend!

With apple butter!

Using my now very happy starter, I made a loaf of sourdough bread using a very basic recipe from Cultures for Health. Many other recipes have you adding additional yeast to shorten the rise time, but that really cuts down on the sourdough flavor and takes over from your local yeasts living in the starter.

Finally, I made a couple of loaves of simple sandwich bread using my take on this recipe (and accidentally turned the temperature up too high - d'oh!)
  • Proof 4.5 tsp yeast in 2.5 cups of warm water
  • Mix in 1 Tb melted butter, 1 Tb salt, and ~7 cups of flour
  • Knead for approximately 10 minutes, or until the dough stretches instead of tears when you pull on it.
  • Let rise covered for 1 hour, punch down, divide into loaf pans, let rise for another hour
  • Bake at 450 F for roughly 25 minutes

The best part about bread baking is that it's a little bit of hands-on time every hour or so. Mix the ingredients for 10 - 20 minutes, work for a solid hour, then take a break and punch down the bread. It provides both an excuse for taking a break (must do step next on the bread) and a reason to not take a break (you have to stop at the end of the hour anyway, just keep working 'til the timer sounds). And then you get bread! Now, do I freeze the second loaf from each batch, or will we eat the first loaf too quickly?

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