Sunday, October 23, 2011

Baking the Sourdough Bread

For the past week my sourdough starter has been in the maintenance phase. I elected to try the refrigerator method, mostly because it meant less feeding and less flour used.

Knowing me, I would get busy and forget to feed it and then I would have to start all over. Sure, you can skip a day...but beyond's really not recommended.

So Thursday, I pulled the starter out of the fridge to reactivate the growth process.

Using this method, day 3 would now be the bread baking day.

Today - was baking day at my house.

Early this morning (around 7 a.m.) I fed the starter, by discarding half and mixing 1/2 cup 80 degree F water and 1 cup all-purpose flour to the remaining starter. According to my book, it should be ready in about 6 hours.

Time to get ready for church.

After breakfast, church, shopping, and lunch - it was time to start the baking process.

**Using a scale, measure out 16 oz of the ready starter to bake bread. Feed the remaining starter 1 cup 80 degree F water and 2 cups of all-purpose flour and let sit covered on the counter for 2 hours (if using the refrigerator maintenance method) before returning it to the fridge.


5 cups (1 lb 5 oz) all-purpose bread flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cup (14 oz) water
2 1/2 cups (16 oz) ripe starter
2 1/2 tsp salt

* Begin by mixing the ripe starter with the warm water. Hand mixing is recommended, but I use my stand mixer. I like the way it mixes better.

* Add the all-purpose and wheat flours a cup at a time until a well mixed soft ball is formed.

* Cover dough and let rest for 20 minutes.

* Next, add salt to dough ball and mix until dough is soft, well-formed and slightly sticky to the touch.

* Cover dough, and let rest for one hour.

* Uncover dough, flour lightly the dough ball in the bowl before turning it out onto a lightly floured surface for folding. Be careful not to add too much flour, as it will be incorporated into the dough ball.

* Time to fold the dough. Pat the dough ball into a square and then begin folding the square, bringing the top to the middle and then the bottom over the top. Turn the folded dough 90 degrees and repeat this process, gently pressing out the air pockets.

* As dough begins to tighten up, it is time to place the dough back into the bowl, seam side down to rest - covered - for another hour.

* Next, divide the dough. The original recipe I was working with called for the dough to be separated into two large balls. I separate my dough into 2 balls first, one for a regular size loaf pan...and then the 2nd ball into four smaller balls to form mini-loaves.

* In shaping the dough balls, bring the edges together so that all the corners meet in the middle. I use both hands to work the dough in a continuous motion until the dough begins to feel slightly tight. At that point, I put the shaped balls into my prepared (cooking spray) loaf stones to rest for another hour, covered.

* To bake the bread, the oven needs to be preheated to 450 degrees F. It is helpful to use a spray bottle to spritz the loaves with water while they are baking. This will improve the look and texture of the crust.

* Now to bake. If desired, score the top of the dough with a knife or razor before putting in the oven.

* I set the timer for 10 minutes, to spritz the crust with water and monitor the internal bread temperature. When the core temperature reaches 200 degrees F, it is finished baking. The baking process for the loaf size I bake ranges from 30-45 minutes.

* Once out of the oven, it is important to let the bread rest and cool. Because I use cooking stones, it is important to remove the bread from the stones to prevent the residual heat of the stones from further cooking the crust. The longer the bread sits in the stones, the harder it will become.

* Now we have fresh sourdough bread for our family to enjoy. The trick is of course...not eating it as fast as it is baked. Hot, freshly baked bread is incredibly delicious.

Especially with butter!!

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