Soured on Sourdough

I tried valiantly but failed miserably twice this past weekend to bake a simple sourdough loaf.  I fed my sourdough starter and let it bubble for several hours Saturday before attempting the first loaf of Rustic Sourdough.  I read the recipe through quickly, but not very coherently.  I added the ingredients to the bread machine and started the dough cycle.  Thirty minutes before the cycle ended, Terry and I left the house to buy a handful of items at the grocery store.  I asked him to remind me to take the dough out of the machine when we returned, for shaping and final rise.  Instead, we sat down and started watching a movie.  Forty-five minutes later, the light bulb went off in my head and I remembered the dough.

As soon as I took the pan out of the bread machine, the dough deflated.  I quickly shaped the dough without kneading it too much and placed it in a loaf pan.  Forty-five minutes later, it had hardly expanded more than a half inch or so.  I preheated the oven and baked it anyway, even though it came out of the oven resembling a brick.  Terry tasted it and loved the flavor, so I’ll probably chop it up and turn it into croutons.

Sunday, I repeated the process with my sourdough starter, feeding it and letting it bubble for several hours.  I reviewed the Rustic Sourdough recipe again and again completely ignored one of the key ingredients, forgetting to add it to the bread pan of the bread machine before starting the dough cycle.  I didn’t forget about the dough, though, since we had already run all of our errands.

I took the dough out, shaped it, placed it in the pan, and put forty minutes on the kitchen timer.  As I walked away from the counter, another light bulb went on in my head and I rushed to my Nook to review, for the third time, the recipe.  I finally connected the dots.  The key ingredient I had forgotten happened to be the sugar, necessary to feed the yeast.  I had not forgotten the salt, which is also necessary, to keep the yeast from expanding forever.  Not once, but twice, I forgot to include sugar in the sourdough.

The dough rose slowly, but not nearly as much as it should have during the final rise.  It would have risen higher had the yeast had some sugar (beyond what it could glean from the flour).  I preheated the oven and baked the loaf, which now resembled French bread rather than Sourdough.  I even spritzed the oven with a water bottle to simulate a steam injected French oven.  The steam crystallizes the crust.

I haven’t sliced this loaf yet, but will taste test it this evening during dinner.  This second loaf may also be consigned to crouton duty.  Do I dare try a third time to capture the elusive perfect sourdough loaf?  Thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday, so I may take advantage of the low pressure system to try again on that day.