Snowy Sourdough Saturday

How I spent the first winter storm weekend of January 2020.

Until Friday, this January has had the weirdest warm weather I’ve ever experienced in northeastern Kansas. Usually, I’m bundling up because the temperatures outside are nudging into single digits or a raging snowstorm with a wicked north wind blows through to remind us of what our Canadian neighbors endure daily. I actually looked forward to a three-day cold snap with a soft blanketing of snow. My pantry was stocked and I could wait to shovel the driveway until Sunday afternoon (which I did). I avoided the ice forgotten under the snow from Friday’s all-day rain. I stayed snug in my home with my sourdough, my movies, my books, my dog and my hubby.

Thursday the 9th it was 64 degrees, but by Friday evening, we were down in the 20s (finally).

Just like last weekend, I set out my sourdough starter to feed, but this time I did it Friday morning, not Saturday morning, because my plan was to try the much longer process necessary for the Extra Tangy Sourdough bread recipe. I thought I’d take advantage of the low pressure system to boost my wild yeast production. And I wanted to try out my new covered ceramic baker I received on Friday, thanks to a free shipping promotion last week at King Arthur Flour.

Click image to see full album Friday through Sunday
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Sourdough Sunday ~ Final Phase

Sourdough Sunday

Final Phase

The oven timer pinged before I finished writing my second phase post yesterday afternoon. I had hovered over the publish button many times, but kept finding things to fix and change. Once I heard the timer beep, I had to save a draft and retrieve the first loaf from the oven.

I’m happy but not completely satisfied with the first loaf results. I think I should have let it rise before shaping it. And I think I need a new lame. My slashes were not deep enough so the loaf did not expand as well as it could have with properly deep slashes. The loaf passed the taste test.

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Sourdough Sunday ~ Second Phase

Welcome back! I’ve just popped the first sourdough loaf in the oven and in a few minutes my house, at least the main level, will smell amazing. And as my uncle commented on my fist post, he’s already salivating and soon I will be joining him. Nothing smells better than baking bread . But first, let’s back track about ninety minutes and catch up.

Sourdough Sunday

Second Phase

The Second Act ~ The Not-So-Meaty Middle

About an hour after I published my previous post, I pulled the dough out of the bread machine, gently kneaded it by folding the very sticky dough in upon itself from the four corners (of a ball, yeah, I know, doesn’t make much sense and is difficult to make a video while actually performing the action). I sprayed my glass stove-top with cooking spray and coated my my hands as well. I’ve learned from experience that the easiest way to handle high hydration doughs is to grease yourself and your surface to avoid getting stuck.

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Sourdough Sunday ~ First Phase

Sourdough Sunday

First Phase

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas and it’s been eight days since my daughter gifted her sourdough starter to me when she returned to Seattle. I fed the starter late last weekend and set it out from the fridge yesterday morning to warm up to room temperature so I could feed it again in anticipation of baking sourdough bread today. Very early this morning, I checked the started to see how ripe (or vigorous) it appeared and it was quite bubbly. So instead of feeding it again (to enhance its vitality), I reviewed the Basic Sourdough Bread recipe at King Arthur Flour that I had decided to try today to see what to do to prep starter to use in an actual bread recipe.

The recipe required two cups of starter so I put eight ounces of water and eight ounces of all-purpose flour in my small mixing bowl (see first photo above). To this I took all but a half cup of the starter from the crock and stirred vigorously. I covered the small mixing bowl with my tea towel and then re-fed my starter as I would normally – half cup of water and a cup of all-purpose flour.

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The Return of the Rest of the Offspring

Yesterday, while Rachelle and I braved shopping at Costco, Lowe’s and Target, my son, daughter-in-law and grandson drove safely but surprisingly quickly up I-35 from North Texas to Northeastern Kansas. They made only one stop, for gasoline at the southernmost KTA (Kansas Turnpike Authority) rest area. This is an amazing fete considering my grandson isn’t yet eighteen months old (that happens on the 9th day of Christmas next year).

Parents sleepy but Grandson wide awake last night

The consequence, however, of a baby who sleeps for about nine hours on a family road trip is predictable (see photo above). By early evening, Derek and Royna were dozing on our new sectional while Senna wanted to explore all the strange new environment of our home. Interestingly, he’s not overly interested in the Christmas tree or the presents tucked underneath. Rather, he found one of the Costco boxes to be endlessly entertaining as well as an impromptu piano lesson from Rachelle which introduced him to a new noise maker he could easily reach.

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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.

On the Second Day of Christmas

I spent the day baking bread.  Always enjoyable for me and any of my house guests.  The aroma of baking bread permeates our home.

My first loaf of the morning I made for my father.  Since our family is celebrating Christmas (by opening presents and feasting on an Italian themed dinner) tomorrow, I wanted to make a fresh loaf of his favorite: White Sandwich Bread <= (click link for recipe).

The second loaf will be my version of the Italian Supermarket bread recipe I found last year at the King Arthur Flour web site.

The third and final loaf will be Rustic Sourdough, modified to mix and rise in the dough cycle of my bread machine.  The original recipe from King Arthur is really a double batch (makes two loaves) and I would have to drag out my Kitchen Aid mixer to accommodate five cups of flour and the other ingredients.

Once the loaves are all baked and cooled, I will take some photographs and post them below.

Merry Christmas!

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

I realized a couple of weeks ago, when we received our new refrigerator, that I had been neglecting my sourdough starter when I removed the crock from the shelf.   I remembered to feed the starter this morning so that I could bake a loaf of bread this afternoon while a roast cooked in the crockpot.  Since I’m up to my elbows in flour, I thought it fitting to focus my next-to-the-last entry in my ‘Thirty Days of Thankfulness‘ blog posting series on making and baking home-made bread.

I much prefer to bake my own bread.  Yes, I occasionally breakdown and purchase a loaf at the grocery store, but for the most part, I prefer to control all the ingredients and I just adore the smell of fresh baked bread.  Nothing says ‘Welcome Home’ like bread baking in the oven.  My preferred flour, graciously available via my local Dillons grocery store, comes from the King Arthur Flour company.  I live in Kansas, the wheat state, where the prized hard red winter wheat is grown specifically for King Arthur Flour, which based in Vermont since 1790 (KAF is 221 years old, 71 years older than Kansas, which is celebrating it’s 150th birthday this year).  In addition to having my flour shipped back from Vermont (albeit it conveniently by my local grocery store), I do special order yeast (by the pound), toppings and other handy gadgets a couple of times a year.  In fact, I recently took advantage of a free shipping sale to re-stock my pantry.  That’s the kind of spam e-mail I like to receive (and why I specifically opted in for their newsletter and e-mail notifications of specials).  I even ordered my sourdough starter (plus the crock shown above) from KAF, because it’s a descendant of a New England sourdough that has been bubbling away there for over two hundred and fifty years!

Once the sourdough starter bubbled up (three to four hours after feeding), I decided to take the ‘easy route’ today and make a Rustic Sourdough loaf in my bread machine.  The link above includes both a traditional recipe and a bread machine version. I will include the latter in this blog posting:

Rustic Sourdough

1 cup “fed” sourdough starter
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Place the ingredients in the bread pan in the order suggested by the manufacturer.  Select the basic white cycle and desired crust and allow the bread machine to do the rest.

If you prefer to shape and bake the loaf in your oven, then select the dough cycle.  Remove the doug and gently shape it into an oval loaf, placing it on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.  Spray the loaves with lukewarm water. Make two fairly deep horizontal slashes in each; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s a very deep golden brown. Remove it form the oven, and cool on a rack.

* * *

Besides sourdough, I enjoy making Italian supermarket-style bread, Honey Whole Wheat variations and White Bread (made special for my dad).  For more of my recipes, which are frequently variations on recipes posted at the King Arthur Flour web site, please visit My Bread Baking Epiphanies web page.

The Irresistable Aroma of Fresh Baked Bread

Sunday afternoon, while Terry and Sean practiced in the band room downstairs, I baked three loaves of bread.  My first loaf, baked for my dad who graciously cleared my driveway yesterday, is the ever popular White Sandwich Bread, pictured here:

White Sandwich Bread
White Sandwich Bread

Immediately following dad’s loaf, I baked my hubby his favorite, which he refers to as trashy wheat bread, but I call Honey Wheat Bread (pictured below):

Honey Wheat Bread
Honey Wheat Bread

The last loaf, and my personal (at least recently) favorite is Rustic Sourdough, modified slightly to mix and rise in the bread machine and produce only one perfect loaf, shown below:

Rustic Sourdough
Rustic Sourdough

So I filled the house with the smell of fresh baked bread and tortured Sean in the process.  Terry even tried to sell my bread to him (at outlandish outrageous prices), but Sean did not succumb to the temptation.

Later in the week, I may try a variety I haven’t baked in years … Cracked Wheat.