Sourdough Basic Bread
Sourdough.....it's a lost art, but one that is returning to our current culture -- and one that is well-worth learning! Sourdough bread products, particularly when made with freshly ground, organic, whole grain flour, will produce foods that are:
(1) Easily digestible, since the lactic acid bacteria that is produced in the starter, predigests the sugars (carbs) and proteins (gluten);
(2) Rich in probiotics, which maintain a healthy gut microbiome -- an integral part of a healthy immune system.
(3) Plentiful in nutrients, to nourish the human body.
To make sourdough bread, you will need a starter. A starter consists of flour, water and natural yeasts (not added from a packet from the store). The "natural yeasts" are found within the flour itself -- we simply cultivate its growth by adding water and the optimal environment (72+ degrees). You can get a starter from a friend, make your own, or attend a sourdough class where you will receive an organic, well-fed, viable, mature starter.
Until you learn to fit sourdough breadmaking into your schedule, you might find that it is putzy, demanding, and a disruption to your daily routine. One person once said to me, "I'm not ready to learn sourdough -- it's one more mouth to feed!" This is a very true statement. You cannot ignore your starter and expect to turn out a wonderful loaf of bread. But once you learn the nature of sourdough and plan for it in your routine, you will find that your sourdough starter will give back to you over-and-over again, making delicious and nutrient- and probiotic-rich foods for your family! Imagine incorporating into your family's meals pancakes, waffles, crepes, muffins and breads! Sourdough need never be boring -- and your starter will happily produce over-and-over-and-over again, delicious and nutritious foods made from nutrient-rich, life-sustaining grains.
To make good bread, the key is always, always, always a healthy, viable starter. By this, I am referring to a starter that has been often-fed and often-used. Starters are always hungry, gobbling up the sugars (carbohydrates) in the flour, and wanting more, more, more, as they wait to produce something wonderful to put on your table (and in your belly!).
Particularly for those who use their starter only once or twice a week, your starter will maintain its integrity best by storing in an anaerobic jar in the refrigerator. The size jars that I recommend are a .75 Liter or 1 Liter size.
Now, on to the Sourdough Basic Bread recipe!
Sourdough Basic Bread
When choosing your ingredients, use home-grown, grass-fed and organic ingredients whenever possible.
Directions by hand or using a Bosch Mixer:
If mixing by hand, mix the first set of ingredients with ½ of the total flour mixture and beat very hard for a few minutes. This develops the gluten in the bread for a better rise to your bread. Then mix in the remaining flour, kneading as you go, to obtain a dough that is soft and supple.
If using a Bosch Mixer, put all of the ingredients including flour (withholding 1-3 cups, according to which batch you are making (i.e., 1 cup for the 1-loaf recipe and up to 3 cups for the 6-loaf recipe) in the bowl, using the dough hook, and mix on low (speeds 1 & 2) until all the ingredients are combined. If using the Bosch Compact, continue to knead on speed 2. If using the Bosch Universal Plus for 6 loaves, go from speed 1, to 2, to 3, and knead dough for 3-5 minutes (length of time will depend on which recipe you are making, i.e., 5 minutes for the larger batches). The quality of the dough will tell you when it has kneaded “enough.” Dough should be moist but not sticky, and should hold its rounded shape. Too much flour = dry, cracked loaves. Too little flour = flat, sunken loaves. You can always use sub-par dough for a pizza crust or for crackers, or make croutons!
Move dough to a greased (or moistened with water) bowl, that is 2-3x larger than the dough amount. If using oil, flip the dough so that smooth side is up. (I have found you can effectively omit the oil and simply mist the top of the dough with fresh water in a small spray bottle.) Cover the bowl to maintain a moist environment for the rising bread. You might cover with plastic wrap, stretched across the top of the bowl, or cover with a wet towel, then topped with a piece of stoneware. Put the bowl of dough in a warm place for 7-10 hours. If you want the bread to take longer to rise 9to fit your schedule), then put it in a cooler spot. So you see, this rising time will vary, based on the temperature in your house. You can slow it down (cooler temps) or speed it up (warmer temps).
Dough should show good signs of rising, but not be fully doubled in size when ready to shape.
Shape dough into a loaf or other desired shape(s); cover with a damp towel. Allow to rise until it nicely fills the pan – but don’t over-rise, or bread will “fall” when baking. This could take 30 minutes – or 2 hours, again depending on the temperature in the house. Do not allow the surface of the dough to dry out, or rising cannot take place (a crust forms on the surface of the bread, preventing any further rising action). I keep a small spray bottle on hand, filled with fresh water, and "mist" the loaves. I also cover the loaves with a fairly damp loose-weave dish towel. (Tighter weave towels, such as a typical muslin dish towel, tend to stick to the loaves as they rise.)
Place in cold oven* and set temperature to 350 degrees. Bake approximately 40 minutes for a loaf, or until internal temperature of loaf registers 195-200 degrees. Remove from pan and place on a rack to cool. Cool completely before placing in a plastic bag or Ziploc. Sourdough will not mold for 1 entire week on the counter if fully cooled when put in the plastic bag!
*If bread has over-risen, quickly preheat oven and put loaves in a hot oven. The hot temperature of the oven will arrest (stop) the rising action. Bake time might be 5 minutes less. Check internal temp.
This is a basic bread dough and you can do myriads of things with it! Shape into hamburger or hot dog buns, dinner rolls, pizza crust, bread sticks, sweet rolls....have fun with it!
Give us this day, our daily bread!