I also started a sourdough starter today, following the method on Serious Eats. Starter is what gives sourdough it's unique flavor and also takes the place of yeast in bread. As the author, Donna Currie, says "sourdough is as old as the pyramids". This is what they used before commercial yeast. I'm stoked for this project (it's super easy) and to have some sourdough bread in 10 days or so.
In the spirit of bread making, here is the recipe I've been using lately. Since I'm home with the baby I figured we could save money if I made bread once or twice a week. Plus it's fun. This dough is really easy to work with and it makes a nice crusty loaf, so it's perfect if you've never made bread before. Seriously try it. Baking bread is actually quite simple but it's so impressive. Yeast is not scary! Just make sure your liquid is only warm, not hot, so you don't kill the yeast. Otherwise, relax and just do it.
CRUSTY CROWN LOAF
Adapted slightly from The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book
- Pinch of sugar
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 2 1/2 tsp dry yeast (traditional, although I've used quick rise and it's fine too)
- 3/4 cup warm milk
- 1/4 olive oil
- 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (approx)
- 2 tsp salt
In a large bowl, or in a mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve sugar in warm water. Sprinkle in yeast, let stand until frothy. Stir in milk and oil. Stir in 3 3/4 cups flour and salt. Add more flour if needed to form a shaggy, moist dough that isn't too sticky.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Or knead in your mixer for about 5 minutes. Form into a ball, place in a large greased bowl, turning dough to cover with oil (this helps it to rise as the top won't dry out). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Dust a rimless baking sheet, pizza peel, or the underside of a rimmed baking sheet with cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking to it when you slide it in the oven. Punch down risen dough, form into a ball. Place on prepared pan; cover with a damp clean tea towel and let rise until not quite doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Spray loaf with water. With a sharp knife, cut three 1/2-inch deep intersecting slashes across the top of the loaf. Bake in the center of a preheated 450 degree F oven for 10 minutes, spraying loaf 3 more times with water during this time. Reduce heat to 400 degrees F; bake 35 minutes or until loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack at least 1 hour before slicing.
I came up with a variation for a whole wheat loaf: Reduce all purpose flour to 1 1/2 cups plus up to 1/4 cup more if needed in the mixing stage and add 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour.