Friday, January 11, 2013
Fiddling with sourdough...
My newest bread baking challenge is to try my hands at making sourdough wheat bread. We've been shying away from breads lately in our diet, but I've been reading that whole grain breads that are fermented, so to speak, in sourdough yeast mixtures are far healthier and more digestible than other whole grain breads because the sourdough yeasts break down the grain better for our body's use. You might like this simple article and recipe that explains it.
For the past couple weeks, I've been growing a sourdough starter on my kitchen counter. Every 24 hours or so, I feed it with a little more water and a little more flour so that it doesn't quit bubbling and fermenting. Last night I poured out a cup of the starter and stirred in a little flour and water to make a sponge. It sat covered on the counter over night and today I made a dough and by late afternoon a nice, round loaf of "mostly" whole wheat bread popped out of the oven! I say "mostly" because my actual starter is made with unbleached flour, not whole wheat. I am not worried about being a whole wheat purist at the moment, but instead, I want to get a good quality, delicious tasting loaf that is "mostly" healthy. I didn't really use a recipe today, but I went by feel. The basic ingredients were: the sourdough starter, flour, water, sea salt, a dab of honey, and a little dob of butter. The "feel" comes from working the ingredients together and allowing it to sit, ferment, rise several times, and then I knead it for the right consistency and texture. I also learned a little trick for the home baker from this video, Tartine Bread. A restaurant baker teaches us to bake our bread, after the last rise, in a Dutch oven. I used my cast iron Dutch oven and heated it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 450* F. Then I gently dropped my bread dough in, slit the top of the raised dough, added the lid, and slid it back into the oven for a half hour. After the 30 minutes went by, I removed the lid of the Dutch oven and allowed it to bake another 15 minutes or so until the crust was dark brown. It worked like a charm! The only thing I probably should have done was to lightly sprinkle the bottom of the pan with corn meal. The bottom of the crust got a little too dark, but honestly, it still tasted great!
There are all kinds of sourdough recipes out there, and I plan to fiddle around making lots of variations. One thing I can't wait to make is a Swedish crispbread called Knäckebröd. In the USA we can buy it as Wasa crispbread. I had my first Wasa this week when we went traveling across South Dakota delivering bulls. We took our cooler with food and drink, but I wanted an easy-to-take bread that would be substantial to eat, healthy, and low calorie. Wasa crispbread was just the ticket! It is so delicious, especially when stacked with good cheese and a thin slice of meat. When we got home, I was anxious to find a way to make my own crispbread (because I'm weird that way) and sure enough, I found some recipes online. Basically, it's rye sourdough bread that is rolled flat with a knobbed rolling pin like this one and then baked and allowed to cool and dry out completely before storing. I ordered one of those fancy Swedish rolling pins, and now I'm just waiting for it to arrive so I can experiment. I think the rolling pin will work well for making thin-and-crispy pizza crusts too. Below is a video of Jamie Oliver learning to make crispbread from a Swedish bakery owner. It appears quite simple to make, and the video is fun to watch. Do you like to experiment with bread? Do tell!