It remains a mystery to me

I still haven’t told you about the bread making class.

When I finally signed up, the most frequent question I got centered around sourdough bread. How was it made? Was I going to get to? How do you start starter?

The answers:

  1. With starter

  2. I [had] no idea. But I hoped so.

  3. I still have no idea. But, thanks to a great instructor, I now have my own.

About that third point: it’s entirely possible to make sourdough starter yourself, and in fact, Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen goes into the specific details and how to’s.

It’s a multi-day process.

Twenty-one, to be exact.

There’s something amazing about it. The two most basic things, flour and water, when combined right and left to their own devices become the building block for bread. Impressive, I’d say.

But, twenty-one days? I’ve done so pretty absurd things in the kitchen, and I’m not sure that I could keep it up. So, feeding the starter that I was given has become all the more important. And, because I’m neurotic (at least I admit it, right?), there’s all sorts of pressure. What if I kill it? Or, don’t do it right and am condemned to loaf after loaf of bad sourdough now that I’m not making them under the guidance of an expert. Should I gift it to my friends when I’m not sure that I can keep it alive myself? These are serious issues.

And, the starter itself? I’m beginning to think that it’s a bit like having a goldfish. It requires just enough effort to make you feel as if you’re doing something. But, just that much. Until you go on vacation, in which case, it’s entirely possible that by the time you get home, it’ll be dead. I’m really making this process sound enjoyable, I know.

In terms of the process, I’m not quite there, yet. To date, my loaves have been a little flat. I’ve been rushing it, when really the thing to do it take a step back and let the muscle memory develop. So, this may become one of those on going projects, much like the Year of the French Macaron, which I’ve taken a break from but plan on resuming. Expect reports on both counts.

For now, I’m including the method for sourdough below. If you ask really nicely, I’ll give you some of my starter, assuming that I haven’t killed it, yet.

Sourdough Bread
Technique (and, in my case, starter) courtesy of Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen

To create leaven:
12 grams sourdough starter*
68 grams filtered water
134 grams flour (this can be a mix of whole wheat and all purpose)

Mix all of the ingredients until well combined and allow to sit 8-12 hours at room temperature. When your leaven is ready to use, it will float in warm water.

To make the bread:

200 grams leaven
700 grams water, plus an additional 50 grams, set aside
200 grams salt (dissolved in the 50 grams water that you’ve set aside)
1000 grams flour (at least 200 grams of this should be whole wheat)

Combine 700 grams of water and the leaven. Mix to combine, kneading to get out any dry bits. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough sit for 30 minutes. It should be shaggy.

Once the dough has rested, add the salted water to it and mix. Begin turning the dough (this is a more passive method of kneading). Let the dough sit at room temperature and turn it every half hour for 2-3 hours. It should double in size. Cut it in half when it’s ready.

Flour and flip each of the halves and shape it. Allow the dough to rest for another half hour, covered with a towel. During this time, the dough will flatten out slightly.

When the dough is almost ready to bake, stretch and fold it and place it in a flour lined bowl to proof. Proof for two hours. In the last hour, begin preheating your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. You should place a lidded cast iron pot in the oven as it is preheating.

Bake the bread in the lidded cast iron post at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the bread is golden brown. The internal temperature of it should be 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Makes 2 loaves

*Note that if you are not ready to use the starter, you should feed it, by discarding half and combining a half cup of water with a full cup of flour. Mix everything together well.

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