My self-imposted posting hiatus is over! And what better to end the dry season with than bread.
Commerical bread is something you definitely want to avoid, as much of it contains stuff we definitely don’t want to eat. While I consider Vani Hari (“The Food Babe”) a powerful force in the real food movement, I don’t necessarily think she backs her claims up with hard evidence. However, her post on commercial bread and why to avoid it sums it up pretty nicely.
Traditionally prepared sourdough is far different than the bread you find on grocery store shelves. It has only three ingredients- flour, water, and salt- and doesn’t contain any commercial yeast. Traditional sourdough rises thanks to a starter- basically, fermented flour and water. The starter is added to flour, water and salt and is left to rise for 12-24 hours, depending on the ambient temperature. This long, slow fermentation helps break down the anti-nutrients (phytates) and gluten compounds (gliadin) that make it easier to digest and lessen what would otherwise be the toxic effects of the flour. Want more details? Click here and here.
Want to get baking? Let’s go!
Get your starter* ready. About 12 hours before you want to bake bread, you’ll need to feed your starter. Hopefully you’ve kept it in the fridge. Add 100 grams of starter to a 6 cup container; add 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water. Stir stir stir. Cover, and leave at room temp.
Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, it will take 4-8 hours for your starter mix to be ready: it will double-ish in size, be really bubbly and lofty-looking.
2. MIX and FIRST PROOF
When your starter is ready, get out a large bowl. Put the bowl on a scale and turn the scale on. Add 400 grams of flour, 10 grams of salt, 275 grams of room temp water, and 100 grams of starter. Stir with a wooden spoon until no dry flour remains. You don’t need to knead, but make sure there aren’t any dry parts. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and leave it alone for 12-18 hours. Note: as of 10/5, I’m closer to 18 hours. My house is a little chilly, mid-60’s.
OPTIONAL, but good if you have time: about 12 hours after you mix it together, take a wooden spoon and mix it up again- a 30 second rough stir. Cover again and lets sit.
3. SECOND PROOF
Once dough has risen a little more after you’ve mixed it a second time, OR if you haven’t had a chance to stir it a second time but your dough looks puffy and shiny on the top, and is about doubled in size you’re ready for the second proof. You’ll need:
- An untextured kitchen towel or cloth dinner napkin
- A bowl (about twice the size of your dough, or a little smaller than a finished loaf)
Dust your counter with flour.
Using a spatula, scrape the dough out onto the floured surface. Watch this (I doubled my recipe so you’ll see me cut the dough in half, which you won’t have to do unless you also doubled the recipe):
Basically: pretend it’s like a piece of paper and fold each of it’s four sides over on itself towards the center. Flip, dust with flour, and shape with your hands until it’s a nice round ball. Place the ball on a well floured cloth napkin or untextured kitchen towel, place in a bowl about twice the size of the ball, and leave it in the bowl for 30-ish minutes.
4. BAKE BABY BAKE
When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, put a big (5 quart or larger) enameled cast iron pot (like a Le Cruset) in the oven and heat it to 450 degrees.
When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Lift the dough ball out of the bowl using the kitchen towel. I like to score the top with a serrated knife so it looks pretty, but it isn’t necessary. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot; it may look like a mess, but that’s O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 minutes, until loaf is pretty and browned. Cool on a rack COMPLETELY before cutting into it (if you cut it too early it can be soggy inside). Store it cut-side down on a cutting board. It will be amazing the day it’s baked, great the day after, good for toast the day after that, and makes amazeballs breadcrumbs on day four. Note: not slathering it in grass fed butter is a damn shame.
Timing hints (also known as here’s what i’m doing right now)
3pm: feed starter
9pm: mix dough
9am: second mix
3pm: preheat pot and form loaf
3:30pm: bake loaf
6pm: nom nom nom
Post any questions in the comment section below! And please know: it took me months before I got the technique down pat. It can be tricky… but once you get the hang of it, you’re going be STOKED.