Monday, April 15, 2019

Daily Bread

This past winter has been rainy, blustery, and cold (ahem, California cold). Perfect baking weather. Remember in December 2017 I made a Sourdough starter from scratch? Since the starter turned a year old it was time to use it.

1/24/19 ~
Strictly Sourdough: On my first attempt to make Sourdough bread I followed along with an online Craftsy class but halved the recipe since I didn't feel too confident. The experience was frustrating for lack of proper tools. I ended up using a spatula for a dough scraper and a metal baking sheet to knead the dough (I thought it would be like a stainless steel countertop, not.) My bad thoughts must have transferred to the bread, it was a sad thing to behold.

1/26/19 - 1/28/19 ~
The second Sourdough loaf was a three-day adventure. I followed Kitchn's Emma Christensen's blog post, "How to Make Sourdough Bread", I especially liked the 63 photo tutorial. The loaf turned out beautiful - look at that crust, look at that crumb - except, you know, three days. Also, instead of making two loaves per recipe I made one giant loaf. I think it weighed 3 pounds. It was a mammoth effort to make and eat.

Sourdough Crackers: I use the "discard" starter to make crackers. I'm still trying to find the sweet spot for rolling out the dough - not too thick, not too thin. When I manage to get it right the crackers poof up into little pillows of crackery goodness. Since it's made with whole wheat flour it's gluten-heavy, lots of healthy dietary fiber. The first bite tastes a bit like cardboard - healthy cardboard - but the more crackers you eat the better it tastes. It kinda grows on you. Really.

Surprise: Our kitchen cabinetry included a built-in cutting board. The previous owners used it judging by the knife marks on the hardwood surface. I never used it for cutting and mostly forgot it was there other than using it for additional counter space.

But, oh joy. I discovered the good-sized 20 x 16 cutting board provided an excellent portable surface for playing with sticky dough. Yep, just another thoughtful feature in the house that Bob & K. built.

2/15/19 - 2/16/19 ~
Sourdough English Muffins: A good experiment to try, turned out tasty, but I'm not sure I'll be making these again. Ten English muffins probably took five hours of work and twenty minutes (or less) to eat.

Sourdough Saga continues: I wanted a less involved method of making Sourdough bread. I asked myself, "What's my bread goals?"

Bread Goals: 1. Beautiful bread using my wild Sourdough starter.
                      2. Not too time consuming.
                      3. Consistent results.
                      4. Edible (most important).

Bread Machine Magic: I dusted off my 1990's Hitachi Bread Machine, the instruction manual, and my Bread Machine books. From "Bread Machine Magic" by Linda Rehberg & Lois Conway, I found a recipe called, "San Francisco" Sourdough French Bread".

2/16/19 - 2/18/19 ~
I converted the recipe to metric and used my digital scale to measure the bread flour and starter by gram weight. I measured the salt, sugar, and Active Dry Yeast by teaspoon. Active Dry Yeast, yeah, I know, it's no longer strictly Sourdough but hey, remember my goal of "consistent results".

Dough setting (1 hr 40 min), finished last rise wrapped in a floured tea towel and a 2 qt pot. Baked in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven per Kitchn's Emma Christensen instructions step 18 - 24.

Loaf made in the Hitachi Bread Machine bread setting (4 hr 10 min). The Man said this was the best loaf so far but, hey, it's not pretty, remember Goal #1, "Beautiful bread".

2/21/19 - 2/22/19 ~
Bread Tool: Proofing basket - Banneton, Brotform - whatever you want to call it. It's made out of rattan "cane". I like it.

My friend Sandee suggested using parchment paper to help transfer the dough from the proofing basket into the smokin' hot (preheated to 500°) Dutch Oven. The parchment paper sling is working nicely, I haven't gotten burned, yet. By the way, the Dutch Oven is used to hold the steam in for the first 35 minutes of baking.

2/21/19 ~
This bread machine dough was created with a 24-hour leaven, it was supposed to be more flavorful/sour. The Man and I couldn't really tell the difference though it did seem a bit chewier. The Man called it "rubbery", in a good way, I think.

Better Bread: I think I have finally gotten my basic Sourdough bread-making figured out. The bread machine works the dough first (1 hr 40 min), when the machine beeps I do some fancy hand movements with the dough to firm it up into a tight ball (5-10 minutes), then plop it into the proofing basket, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. I bake the next day (45 min). Oh, and it's strictly wild sourdough now, no additional Active Dry Yeast.

Almost daily bread:

 4/9/19 ~

4/13/19 ~
The "discard" dough does not go to waste. Whole wheat crackers and Grissini (Italian Bread Sticks).

 4/15/19 ~

 ✓Bread goals met.