Monday, July 6, 2015

Simple Sourdough Loaves

Simple Sourdough Loaves – Plain and Special

Wow, where did that last half loaf of bread go? We were suddenly down to the last few slices and not just miles but weeks away from any bakeries. This simple one-day sourdough recipe came to the rescue. It’s a cheater sourdough, with 2 teaspoons of yeast and a big pinch of baking soda goosing the rise from my starter into two-rise/one-day action rather than the usual two-day production.

The recipe yields two large loaves, a perfect invitation excuse to play with the procedure a bit. Half of the dough baked uncovered in a well-greased glass loaf pan. The other half baked covered in a small, parchment-lined, preheated Dutch oven. Surprisingly the crust and crumb were near identical, though the round loaf from the Dutch oven required some additional time uncovered to brown the crust and reach 190 degrees internal temperature.

A full recipe provides one loaf to enjoy for several days and another to hold in the freezer. By day three that first loaf had dried out enough to make toast, crostini, bread pudding, croutons or bread crumbs the best uses. For a second batch of the recipe I baked one standard loaf plus two smaller mini loaves. The mini loaves included chopped walnuts and a mixture of fresh herbs from the boat’s container garden. Those simple additions turned this ordinary sourdough white bread into something special.

The first small loaf was an immediate hit at an impromptu happy hour gathering on the dock at Baranof Warm Springs. The aroma alone of freshly baked bread will usually guarantee a positive reception, but half slices from this loaf had everyone reaching for seconds while commenting on the delicious, unusual flavor. It paired nicely with a homemade kiwi/lime marmalade (thanks Jean L.). A day later scrumptious tea sandwiches, layered with herb-flavored cream cheese, fresh salmon lox , red onion rings and capers, finished off that second small loaf. Now it’s time to bake more bread!

Easy Sourdough White Bread Loaf
From Simply Sourdough – The Alaska Way, a 48-page pamphlet by Kathy Doogan

2 teaspoons dry yeast
1½ cups warm water
1 cup sourdough starter, refreshed and rested
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 ½ - 5 cups AP flour, divided (more or less as needed)
½ teaspoon baking soda

In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water; set aside for until you see some activity. Add starter, sugar, salt and 3 ½ cups of the flour. Beat well to incorporate all of the flour; transfer to a lightly greased bowl, cover loosely and let rise in a warm place until doubled, roughly 1 to 2 hours.

Stir baking soda into 1 cup of flour and mix into the dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until dough is smooth and springy. Divide dough in half and form each into the desired shape, loaf or round. Place in greased 9”x5”x3” pans (glass or metal). Cover loosely and let rise again for 1 to 1½ hours. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, when crust is lightly browned and internal temperature reaches roughly 190 degrees. Remove from pans and cool on baking rack before slicing.

Makes 2 large loaves or 4 mini loaves

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh mixed herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil, Italian parsley, etc.)

Add the chopped nuts and herbs after the first rise. Knead a bit to distribute evenly. Then add the remaining flour with baking soda and knead thoroughly. (At this point I split the dough into 2 or 4 equal portions, knead separately for ease of preparation – my hands get tired otherwise!) Continue as with the larger loaves, though the mini loaves will take less time in the oven. Use a thermometer to check.

The quantity of flour will vary depending on the weather; avoid adding more than needed to achieve a smooth, soft dough after the second knead.

Two large loaves are typical, but I prefer to bake 4 small mini loaves, perfect for hostess gifts along with a pot of kiwi/lime or fig jam, or to use as a base for appetizers with crab spread, a variety of cheeses, or bacon/onion jam.

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