Sourdough bread can be one of the most complicated things you do in your kitchen, or it can be one of the simplest. I vote for option B. Want to know how?
You've probably heard of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I laughed when I first heard about this book. I thought it was a joke. But they don't really mean five minutes total. They mean five minutes of hands on time. The basic premise it this:
1) You mix up a big batch of high-moisture, no-knead dough.
2) You keep it in the fridge, waiting for whenever you need it over the course of several days.
3) When you want to bake a loaf, you pull off a hunk of dough, shape it into a loaf, let it rise for a bit, and bake it.
You can do this the same exact way with sourdough, provided you have a happy starter going. The only difference is that you are using sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast when you mix your dough. Here's how you do it:
Sourdough Bread in Five Minutes A Day
Yield: 3-4 small to medium loaves. This recipe is easily doubled.
3 c. filtered water
1.5 c. active sourdough starter (fed within the last 8 hours, ideally)
1-1.5 T. sea salt (depending on how salty you like your bread)
up to 6.5 cups flour (I start with one cup of unbleached flour, and use whole wheat for the rest)
1. In a large container or bowl that will fit in your refrigerator, stir together water, sourdough starter, and sea salt.
2. Add flour, one cup at a time, stirring as you go with a wooden spoon or your hands (messy, but efficient!). Don't add too much flour; you want the dough to be fairly wet. Don't knead it, just stir until the flour is incorporated.
3. Put it in the fridge, covered but not tightly sealed, for a day or so.
4. When you want to bake, sprinkle some unbleached white flour over the surface of the dough and pull off a hunk of dough about the size of a small melon. Shape it into a rough round and place it on a piece of parchment paper. (I put the parchment on my pizza peel for easy loading onto my pizza stone. A rimless cookie sheet would work too.) Rub the top of the loaf with a little unbleached flour.
5. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes to two hours. (I've left it much longer and it's been fine.) It might spread out a lot, but it will still taste good.
5. Preheat the oven to 400 or 450 degrees F, with a pizza stone on the top rack (if you have one) and a rimmed cookie sheet or broiler pan on the bottom rack. Let it preheat for a good 30 minutes before baking.
6. Bring a cup or two of water to a boil. Slash the loaf with a sharp knife in an X shape or diagonally.
7. Load the bread (and parchment) on the pizza stone, or bake on a cookie sheet. Pour the boiling water into the pan you placed on the bottom rack and shut the oven door. (The steam will make the crust nice and crusty.)
8. Bake until the crust is brown but not burnt, and the loaf feels firm when you push on it. (This usually takes 45 minutes to an hour for me, depending on the size of the loaf.)
9. Let cool at least partially, slice, and eat! To keep the crust crisp, store the bread on a cutting board, cut side down, covered with a clean kitchen towel. Or for convenience (but a softer crust), slice the whole thing and place it in a bread bag.
10. Repeat steps 4-9 anytime you want to bake a loaf, over the course of 5 days. When you run out, mix up another batch right away for an endless supply of delicious sourdough bread! (That way you don't have to wash the container.)
Have you ever tried this method? What do you think?
This is part of Fight Back Friday.