Even though I've been baking bread for 25 years or more, there's a lot I don't know about making Sourdough. You can google yourself (No, I mean google 'sourdough', not 'yourself', although that might bring up some surprising results as well!) and find numerous sourdough blogs or websites. Some sourdough bakers are a mite more specific than I when measuring, kneading, baking, etc., but I'm finding that sourdough is pretty sturdy stuff and allows me to be a little more layed back than those folk. The idea is to bake a great loaf of bread, not win a prize at the State Fair, so relax a bit, okay?
Since my previous post, I've learned that you can take a dollop (a cup or so) of the sourdough starter, stir in a bit of water and a larger bit of flour to form a thick battery 'sponge'. Let this sponge sit overnight to get it a-growin'. You can see what it looks like in this photo. (Don't forget, you can click for a closer view.) I'm not guaranteeing that I used the correct proportions...but the stuff worked. That's good enough for me.
When it came time to bake bread, I added one egg, 5/8 cup milk, 1 tsp salt, 2 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon of yeast and enough regular white flour to knead up nicely in my breadmaker. (Remember from my previous post that I use the breadmaker to knead, but not to bake. Once kneaded, I let it rise once, then punch down, and place in a pan, and bake in the oven.) It's rather a hit-and-miss guess on how much flour. Somewhere between 2 and 3 cups. I just check the machine every minute or so to make sure the dough is not too dry, not too wet.
Some extra thoughts...
- The dough will be a bit more wet than regular bread dough. The more moisture, the larger the holes in the crumb.
- REAL sourdough probably doesn't use eggs. I'm not a purist about a lot of things and certainly not about bread. (I hope none of those REAL sourdough specialists read this!)
- Allowing the sponge to ferment about twelve hours helps the bread develop a very, very good flavor. (This is gonna be a YUM-YUM experience!)
- When you are ready to place the loaf in the oven, cut slashes in the top with either a sharp knife or kitchen shears. This allows the bread to rise a bit more in the oven without ripping itself apart. I could have done a better job here.
- A thermometer helps determine the optimum baking time. I wait until the bread has baked about 23 minutes in a 400 degree oven before putting in the thermometer and completing the baking until the interior temp is 200 degrees.
- I eat more bread now. That may not a good thing.