April 30th

For a dinner party a few weeks ago, I finally created two perfect loaves of bread. Wholesome and delicious, not too fluffy or too dense. A few of my guests, consumnate bakers themselves, requested the recipe, so here it is!

For dough:
1 tbs active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup warm milk
3 tbs butter, softened
2 tbs honey
2 tbs molasses
2 cups Sourdough Starter
3 tbs wheat germ
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1  cup whole wheat flour
3 cups white bread flour

For kneading and rising and baking:
1/2 -1 cup whole wheat flour (for adding to dough as it is being mixed and for kneading)
olive oil
flax seeds or nuts (optional)

in a large mixing bowl or the bread pan of a bread machine, ( I use our bread machine to mix all the ingredients using the "dough" selection which is #9) dissolve the yeast in the warm water/milk. After it has started to bubble and froth, add all the rest of the dough ingredients. I like to add the wet ingredients (including the starter) first, and then add the flour (which I have pre-mixed with the salt and baking soda). I generally will have an extra 1/2 -1 cup whole wheat flour on the side to gradually add to the dough as it is being mixed if the mixture is too wet. NOTE: Don't be afraid to open the lid and check the dough. If you think the dough is too moist, add additional flour (a tablespoon at a time). The same is true if the dough is looking dry and gnarly. Add warm water (a tablespoon at a time). If you can't judge your dough by looking, stick your finger in and feel the dough. It should be slightly tacky to the touch. The thickness of your sourdough starter can determine how much flour needs to be used. 
 dough at rest after mixing

The dough is properly mixed when it forms a nice elastic ball. When the bread machine has completed the dough cycle (don't leave it in as it will start to bake), remove the dough from the pan to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough several times and form the dough into an oval; cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

After resting, knead dough (see kneading tips below) on a lightly-floured board by pulling the dough towards you and then pushing down and forward with the palms of your hands (kneading gives the bread the elasticity and lets it rise). Knead for about 5 minutes. 

Place the dough in a lightly-oiled large bowl. Rotate loaf so it is evenly coated with olive oil. 

Place a damp towel over the bowl and then cover with plastic wrap (the humidity in the bowl helps in the rising process). Let rise until it doubles in volume (when you can put your finger in the dough and it leaves an indentation and doesn't spring back out- approximately 2-4 hours)


After dough has risen, remove from bowl, and place on a lightly-floured board. Knead in whole wheat flour to feed it one more time before baking. This is the point, if you want to add flax seeds or nuts, to spread them on the kneading table and knead them in. (in these pictures, I have done this on first kneading)

Shape dough into 2 loaf shapes and place on a cookie sheet that is dusted with cornmeal or use Silicone Baking Mats.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 to 2 hours.

shaped into loaves   doubled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake for 20-25 minutes. Take out and brush or spray the top of the bread with olive oil and bake for another few minutes until nicely browned. Remove the bread from oven and place the bread on a  wire cooling rack to cool. Let baked loaf cool for 30 minutes before cutting (this is because the bread is still cooking while it is cooling).

Kneading Dough Hints & Tips:

Lightly dust your work surface with all-purpose flour or bread flour. Place a small mound or a measuring cup of flour near the work surface as you will use this flour to sprinkle over the dough as you knead to prevent sticking. Also lightly dust your hands with flour to keep the dough from sticking to you.
Gather the dough into a rough ball and place on your floured work surface.
When you knead, you will use only the heels of your hands. Push down on dough with your hand heels.
Fold the dough in half. Turn the dough about 45 degrees and knead with your hand heels again. Continue to knead, fold and turn the dough for the required length of time or to the consistency suggested. I usually knead the dough around 5 minutes. Well-kneaded dough should feel smooth and elastic. Press your fingertip into the dough; it should spring back.

This recipe was adapted from two recipes: thanks to the authors for generously sharing their knowledge!!

February 21st

Sava and I went up to the San Juans to stay with my folks for a good chunk of January. There were many delightful thing that happened as a result of this trip: Sava got to really connect with her grandma and papa, I enjoyed some blissful recovery time, we missed a month of icky frozen Virginia weather, we feasted every night (my parents are consummate foodies), and...... perhaps most importantly, I returned home with a sacred jar of sourdough starter, from a batch that mom has been carefully tending for six years. It is my first adventure with sourdough starter, and I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoy having this extra pet around the house... one that needs to get fed every other day with a bit of flour and a dash of sugar. Along with all the new little planties... our brood is growing.
Sourdough Bread & Sourdough Pancakes have been the main focus of experimentation. I have so much to learn.. I have never really baked before. I inherited my mother's hippy discomfort with white flour and sugar, and so much of the pleasure of baking has been denied to me. But this.... living, thing, getting baked into wholesome loaves and fluffy pancakes. I am entranced.

For bread, I stumbled upon a recipe that has been working for me...I will post it in a bit... but I would like to expand my horizons.. does anybody have any amazing recipes they would like to share?

with love, and in search of the perfect bread,