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Recipe Challenge: Week 4

When I first began to tackle these tough recipes, I thought I’d knock them out a week at a time and be done with the list by the end of the year. Well, it’s now January and I’m only 60% through the list. I’ve been getting tons of side challenges/requests that have forced me to put the challenge on hold, which is definitely a good thing; the blog began with the 10 challenges but have blossomed into tons more. And I am happy to oblige to each and every request.

But I digress. This week’s attempt is sourdough bread. It is ranked as the 10th hardest thing to make (aka the easiest thing on the list). But out of everything I’ve made in my ENTIRE life, this was, without a doubt, the hardest.
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After weeks of work, I actually did it!

Bread, in general, isn’t too difficult to make; the biggest concern one has is over-kneading the bread, which would make the bread tough and chewy. Sourdough bread, however, is pretty high-maintenance. In order to get that sour flavor, you have to ferment the yeast for about a week (this is called the sourdough starter). That just means that you mix the yeast with warm water and flour and let it sit out. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. So very, very wrong.

Attempt 1: To keep the yeast alive, it has to stay undisturbed in a warm humid place. I first started this recipe back home in Florida over the holidays so keeping it humid wasn’t a problem at all. The yeast was bubbly and lively the whole time it was there. Since I drove to Florida, I figured I could just transport the fermenting yeast in the car all the way back to Atlanta. What a disaster. All the bumps and turns ended up killing the yeast. I knew it was dead because it was no longer bubbly and thick; just one puddle of liquid. I’m really not a bad driver! It’s just too much movement for this yeast to handle for 7 hours.
Attempt 2: I tried to make the starter as soon as I got home. No disturbing the yeast this time! I left the starter to ferment in the kitchen for a few days. No touching, looking at, or breathing near the yeast. But, yet again, a disaster. A cold front came in that week and made the kitchen about 60 degrees, which, you guessed it, killed the yeast. Again. It didn’t help that I kept the starter by the window, too.
So after these two attempts, I was the most discouraged I’d ever been (as a baker, anyway). I really didn’t want to try again. But I refused to let this supposed “easier” challenge get the best of me. So I pressed on!
Attempt 3: After learning from my first two failed attempts, I considered myself a little wiser and well-aware of what could go wrong. So to prevent a third disaster, I kept the starter in the cabinet in the bathroom. Not only is my bathroom humid, it’s also the most interior room of the apartment so there was no risk of it getting to cold. I also closed the vent to prevent the A/C from cooling the room down. Extreme? Maybe, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
And the yeast didn’t die! Hooray! But that’s only part 1 of the process. Next we have to make the dough, which was much easier.  Check out the recipe below:

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Sourdough Starter (courtesy of All Recipes):
Ingredients
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
In large non-metallic bowl, mix together dry yeast, 2 cups warm water, and 2 cups all purpose flour and cover loosely.
Leave in a warm place to ferment, 4 to 8 days. Depending on temperature and humidity of kitchen, times may vary. Place on cookie sheet in case of overflow. Check on occasionally.
When mixture is bubbly and has a pleasant sour smell, it is ready to use. If mixture has a pink, orange, or any other strange color tinge to it, THROW IT OUT! and start over. If a clear to light brown liquid has accumulated on top, don’t worry, this is an alcohol base liquid that occurs with fermentation. Just stir this back into the starter, the alcohol bakes off and that wonderful sourdough flavor remains! Keep it in the refrigerator, covered until ready to bake.
When you use starter to bake, always replace with equal amounts of flour and water mixture with a pinch of sugar. So, if you remove 1 cup starter, replace with 1 cup water and 1 cup flour. Mix well and leave out on the counter until bubbly again, then refrigerate. Sourdough starters improve with age, they used to be passed down generation to generation!
Sourdough Bread Recipe (courtesy of All Recipes):
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn oil
  • 6 cups bread flour
Mix sugar, corn oil, salt, water, and 1 cup of sourdough starter together in a large bowl. Sift the flour and add to the mixture.

Grease or oil the dough. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise overnight.

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Before…

 

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And after! It’s so magical.
 The next day, knead the dough for 10 minutes. Divide in half and shape into desired loaf type (round, long, etc). Allow the dough to double in size.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until bread is golden brown and taps hollow. Turn out to cool on wire racks.
The bread turned out pretty good but it was missing the super strong sour flavor I expect from sourdough. I’m aging the yeast a little longer to see if it gives a better flavor. Also, the crust wasn’t crunchy enough for me, either. I’ll have to work some more on the recipe but it wasn’t bad for my first shot at bread making 🙂

2 comments

  1. I have been trying for years to get this sour flavour in my bread, no success until now.
    I even bought the ready one, no success either. It must be the kind of flour that makes the difference.
    The bread looks appetizing.
    Thanks for sharing

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