Monday, February 8, 2010

Sweet Sourdough Starter!

(Continued from the post "A Story of Starter")

After 11 long days of adding and subtracting flour, water, salt, and the combination thereof, I finally had sourdough starter. And boy, what a beautiful thing it was! After a few days it developed that yeasty, smelly odor so reminiscent of the famed sourdough bread that originated so long ago.

So following up, we now have about 1110-g of starter. Chef Coumont's recipe then calls for the following, for two 2-kg round loaves:

720 g of the starter
2.5 kg stone ground flour (I used good quality bread flour)
1.75 L water
40 g unrefined sea salt

Having enough common sense to know that almost seven pounds of flour won't fit in my Kitchen Aid UltraPower stand mixer, I split everything in two. And as always, a scale was ABSOLUTELY necessary. The remaining starter can be cycled as described in the previous post for about 2-3 days before achieving the status of ready-to-use starter again. This way, if you run a bakery, you won't have to wait another 11 days. Not having the manpower or time to do so, my remaining starter met an untimely demise.

So here's my recipe, whittled down to a more manageable size.

360 g starter
1.25 kg bread flour
875 mL water
20 g salt

Make sure these ingredients are WARM! (We're looking for a range of 77-81°F) You can keep your oven on a low preheated temperature, if you're not opposed to expending the extra energy, or keep your fires going in the fireplace with a little extra wood.

Now, place all the ingredients in the mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment and knead at low speed for three minutes. Then, knead at high speed for another two and another five at low. Leave the dough to rest for an hour and a half at temperatures ranging from 81-83°F. During this time, turn the machine on in three second intervals every fifteen minutes or so. Therefore, you'd do this six total times.

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Next, you move the lump of dough to a floured worktop to be "boxed." This is difficult to explain in words, which is while I'll include a few illustrations below to clarify. You'll want to push your dough to a thickness of two or so inches and then stretch it into a square shape. Fold the four corners into the center.

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Next, take the resulting four corners and fold them likewise into the center.

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Press firmly into the center with the palm of your hands to firmly seal the 8 corners. Flip the dough so that the sealed corners are face down and place the dough in a linen-lined bread basket. The dough now needs to proof between 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, depending on the desired level of activity. (The longer you let it sit, the more acid is produced.)

When you're ready to bake, make sure to have preheated your oven to 465°F with a baking stone inside. You'll also want to make sure you have a heatproof dish with a small amount of water inside as well, to keep a nice, crispy crust.

Place your dough onto an oven peel and razor blade the top with a few criss-cross marks and give the loaf your signage. Gently slide the loaf into the oven onto the stone and bake for an hour and ten minutes. (Yup, this bad boy is HUGE!)

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Wait a few hours before slicing, and enjoy!

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but much like boeuf bourginon, this is the kind of thing you make with a lot of love. Think about those you love when you cook it, and really channel that into your kneading, measuring, and waiting. It's well worth it. And since the starter is based off of the bacteria in its environment, it breathes much of what you and your cohabitants do. It really gets you thinking about the ways in which you connect with your food--fascinating!

Keep it classy, y'all!

<3 Davey

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