Sunday, February 28, 2010

Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Loaf (Low-Knead)

This loaf is dedicated to the entire country of Chile, where they bake some of the most marvelous bread (pancito) in the world.  For Chile:

...Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde, 
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo: 
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera...
P. Neruda 

I think that Pablo often wrote in green to symbolize hope.  I would hope that that's true but all of my hope is with the Chilenos right now.   

This loaf was inspired by the recent New York Times article and video featuring Mark Bittman and Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery.  While this loaf is not NO-knead, it is low-knead with minimal kneading and longer time to rest, rise, and ferment. 

Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Loaf
(Printable Recipe)
1 cup warm water
¾ teaspoon active dry yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
1 cups sourdough starter 
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup wheat germ
¼ cup wheat bran
½ cup bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
A little oil or butter (to grease bread pan)

First, take your starter out of the fridge.
Proof yeast in 2 tablespoons water and ½ a teaspoon of sugar. 
While the yeast is proofing, combine 1 cup of whole wheat flour with the wheat germ, wheat bran, and bread flour.  Spoon out 1 cup of your sourdough starter into a large mixing bowl.  Add flour mixture, water, yeast (which should be nice and bubbly by now) and stir. 
The dough will look wet.  Let it rest like this for about 15-20 minutes.  While it is resting measure out ½ cup of whole wheat flour and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Mix them together and add to the dough. 
Don’t be ashamed to get in there with your hands and give it a little knead to incorporate it all.
Once all the flour is incorporated, let the dough rise for 3-4 hours.  Take time now to feed your starter and let it work outside of the fridge for at least 2 hours.  When you come back to the dough it will be doubled and you’ll see some bubbles like those throughout sourdough starter.  
Oil a bread pan.  
Flour your surface generously using up to 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour as you knead the dough for no more than 5 minutes.   
After you knead, place the dough into the bread pan and let rise for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Before you pop the loaf into the oven, slash the top about 1/4 inch down.

I slashed three diagonal lines.. as you can see.

Finally, cook for 40-45 minutes until bread sounds hollow when you tap it with your finger and the internal temperature is 180°F.

This is by far the most sourdoughy sourdough loaf yet!  I think we got a nice sour loaf because of the maturity of our starter and the use of whole grains, which brings out the twang.  

I concocted this recipe entirely in my mind.  This dough turned out as wet as I would want it.  Next time, I will use a little less water -- definitely using the 2 tablespoons of yeast-proofing water from a pre-measured cup of water rather than adding an additional 2 tablespoons on top of the cup.  

The crumb came out super moist.  

Mark Bittman and Jim Lahey say that "a 6-year-old could do it" in the NYTimes video (linked earlier in post).  I believe that not only could a 6-year-old use Jim Lahey inspired methods to bake bread but a 6-year-old should have the opportunity to bake bread.  And said 6-year-old must take part is as many kitchen experiences as are safe and reasonable for the grown-ups facilitating them.  Check out the children's book Everybody Bakes Bread by Norah Dooley.  Learning to cook is cooking to learn.  

- La Saritah

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Beets - They're the New Spinach, You Know

On August 4, 2008, the New York Times published an article glorifying beets (check it out!). I couldn't have been more excited. You see, I absolutely love beets. My obsession began in Australia during Spring 2008 while I was studying abroad in Sydney. The Australians absolutely love beets (or, as they say, "beetroot") - on their burgers, in their salads, everywhere. It was fabulous.

I was a little upset to return home to the US in May only to find that beets were not everywhere I turned. The only thing worse that summer was my internship. 

[Long story short, I'm not meant to be an investment banker.]

Enough about me, let's talk about BEETS! They're the new spinach, after all. That fact is something that Sar and I like to remind each other of often. Here's why:

- Beets are a fantastic source of folate (a b vitamin), potassium, magnesium, and iron.
- Not only does their red hue make them beautiful, the pigment contains powerful antioxidant compounds called betalains.

Aside from being extremely nutritious, beets also contribute to the world's sweet tooth.  1/3 of sugar globally comes from sugar beets, which have a particularly high sugar content.
The idea to bake Beet Bread came to me on Valentine's Day when Dennis and I were discussing good Valentine's lunch options. We settled on Beet Risotto, but found a recipe for Beet Bread that I knew I would try in the future. The future came on Wednesday evening and Dennis was kind enough to come over and help out with the process. Beets are a totally romantic vegetable.

Beet Bread 
(adapted from this recipe from

1/4 tsp yeast (Active Dry)
1 cup bread flour
1 cup warm water

Mix these together in a large bowl and allow to sit at room temperature, tightly covered, for 12-16 hours. If you're planning on making the bread in the evening after work, it's a great idea to wake up at 6am, stir together the flour, water, and yeast, and then go back to bed for another hour. That's what I did. It was magical.  It's also why I don't have any pictures; 6 am is far too early to be a photographer.

The Rest of the Ingredients (for lack of a better word):
1 cup roasted, peeled, and pureed beets 
***I took care of this the night before.  Here's how to roast beets:
- cut large beets in half
- place beets on aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper
- optional: roast 1 or 2 whole cloves of garlic along with the beets
- wrap the beets in the foil and place in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes
- peel cooked beets after allowing to cool
- place beets in a blender and give 'em a whirl

If you don't need all of your beets to make the 1 cup of puree, eat the rest on salads drizzled with olive oil and vinegar ***

1/2 cup 8 grain cereal mix (we use Bob's Red Mill brand)
1/3 cup warm water
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour *as needed
3/4 tsp yeast (the same type used in the starter)
1 3/4 teaspoon salt

When you're home from work, uncover the starter and take a look at it.  It will be nice a bubbly.  Dump the beets in and stir it up until it's all combined.  In a small bowl, combine the 8 grain cereal and water.  Stir it up and let it sit for 10 minutes to hydrate the grains.  

Meanwhile, add the yeast and whole wheat flour to the beet mixture and stir until completely combined.  To the left, you will see that Dennis took on this task.  Stir in the multigrain mix and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.  These 10 minutes give the yeast some time to munch on the sugars in the beets and flour before the salt is added.

This resting period is the perfect time to clean off the surface where you'll knead the dough. It's also a good time to get started on dinner because you haven't eaten since lunch and you're hungry. So get going on that - no one likes a grumpy bread baker (especially not Dennis).

Once everyone, including the dough, has had time to settle down, start stirring in the bread flour one cup at a time.   When you can no longer stir the dough with a spoon (after adding the first cup), dump the entire contents onto your kneading surface and knead the flour into the dough.  You'll think it will never happen, but the dough will get sticky again and you'll need to add at least a half cup of the remaining flour.  I didn't need the full 2 cups, so you should just go based on the texture of the dough.  Mine remained sticky, but relatively easy to handle.  I kneaded it for about 7 minutes or so, until everything was evenly incorporated.

Oil a bowl and roll the dough around in the bowl to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise until doubled - about 1 1/2 hours.  Continue eating dinner, watching Jeopardy, etc.

Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and cut it in half.  
[Sidenote:  When I make the bread again, which I will, I'm not going to do this part.  I'm going to punch the dough down, let it rise again, and then bake it at high heat in a covered pot in the oven.  I'll let you know how that goes.]
Shape each half into a ball and place on a piece of parchment paper dusted with cornmeal or semolina flour.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another 1 1/2 hours, or so.

The dough will look like boobs.  Embrace it.  It's okay to giggle.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and place a baking sheet into the oven to heat it along with the oven.  Additionally, place a cast iron pan on the bottom of the oven - we're going to use this to create steam so that the bread is nice and chewy.  Boil some water on the stove while the oven pre-heats.

When the bread is ready to bake, slide the parchment onto the baking sheet and pour about 1 cup of the boiled water into the cast iron pan.  Close the oven door and allow the bread to bake for 30-35 minutes.  If you have an instant-read thermometer, check that the center of the bread has reached 180 degrees F.

The crust will still be beautiful and pink and inside of the bread becomes a warm carmel color with specks of beets running through. 

It's absolutely delicious toasted with PB for breakfast.  I also suggest using it to make a grilled cheese sandwich with sharp cheddar and maybe a bit of apricot jam, just to shake things up a bit.  Go bake some - even the most hardcore beet-haters wont be able to resist this bread.

- Lil

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Banana Sourdough Pancakes

Alternate Post Titles:

"When turning a ruined loaf into breadcrumbs isn't enough: How to make up for your over-salting of the would-have-been awesome multigrain bread to your best-friend/roommate"


"Another suggestion of what to do with your sourdough starter instead of throwing it out: The sequel to Sourdough Pizza"

Banana Sourdough Pancakes seems more succinct.

Before I get into the pancakes, here are some things I have learned about caring for your sourdough starter in the refrigerator...
  • Stir daily.
  • Feed once weekly -- 8 oz warm water and 8 oz unbleached all-purpose flour if you have a kitchen scale. By volume, about 1 cup water to 2 cups flour.
  • Allow your starter to work for at least 2 hours after each weekly feeding before popping it back into the fridge.
  • Be patient. Every week this starter smells increasingly "winey" and produces a more "sour" dough.

Here's the little lactobacillus after it's weekly feeding...
...but before mixing and resting out of the fridge.

Now for the Banana Sourdough pancakes. For the whole recipe you need: flour (whole wheat and all-purpose), starter, water, sugar, baking soda, salt, buttermilk (or milk+vinegar), and banana. It takes about 15 minutes in the morning but you need to start the sponge the night before.

Start by making this sponge the night before:
1/2 cup starter straight from the fridge
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk (I used milk with a 1/2 tsp of white vinegar because we didn't have buttermilk around)
1 tablespoon sugar
The batter should be thick
Let it sleep overnight in the fridge while you dream about Sourdough Pancakes.

In the morning, add:
1 large egg
2 tablespoons applesauce**
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

**You can use butter or vegetable oil in place of the applesauce. If you use applesauce, make sure to butter (unsalted) or spray your griddle with a nonstick spray.

Mix all the ingredients together. Then, chop up a banana right into the batter. Fold it in gently.

Mind blowing fact (don't think about this while you are chopping because you might cut off a finger): BANANAS ARE THE WORLDS LARGEST HERB. This has to do with the fact that the banana "tree" is technically regarded as an herbaceous plant, not a tree, since the stem isn't wood. The yellow thing you love, peel, and eat is undoubtedly a fruit containing seeds (i.e. tomato) but commercially grown banana plants are sterile so the seeds are reduced to little black specks.

That being said, adding banana is totally optional. I used one banana for this batch but could have gone much heavier on it. My ideal pancake is 51% fruit. I exercised restraint only because I wanted to taste the sourdough pancake on it's own. In my opinion, adding fruit (or herbs, in this case) to pancakes exponentially increases their deliciousness. If I was feeling really sweet I would have added some chocolate chips too.

When adding fruit to pancakes you have to ask yourself the age old question: To stir into the batter or to drop onto the half cooked griddlecake? Personally, I go back and forth. I waffle, if you will. Sometimes I stir the fruit into my batter and other times I drop it on top. Depends on my mood and whether or not everybody in my pancake eating party wants fruit. Sometimes (especially if I am dropping bananas or larger sliced strawberries on top) I put small drops of batter on top of each banana slice exposed -- by doing that I have found that post-flip the fruity-sugars don't burn onto the pan before the cake is cooked.

Unspoken Perfect Pancake Rule: ONLY FLIP ONCE. Cook your pancakes on a low-medium heat until they are full of those bubbles. Having your griddle at the right temperature is crucial. I check if the griddle is hot by letting a drop of water fall onto the pan. If it sizzles I know my surface is warm enough. I like them to be lightly golden around the edges before I go in for the big flip.

Serve with a cup of Hot Cinnamon Spice Harney Tea

If you are too financially unstable for real Vermont Maple Syrup (no shame) these were awesome with cinnamon-sugar.

This recipe yields four, fluffy Sourdough Pancakes that were about 6 inches in diameter (bigger than my face). Lily and I had to take a break between pancakes in order to finish them. It was a royal way to start a Tuesday.

I adapted this recipe from several that I had read but mostly this King Arthur Flour Waffle recipe. You could definitely use this Pancake recipe in your waffle iron. Try it! And let us know how it goes.

Happy Tuesday!

P.S. As for the bread mishap that turned into a bread crumb project-- look for a post from Lil on that in the near future.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chocolate Sourdough Improv.

On Valentine's Day, nothing says "I love you" like chocolate, cut flowers, and candy message hearts (specifically Fax me). Personally, I feel that bread is a lot more like love than any of those classic Valentine's gifts. Like love, bread requires time, heat, and proper kneading.

Nothing seemed more fitting for Valentine's Day than a boule of chocolate sourdough. I read a couple of different recipes for choco-sourdough bread. Naturally, I decided I would take the Pain au Levain recipe I used for the first sourdough and alter it to suit my Valentine's purposes.

First, I mixed
2 1/2 cups ripe starter
1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups of all-purpose flour
and 1 1/2 cups warm water

I read that using rye and whole wheat give sourdough an extra twang.

Then, I waited about 30 minutes. Autolyse!

When I went to knead the dough and found it was quite wet. I added about 1/4 a cup of all-purpose flour while kneading. Then, I kneaded in the 3 tsp salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup cocoa. The dough felt awesome and smelled delicious. Suddenly and unexpectedly, some sort of a reaction occurred. The dough became super sticky. SCIENCE!! I startled Andy awake to flour my mess that was supposed to be perfect Be Mine Sourdough bread.

Feeling disheartened, I generously floured (with Andy's help) a cotton dishtowel and let the dough rise there for about 1 hour. Since I had committed to babysit this evening (under the impression that Andy would already be in Peru), I left Andy to chop a bar of 70% cocoa and fold it into the dough. Love is trust. He shaped the dough into a boule and placed it into Lil's dutch oven to rise until I returned home (7 hours later).

When I got home, we revved up the oven to 450°F and popped the loaf in the oven -- cooking uncovered for 20 minutes with steam and 25 covered without (45 minutes total).

How to turn your oven into a sauna: To create a steamy oven place a cast iron pan on the bottom rack of the oven as it preheats. Meanwhile, boil some water on the stovetop. You may want to turn on a fan for this. It's getting hot in herre. Then, as the oven comes up to 450°F put the boule in (uncovered) as you pour about 1 cup of water into the cast iron pan. ¡CUIDATE! This creates a lot of steam so work quickly and carefully. Avoid steam burns. If you have a spray bottle (we don't) you can also squirt some water in there. Regardless, don't steam for more than 20 minutes or you'll get a tough crust. We are going for chewy, not tough. You'll find this activity is easier if you are an octopus-chef or with the help of a friend/lover.

To be super adorable I slashed a heart (about 1/4 inch deep) into the top crust before it went into the oven. I can't take credit for the idea -- I saw it on the loaves at Orwasher's Bakery.

XOXO Happy Valentine's Day!

Love, Sarah

P.S. As we are biting into the bread Andy told me he decided a bar of chocolate was too much and only put in "3/5" of a bar. It's delicious but for an extra sweet Valentine's Day I would recommend some peanut butter or nutella.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Multigrain Bread - A Refrigeration Experiment

I'll start today's blog post (blost) with the moral of the story: not all experiments turn out the way you would have liked. The Multigrain Bread Experiment started at about 8pm on a week-night, which is not a good time to start any type of bread experience. I should have known, but alas, I was feeling a bit like Sar and decided to take on the challenge and make a few changes to the recipe I was using.

First change: I was planning on halving the recipe. We didn't have 2 bread pans*, and the recipe made 2 loaves. I'm good at math - you'd think I could deal with successfully halving a bread recipe. I cannot. I put in all of the yeast and all of the honey and had to go into emergency mode and re-add the other half of the rest of the ingredients. Not only did I fail to halve the recipe, I also managed to extend the ingredient-adding/mixing experience, which should have been 5 minutes (max), to about half an hour. It might have been even longer. Naturally, this led to the second change to the recipe.

Second change: I needed to put the dough in the 'fridge to slow the rising process so that I could continue baking it after work the next day. Sounds like a good plan, right? I get to sleep AND make bread - best of both worlds. I even took a picture of the dough in the 'fridge:
Welcome a little further into our lives. Someday we'll introduce you to the other appliances.

Fast forward to the next day. When I cam home, I found that Sar and Andy had taken the dough out of the 'fridge not a moment too soon. Looking back, it probably should have been taken out about 6 hours prior to baking, just to make sure that it really came back to room-temp before shaping and the second rise. As cold as it was, the dough did rise pretty successfully in the fridge and as it warmed up. The finger print you see in the center of the dough is the test to see if it's risen well. If you can push your finger into the dough about a quarter of an inch and it stays imprinted, it's finished rising.

I split this dough in half and shaped the first half into a loaf. It was still pretty cold, but I had high hopes that it would magically warm up and double again in the pan. (Spoiler Alert: It didn't).

Third change: In order to make up for the lack of a second bread pan, I turned the other half of the dough into baseball-sized rolls. These rose more successfully than the loaf because they were handled more and were smaller, so they had a more opportunity to warm up and get groovin'.

In order to avoid being forced to eat bread for every meal for the next week, I froze the loaf (another experiment...I'll update you on how that one turns out...) and we ate the rolls with soup, with breakfast, etc. The multigrain really adds texture, flavor, and nutrition. Hopefully the loaf will be just as good as the rolls, if not quite as light and airy.

[Since I'm up in CT rather than down on the UES, I don't have the cookbook to cite the recipe that I used. I'll post it as soon as I'm back in the city, I promise!]


* Note: Due to my mother's generosity, we now have 2 bread pans! Yippee!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Superbowl-Sourdough Pizza

Since the last sourdough episode, we have kept the starter in the fridge so that we don't have to feed it everyday. It's been well-behaved and chilled out. Even when starter is stored in the refrigerator it has to be taken out once a week, fed, left to eat for about 2 hours on the counter, and then put back into the fridge. Instead of throwing out all but 4 ounces of the starter we are going to try to use it every week.

I read a recipe for Sourdough Pizza Crust and what better Sunday to make pizza than Superbowl Sunday. Making pizza is NOT complicated. Basic pizza has four parts: a dough, a sauce, a cheese, and additional toppings. Most of these can be purchased pre-made. Around New York you can get pre-made pizza dough at most grocery stores (in a past pizza experience, Dennis picked some up at Agata & Valentina), and most local pizza shops will sell you a ball of dough.

Superbowl-Sourdough Pizza Crust (recipe straight from -- direct link to recipe above)
1 cup sourdough starter, unfed straight from the fridge
1/2 cup tap water
2 1/2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

Combine all ingredients and let rest for about 4 hours or until doubled. We made two pizzas so we divided the dough in half, and shaped. Then, let it (and us) rest for 15 minutes before we continued to shape. Letting the dough rest between shaping gives the gluten time to relax. When the gluten is relaxed, it will be less likely to tear and so you will be less frustrated trying to get it to stretch.

Red sauce:
About half of a 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
2 - 3 whole cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

Stir olive oil, tomato products, and whole garlic cloves in a warm sauce pan. Keep flame low (near-impossible on our stove) and add the sugar, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer until it smells awesome. Fish out the garlic before serving -- if you are brave, pop them in your mouth and eat them to fend off illnesses, vampires, and your significant other (especially if you are dating a vampire).

White sauce:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion (or half of a large one) diced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup light cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat oil over medium flame. Add garlic onions and cook until translucent (3 minutes). Pour in the cream. Stir and add the thyme, salt and pepper.

Note: Both sauces should be cool when you apply them to your dough.

On the red pizza: parmesan and fresh mozzarella

On the white pizza: parmesan, ricotta and fresh mozzarella

On the red pizza: basil

On the white pizza: parsley

Here they are, assembled and uncooked:
Bake at 450°F for about 15 minutes or until the toppings are melted to your liking.
For a crispier crust, cook the crust before adding the toppings for 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven, and then add the sauce, cheese, etc.  Continue to bake until crust is totally browned and toppings melty. 

Serve with some of these Touchdown Rice Krispie Treats for dessert.

- Sarah

Thursday, February 4, 2010


The best thing about having a bread baking blog is always having bread around.  The worst thing about having a bread baking blog is always having so much bread around.

This morning there was still one slice of the Oatmeal Maple Honey Loaf, half of the Partially Whole Wheat Boule, and never-ending Pain au Levain.  This was an up-hill battle.  No matter how much we love bread, we could not possibly finish all ourselves...or without jazzing it up a bit.

Today, I decided that I would make Split Pea Soup for dinner and finish up the Partially Whole Wheat Loaf by making croutons.  Homemade croutons are so deliciously wonderful - in soup, on salad, or just as a crunchy snack.  Check those suckers out!  And they can swim!

I highly encourage you to make homemade soup because it's almost as rewarding as homemade bread.  Like homemade bread, soup is extremely inexpensive and so much better for you without preservatives and additives and the like.

Go forth.  Simmer some soup and crunch some croutons.  I'm not going to give you the soup recipe since I'm not in love with it, but here's how easy it is to whip up a batch of croutons:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice up whatever amount of day (or more) old bread into 1 inch cubes.

Toss these into a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the croutons are golden brown and crunchy.

Eat up!

Options: Sprinkle on some garlic salt, red pepper flakes, any combination of herbs, chop up some fresh garlic and toss with cubes before baking, or add (the best option of all)...CHEESE!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Partially Whole Wheat Boule

One way in which Sar and I are different is that she loves to wing it when it comes to cooking and I much prefer following directions.  Sure, I can throw together stir fries and things of that nature with no recipe, but when it comes to something like baking, not following a recipe can give me real anxiety.  Nothing is more upsetting than a failed attempt at a baked good.

However, when a recipe calls for 3 cups of bread flour and all you have is 2, one must improvise.  I added a cup of whole wheat flour, said a little prayer, and then went for it.  Like the first loaf, this one used the no-knead technique described by Jim Lahey in his book, My Bread.  I know that we mentioned how easy the technique is in the first post, but let me elaborate on exactly how wonderfully easy it was:

1) I stirred together the flours, water, olive oil, salt and yeast.  This took two minutes total - one of which was spent debating whether I could handle deviating from the recipe.
2) Sar and I walked around the block, bought a bottle of wine and headed up to our friend's apartment for a mini house-warming party.  
3) Sar and I headed home and went to bed.
4) I woke up at 10am the next day and had some of that Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread with cinnamon sugar for breakfast...yumm.
5) I shaped  the dough into a boule and wrapped it in a beautiful striped tea towel to rest for another hour or two.  This took about 2 minutes.  I even took pictures!

(Isn't this towel great?  We got it at Rainbow for $2.50.  A fantastic purchase - I had to share.)

6) I popped the bread into the oven and 45 minutes later had this (!!!):

There's a little rosemary sprinkled on top of the bread because I wanted to make it Rosemary Olive Oil Bread.  Turns out that I didn't put enough rosemary in/on the dough and it's just more of a Bread than anything else.  The olive oil was definitely helpful, though, since whole wheat flour absorbs more moisture than bread flour.  

The moral of this story is that deviating from a recipe isn't that scary at all.  In fact, with the no-knead method it couldn't be easier.  If you do the math, it's only a total of 4 minutes of real work!   Here's my recipe:  

Partially Whole Wheat No-Knead Loaf
Adapted from Jim Lahey's basic recipe


2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/3 cups cool water (50-60 degrees F)
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil

1) Stir together ingredients and allow dough to rest in a warm place (75 degrees F or so) for 12-18 hours.  It should be a sticky dough, so don't be afraid if it seems wet.
2) Once dough is ready, take it out of the bowl and shape it using extra flour to keep it from sticking to your hands/work surface.  Place the rounded dough onto a cotton towel, fold the towel around the dough, and allow to rest for another hour or two.
3) 30 minutes before the dough is finished resting, place a covered dutch oven or oven-safe pot into the oven and pre-heat it to 475 degrees F.
4) When the oven is heated, carefully turn dough into the pot and cover.  Bake the bread in the covered pot for 30 minutes.
5) Remove the pot cover and continue baking until the bread is a dark chestnut color (15-20-30 minutes longer depending on your oven).
6) Ta Da!  Take your bread out of the oven, revel in it, and let it cool as long as possible before digging in.

Enjoy! - Lil

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Adventures of Sourdough (Volume 1: Pain au Levain)

New York City. Gotham. Empire City. The City so nice they named it twice. The Big Apple. And the big City of small spaces.
Our teeny-tiny apartment fits us, our small herb garden, and our sourdough starter.
Herbs as they appear closest to farther: rosemary, Duck (with grass hair), flat leaf parsley, curly leaf parsley, basil, oregano.

Sourdough starter is a combination of flour, water, and sugar (molasses) that needs to be fed daily. There are a couple of different ways to start it up but I started with rye flour, water, and 1/8 a teaspoon of molasses. It's a better pet than a little dog or a cat (besides Andrew).

Basically, when you first become the proud owner of a sourdough starter you'll be enamored with it -- just like a cute new puppy. After a couple of days of pouring off half of your starter and "feeding" it all-purpose flour and water you'll realize this is a big responsibility. Then, after one particularly exhausting day with the 4's and graduate school, you'll come home to find your sourdough starter has exploded all over the apartment. You can't stay mad because it looks so cute. Plus, there is the promise of fresh Pain au Levain in the future. After one week, your starter should be established -- I have read depending on the warmth of your home this may take longer (patience is an ongoing lesson in bread baking/life) and you are ready to start using it to make breads! You'll know it's ripe when it looks something like this:

with lots of bubbles and creases. It will smell "winey" (especially if you start with rye flour).

I took the Sourdough Starter and Pain au Levain recipe directly from King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. Both were very simple and easy to follow. I highly recommend them. If you don't own the cookbook the King Arthur Flour Baker's Banter blog has useful info for baking your own breads using pre-bought/borrowed starter and the website has an all-encompassing summary called Sour Dough Primer that gives a couple of options for growing your own starter.

Sourdough Slang: definitions are somewhere between Webster's and

Autolyse: Process that "gives naturally occurring enzymes the chance to untangle the gluten, so less mixing is necessary" -- Salt, yeast, sugars, etc if used in your recipe (or anything other than starter, water, and flour) are used AFTER you allow the starter, flour, and water to rest about half an hour.

Retard: Slowing down of your doughs fermentation. After the shaping of your boule, you pop your dough into the fridge (top shelf because that's usually a bit warmer) and retard it for 12, 24, 48.. How long can you wait?

Score: Sometimes called "slashing" this refers to the beautiful markings you'll make onto your dough before it goes into the oven. Maybe circles all around the loaf, maybe an "X" on top. This also aids the loafs expansion in the oven and prevents asymmetrical breaks/splits in the crust. Professional bakers use a baker's lame (pronounced "lahm") but super lame because I just used a sharp knife. Cuts should be about 1/4 inch deep.

Proofing basket: A cradle for your shaped loaf. As you can see, I used a pyrex and a cow-print mixing bowl. We should maybe invest in a proofing basket.. and...

Oven stone: Porous stone used for baking pizzas and hearth breads. The stone draws moisture away from the crust as it bakes making it crisp and crunchy. Upon contact with the oven stone the heat induces a feeding frenzy called an "oven spring" and the loaf rises dramatically.

My recommendations / "What I'll do differently next times"
-- A big, clear container with a tight lid. We transfered from an opaque small to a large clear tupperware after the explosion. This way, you can better track the growth of your baby sourdough starter.

-- A bigger proofing space (or maybe a proofing basket) because my dough outgrew it's space once...

And then twice...

I retarded it in the cow-print bowl and it got even larger in the fridge!

-- Understand autolyse better. I got a little crazy (as I can get when I am combining ingredients) and I started adding the salt before I realized it goes in after resting for 20-30 minutes. Although, looking back, I can't imagine this dough growing any larger. Less gluten formation early on might have been more blessing than curse.

The results speak for themselves:
Oh my Pain au Levain.
I just took a bite. This bread is divine.

I didn't go to yoga tonight because I was eager to finish up this week+ long bread project. Om shanti shanti shanti. Namaste, Sourdough.

- Sarah