Friday, February 6, 2009

Everyday Sourdough: Day 2

Got your sponge ready? It's time to make the bread dough.

First, take the sponge out of the refrigerator and get it up to room temperature. It should be about double the volume it was last night, and have lots of little bubbles in it.

If it's looking skinny and doesn't have bubbles, you have a problem with the yeasts. Either your starter is dying (did you forget to feed it a couple of times? Did you expose it to heat?) or it hasn't had enough time to ferment. Try leaving it out for a few hours, if it hasn't improved by then, it's time to toss it and start over.

If your sponge is looking good, you can move on.

I use a stand mixer because I am lazy and don't have the arm strength to knead for long periods of time by hand. You're welcome to knead by hand if you like, though.

In your mixer bowl, combine:

The sponge
16 ounces water
8-10 ounces flour (start with 8, add until you get a dough you like the feel of)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix with the paddle until it's well-blended, then switch to the dough hook to knead. I knead for 10-15 minutes, you may need more or less to get good gluten development. To test when the dough is ready, use the windowpane test.

When your dough is kneaded, plop it into a greased bowl (I spray mine down with PAM), cover it with a damp towel, and let it rise until it's doubled. Then form the bread into the loaf shape you want, and let it rise until doubled again.

Preheat your oven to 450 F with your baking stone or pan in it. You want the pan to be nice and hot when you put the bread in. If you want a crispy crust, try steaming the oven.

When the oven is hot, score the loaf and bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 375F and let it bake for 30 more minutes.

Remove your bread and let it cool on a rack (letting it cool on the pan will make the crust mushy on the bottom).

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