This guest post by Oldguy52 and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.
Some of the Wolfpack have expressed an interest in learning my sourdough bread recipe. Since it is a little long to just put in a thread reply, I thought I would ask M.D. If it would be OK to post it as an article on his blog. He has graciously consented, so here is a short story about how an old truck driver ends up a sourdough bread baker and some hopefully easy to follow instructions so anybody that wants to can do it too.
In the summer of ’06 my bride had a very serious stroke that led to both of our retirements. Her’s because she is now pretty severely physically disabled and has mostly lost the ability to communicate normally. Mine because she needed someone to be around to look after her most of the time. I pretty much instantly became the chief cook and bottle washer around our house. Nobody who knows me would have ever predicted this, but here we are.
After selling our business, suddenly after years of working usually more than one job and sometimes more than two, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. This led to finding places like this blog and a few others that got me interested in prepping for what many of us see coming…. Darker days ahead.
With that in the back of my mind I got to thinking it might be good to be able to make my own bread. So, knowing nothing at all about bread making except it looked like a lot of work, I started with a book titled Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which you can get on Amazon if you want, and started making their basic bread recipe. After making this very simple bread for a while I got to thinking some more and realized that if things got bad, I’d not be able to go to the store and get things like yeast, so I began to look into how to make my bread without needing active dry, or instant yeast from the grocery store. This led me to thinking about sourdough, the original ancient way of leavening bread.
About that time, about March of ’09 if I remember correctly, we went to visit a good friend of ours in another town and she offered us a batch of starter for something called Amish Friendship Bread. Having read a bit about sourdough starters already, but not having actually made one yet, I realized that this was pretty much the same thing I had been seeing in the sourdough articles I’d been reading. I wasn’t particularly interested in making the Amish Friendship Bread which is more like a dessert bread, but I thought I might be able to make this work in place of the store bought yeast I had been using up until then in my bread.
The rest as they say is history. The Amish Friendship Bread starter combined with the rest of the recipe I had been using makes a quite heavy, crusty loaf with a moist custardy crumb. Pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I have been very pleased with how this has worked out.
So, enough about me. On to the bread-making….
Oldguy 52’s, Easy Sourdough Bread
Let me first say, I came up with this recipe by combining parts of two other recipes almost three years ago. I haven’t bought any store-bought bread in all that time since, unless we have been away from home for more than a few days. Sourdough bread is not only good tasting and very satisfying, it is good for you. Here’s a link to an article that explains.
With that said, we’ll start with, the Starter…..
It is important that you use no metal utensils or mixing bowls to make this mixture as the reaction with metal will kill the bacteria that make the fermentation process work.
The starter makes that nice sourdough flavor, but most importantly, in this recipe, it replaces the store bought yeast in your bread.
In a 1 gallon zip-lock freezer bag put 1 cup all purpose unbleached flour, one cup sugar, one cup milk. Goosh it around in the bag ’til it’s mostly mixed. I stirred mine up in a big measuring cup and dumped it in the bag. Some small lumps won’t matter. Zip it up and leave it on the counter.
Look for bubbling. Goosh the mixture around in the bag. It probably won’t be bubbling much yet. Leave it out on the counter.
Look for bubbling. It’s probably starting pretty good by now. If so, let the gas out and goosh the bag. Leave it out on the counter.
It should be bubbling pretty well. Let the gas out and goosh the bag
Let the gas out, goosh the bag.
Time to feed the starter again. Just like before, add one cup unbleached all purpose flour, one cup sugar and one cup milk. Close the bag up and goosh it around.
Let the gas out, goosh the bag. It should be making lots of gas now.
Your starter should be ready to use in a batch of bread dough now.
What you have basically done is start a fermentation process, similar to, for example, wine making. Now, when you make a batch of bread dough, the gas created by the fermentation can replace the gas normally created by the yeast in your bread recipe to raise your bread dough.
Once I got to this point, I bought a 32 oz. ceramic crock with a loose fitting cover for my sour dough stater to make it’s home in. I got my crock from King Arthur Flour Company on line for about 22 bucks, but you can use any ceramic, glass or plastic container with a loose fitting lid that will hold at least twice the starter you need for a batch. Once you have the process going well, you can begin storing the starter in your refrigerator. This slows the fermentation process and means the starter will not need to be fed as often. After my starter got going good and I transferred it to it’s home in the crock, I cut the sugar for the starter’s food in half. I feed the starter every time I make a loaf, so since my dough batches are two loaves, my starter gets 1/3 C flour, 1/3 C milk and 1/6 C (half of 1/3 C) sugar, every time I bake. With this amount of food the starter is always about twice as much as I will need to make a batch of dough. If you need a little more just kick it up to ½ C, ½ C and ¼ C when you need to.
On to the bread…..
You want to feed the starter enough so that you will always have about twice as much starter as you will use to make the batch of dough you are going to make on baking day. The part of the starter that you don’t use will go back in the refrigerator to rest after you feed it, until you are ready to make your next batch of dough. The starter should have been all foamy and bubbly looking in the crock before you added and stirred in the new ingredients. If it’s bubbling well, you know it’s working OK. If it’s going to be more than a week between making batches of dough, you may want to feed your starter in between baking days, maybe every fifth day or so, to keep it going strong.
The recipe for the actual bread dough is:
- 12 oz. warm (not hot) water.
- 1 cup of sour dough starter
- 1 Tbsp kosher (course) salt
23 oz flour – My flour mixture is 1 part Dakota Maid, whole wheat flour and 2 parts Dakota Maid, unbleached all purpose flour which is premixed in a big stainless steel stock pot. I like some whole wheat in my bread, but you can use all white (unbleached, all purpose) flour if you like. I use Dakota Maid brand flour, but any other brand should work fine. I use a scale to measure my flour, but if you don’t have one, using the scoop and sweep method 23 ounces will be about 4 cups of flour.
I have a plastic mixing bowl that holds about 5 quarts to mix and store my bread dough.
Pour the warm water in the bowl. Add one cup of your sourdough starter and the Tbsp of salt. Stir it a bit to blend. Now add your flour in all at once and begin to mix. I have a bamboo spoon/spatula sort of thing I like to use. Remember, no metal bowls or mixing utensils. The dough will seem very dry at first and you might question whether it will whet out, but be patient. In a couple minutes it will begin to look like a ball of fairly stiff dough. Once you have mixed it until all the flour is off the bottom of the bowl and it looks uniformly wet, you are done. It should be stiff enough to stand in a ball in the bottom of your bowl. If it spreads out, it’s too wet, work in a bit more flour. You now have enough dough for 2, approximately 1 pound + loaves of bread. Mine weigh in about 1 lb. 5 oz.
Set the bowl of dough somewhere warm, cover it loosely (I just use a sandwich plate on top of my bowl) and leave it sit for 4 to 8 hours to raise. Mine usually takes at least 6. Normally, using ordinary active dry or instant yeast, your dough would raise in a couple hours. The sour dough is slower, but will eventually raise your dough to about twice or a little more the size it was when you started. Once your dough has doubled, you can place your covered bowl of dough in the refrigerator for at least a couple hours. Over night is better. The next morning, you are ready to bake if you want.
Baking Day – Things you will need:
A pizza peel, a baking (pizza) stone, a large flat pan like a broiler pan or a pie pan, a cooling rack, a serrated knife to cut off your hunk of dough, flour and, if you like, cornmeal. If you are using all white flour, the cornmeal is nice on your peel. It is much courser than the flour so your loaf will slide off easier without sticking. If you are using some whole wheat in your flour mixture, the whole wheat is more course than the white flour, so the loaf sticking to the peel is rarely a problem.
Set your pizza peel on the counter. Take a small handful of flour or cornmeal and sprinkle it liberally on the pizza peel near the tapered end. Get your bowl of dough from the refrigerator, take your serrated knife and cut the dough in the bowl in half. Dust a little flour on the half you are going to remove and pull it out of the bowl. Sprinkle more flour on your loaf as you form it into a ball shape, it’ll end up about the size of a grapefruit.
Holding the dough in one hand you will pull the dough to the bottom of the ball, turn the ball 90 degrees and pull the dough down under the ball again and again sprinkling a little more flour as you go until the ball starts to get kind of a smooth “skin” on the top side. This is called cloaking the loaf and shouldn’t take more than a minute or so.
Once the ball is fairly smooth and firm enough to hold it’s shape you can set the ball of dough down on the flour or cornmeal you placed on the pizza peel right near the front edge. I like to set my oven to 150 and then set the pizza peel and dough on the stove top to rest for 40 minutes. Longer is OK, but more than an hour or so and the skin will begin to toughen making slashing more difficult. Put your cover back on your bowl and remaining dough and put it back in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake your next loaf.
Once the dough has been resting for 30 minutes, turn your oven up to 400 to preheat for ten minutes or so. By the time it’s hot, your dough will have rested for 40 minutes. Take a large flat pan, I use a pie pan, and put 8 ounces (1 C) of water in it. Place the pan and water on a rack high enough in the oven so it will not interfere with your loaf as it raises while it bakes. Now take a sharp (!) knife and slash your loaf about ¼ inch deep.
You will learn to control the shape of your finished loaf by how you slash it before putting it in to bake. I like to make five slashes, one on each end and three in the middle, all going the same direction. Once you have slashed the loaf, grab the handle of the pizza peel and with a flick of your wrist, slide the loaf onto the baking stone which should be on one of the lower racks (mine is second from the bottom) in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes at 400. When done take a large spatula, remove the loaf from the oven and place it on a rack to cool. It will take about an hour for the bread to cool enough to firm up and cut nicely.
At our house there are only two of us, so we don’t eat a lot of bread. I usually bake a loaf every two or three days and make a batch of dough every other time. If you are feeding more folks you should be able to easily double the recipe. If you need less, cut it in half and only make enough for one loaf at a time. You may need to adjust your flour a bit to get the right consistency, but this is not difficult. The dough will keep in your refrigerator. I have stored mine for as long as seven days and used it without any problem.
When I make up my second loaf of a two loaf batch, while it is resting prior to baking I add my 12 oz of warm water right back into the bowl, scrape any dough that may have stuck to the sides from the last batch back down into the water, add in my other ingredients, stir it up, cover the bowl and set it out to start raising while my other loaf is resting and then baking. No need to worry about cleaning the bowl. Whatever little bits of dough you scrape down will incorporate easily right back into the new dough and won’t be noticeable at all.
This all sounds complicated when you first read it, but after you get the routine down you’ll find it’s all very simple and doesn’t take much time at all. Have fun and eat hearty my friends.
This contest will end on April 22 2013 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive – A $500 dollar gift certificate courtesy of LPC Survival that is good for $500 off anything on their site. And a Wonder Junior Deluxe hand-mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads,
- Second Place winner will receive – Two cases of MRE’s courtesy of Camping Survival and a $150 gift certificate off of Hornady Ammo from LuckyGunner.
- Third Place winner will receive – a one year subscription to Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable.