The search for sourdough part 2

My first attempt at sourdough was less than amazing.  It was flat and not as sourdough-y as I wanted.  This time, I wanted a nice crusty loaf with a soft interior that could be used for a solid sandwich bread.  Packaged along with my replacement sourdough starter was a small pamphlet with feeding instructions and a few basic recipes.  The first one was Rustic Sourdough Bread and looked like a super basic loaf and a good place to start.

One of my biggest problems with I first started baking bread was adding too much flour to the dough in order to make it “workable”–whatever that meant.  I’ve since learned that dough will become less sticky as it is kneaded and adding more flour at the beginning will only lead to sadness and a dry loaf.


I added only a touch of flour to this dough and it came together despite being a fairly wet dough.  Just keep working on the dough and trust in the gluten development.  And commit to having nasty dough covered hands by the end of the experience.  Your hands are washable.

After  a couple of rises and a bake, the bread was perfect.  I made these two freeformish loaves but I’ve since made this a few times and am now usually baking it in a 8×4 loaf pan to give myself nice sandwich slices for lunches.

I’ve also been halving the recipe since this bread does not keep for long.  Its kind of a shame but its so delicious we usually end up finishing a loaf in the few days we have with it.  This is also a super easy dough and has become a standard twice a week bake here the last few weeks.

bread

 

The One Loaf Sourdough Option

1/2 cup fed sourdough.  You’ll probably end up discarding another 1/2 cup from your feeding but I find its easier to dump 1/2 cup of starter than an entire loaf of bread.

3/4 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

generous 1 teaspoon salt

300 grams AP flour

Combine all ingredients and knead until the dough comes together and forms a smooth ball.  Place in an oiled bowl to rise until doubled (about 90 minutes).  Turn out and fold a few times to gently deflate.  Shape into a loaf and place in an 8×4 loaf pan.  Cover and allow to rise for about an hour (it won’t double but it will rise a bit). Preheat oven to 425 near the end of the second rise.  Slash tops and bake for 20-25 minutes until nicely golden brown.  Remove from oven and turn out of loaf pan and allow to fully cool.

Herbs de Provence Crackers

  
Crackers?  I never really considered making them myself since I have a pretty mean addiction to cheezits.  I came across this recipe for Sourdough Crackers over at King Arthur Flour when I was looking for ideas for my starter.  The ingredients were pretty minimal and I’d never made crackers before…so, why not?

 

  
I grabbed the ingredients and then pondered herbs.  Oregano? Rosemary?  Then I found this jar of Herbs de Provence–something I hardly ever use.  The topping called for sea salt or kosher salt but since I was feeling FANCEE, I grabbed my jar of Fleur de Sel salt.

  
The dough was incredibly easy to bring together and, after a rest in the fridge, rolled out easily.  I was skeptical I’d be able to roll a wheat dough out so thinly since my usual sourdough bread doughs are so stretchy and elastic.  This dough rolled out in a jiff and I set to work brushing it with olive oil, sprinkling on the salt and cutting it into squares.  The last step was to prick the crackers with the tines of a fork but, next time, I’ll do this before cutting.  My fork kept grabbing the dough squares and lifting them off the parchment.

  
Baking them was…interesting.  The edge crackers brown well before the center ones are done.  I found myself removing the pans and pulling off the outer ring a couple of times.  It made the bake time longer with so many interruptions but if I had left them all in until the centers were done, the edges would have been inedible.

  
These are quite delicious and surprisingly easy to make. Nice and crisp and a great way to use up some herbs (and sourdough starter) that otherwise would either be discarded or languish until expired.  I could see these being  a regular thing around here with different herbs mixed in.  I bet this dough would make excellent long thin crispy breadsticks for pairing with italian meals.

 

Fancee Crackers

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup unfed sourdough starter (mine happened to be fed and they still turned out fine)

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence or other dried herbs

olive oil for brushing

Fleur de Sel or other coarse salt–about a tablespoon

Mix together the flour, salt, sourdough starter, butter, and optional herbs to make a smooth(not sticky), cohesive dough.  I ended up adding about an extra tablespoon of flour to get mine to the non-sticky stage. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a small rectangular slab. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a couple of hours, until the dough is firm.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Very lightly flour a piece of parchment, your rolling pin, and the top of the dough.

Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough to about 1/16″ thick. The dough will have ragged, uneven edges; that’s OK. Just try to make it as even as possible.

Transfer the dough and parchment together onto a baking sheet. Lightly brush with oil and then sprinkle the salt over the top of the crackers.

Cut the dough into 1 1/4″ squares and prick each square with the tines of a fork.

Bake the crackers for about 20 minutes, until the squares are starting to brown around the edges.  I checked mine at 18 minutes and started removing outside crackers every minute or so until the interior crackers were finished.

When fully browned, remove the crackers from the oven, and transfer them to a cooling rack. Store airtight at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.

Sourdough Pretzels

  
My sourdough starter met an unfortunate fate during our recent move across the country. At first, I thought maybe I didn’t need to get another one since my other sandwich bread and basic loaves were coming along. hahahahahahahaha. yeah. That feeling didn’t last long. After we were settled, it didn’t take long for me to order a new batch of starter from King Arthur Flour.

I’ve kept my starter on the counter for a while to get it chugging along before it goes to its usual home in the fridge. Since a room temperature starter needs to be fed twice a day, I’ve had a lot of starter to use up. Technically, what I have is fed starter since it has been recently fed with flour and water but I used it in the Sourdough Pretzels recipe from King Arthur Flour anyway.

The dough itself came together easily without a lot of kneading. It took just a couple of minutes to go from this pile of junk:

  
 

to this beauty:

 

  
After a rise, it was time to shape the pretzels. All those years of play doh work have really paid off, no?

 

  
 

These were completely delicious. Soft and chewy with just a little bit of that nice crust on the exterior. They are soft enough that I’m considering using them for an amazing hamburger bun next time I make a batch. These were met with rave reviews by everyone and will definitely make a regular appearance around here to use up all the extra starter I have. I may try to par bake a few next time and freeze them. Sourdough pretzels from the freezer? Could it happen??

Sourdough Pretzels
From King Arthur Flour

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup unfed sourdough starter, straight from the refrigerator
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) non-diastatic malt powder
1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Topping:
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder or sugar
2 tablespoons water
pretzel salt
2 tablespoons melted butter, optional

Mix and knead the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a cohesive, fairly smooth dough. It should be slightly sticky; if it seems dry, knead in an additional tablespoon or two of water.

Cover the dough and let it rest for 45 minutes. It will rise minimally. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface, fold it over a few times to gently deflate it, then divide it into 12 pieces, each weighing about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 ounces.

Roll each piece of dough into an 18″ rope. Shape each rope into a pretzel or any other shape youd like. These would be delicious as long pretzel sticks.

Dissolve the malt in the water. Brush the pretzels with the solution, and sprinkle lightly with coarse pretzel salt.

Bake the pretzels for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Note: This is correct; there’s no need to let the shaped pretzels rise before baking.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush with melted butter.

Basic Sandwich Bread Scrimmage: King Arthur Flour’s Favorite

Slices!

Whew!  I’m back!  Moving sucks, people.  There is no real way around it.  We still aren’t fully unpacked but we have the basics set up and I’m *nearly* back to my normal kitchen routines.

Now that the kids are back in school, it is hardcore sandwich time!  My son takes a PB&J every single day to school and you just know that means I have to bake him bread!  Today’s offering was the Our Favorite Sandwich Bread from King Arthur Flour.  It is a nice basic dough with some milk and butter in it for some richness.

The dough came together beautifully and I only needed to add a little extra flour during kneading to cut down on stickiness.  

kneading

I will admit here that I got carried away unpacking in another room and really let it rise too long on the second rise.  Oops.

overprooved

I don’t know if this over-rising or my lingering unfamiliarity with a new oven was to blame but this loaf came out kind of blonde and soggy on the bottom (though it did firm up as it cooled and hardened up) and a little over browned on top.  Even though it wasn’t the most beautiful loaf, it was really delicious!  It was soft but not overly so–we aren’t talking bunny bread or anything here. The flavor was much richer than the previous sandwich bread I had tried–the non swirled version of Cinnamon Swirl Bread which was a dough with much less dairy and fat in it than this new recipe. Overall, I liked it…but the baking trouble means I need to give it one more go before I decide if it is a keeper.

bread!

King Arthur Flour’s Favorite Sandwich Bread
1 cup (8 ounces) milk
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick, 1 ounce) butter or margarine
2 teaspoons instant yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Heat the milk to simmer on the stove or, like me, in the microwave.  Add the butter and, once it cools, the yeast.  Let that start bubbling while you measure out the dry ingredients.  Combine them all and knead for 8 minutes or until the dough is nice and smooth.

Transfer to an oiled bowl and allow to rise for about an hour.  Mine nearly doubled in size but not quite.  Then, shape it into a loaf and plop it in your 9×4 loaf pan.  Allow it to rise for another hour (I forgot mine for two full hours here) until it is an inch above the rim of the pan.  Bake 30-35 minutes at 350 or until golden brown.

Buttermilk Biscuit Showdown: Part 3–a random food.com recipe

biscuits

I’ve made quite a few batches of my favorite buttermilk biscuits in the last couple of weeks but was it possible they could be even better??

First, I tried a hybrid of the Smitten Kitchen and Alton Brown–mostly the smitten kitchen all butter but with just a little of it replaced with shortening to keep the dough easier to work with. They were good and the dough was certainly easier to work with but they just weren’t great, so I went back to all-butter.

Something really new was needed, so I went searching and found a random recipe on food.com that had some significant differences: sugar on top, less butter and more buttermilk, and a higher baking temperature. It sounded a little like madness but I went for it in the name of science and biscuits.

The dough felt familiar coming together but was much stickier than either Smitten Kitchens or Alton Browns. After cutting the biscuits, I had to kind of peel them off the board which I’m sure didn’t do any favors to their texture. Then came the really crazy part. The recipe called for a HALF A CUP of sugar to be sprinkled on top of the biscuits. What is this? A muffin? I couldn’t bring myself to do it and only managed to sprinkle about 1 tablespoon over the 9.

sugarontop

I knew all along these biscuits would be weird but I was hoping to learn some type of lesson from them. What did I learn?
–More butter and less buttermilk makes for an easier to work dough and a more tender biscuit. These were surprisingly tough despite barely working the dough.
–Sugar on top is madness. I was hoping it would lend some magnificent amount of golden brown coloring to the top of my biscuits. All it did was add a weird sugar-cookie crunch to the top; I can’t even imagine what they would have been like if I had used the entire 1/2 cup.
–Finally, 450 is too high for biscuits. The little wispy edges were dark before the actual biscuits had much color to them at all.

I’m back to using the Smitten Kitchen recipe for now but, even though this batch of biscuits was really odd, I think the new techniques were still worth trying.

dirtybowls

Buttermilk biscuits: The Smitten Kitchen Recipe

biscuit

After having Alton Brown’s Biscuits a few mornings ago, I was on a biscuit roll. Alton’s recipe came together easily but I wanted to try my hand at an all-butter recipe and Smitten Kitchen came to the rescue.

butter

The batter came together similarly to Alton’s but the butter took longer to incorporate into the flour mixture. I took a little extra insurance against butter meltage by sticking the entire bowl in the freezer while I cleaned up the first set of ingredients and measuring cups. It was probably only 2-3 minutes but it did feel a little firmer and colder when I took it out.

batter

I added the buttermilk and plowed ahead. I still don’t have a “proper” biscuit cutter so I used the same straight-sided glass I used for the Alton recipe. I kind of love the charm of the messy last biscuit made from all the scraps.

last biscuit

In the end, these were delicious. More than delicious–buttery, soft, high-rising, and perfect. I have to admit that I am an all-butter biscuit convert. While the half butter/half shortening was easier to bring together as a batter, the difference in flavor was significant.

baked

I finally broke down and bought some cake flour (sadly, White Lily Flour–the southern staple for biscuits–isn’t available where I live. After we move this month, I’ll stock up from amazon). I can’t wait to try the biscuits with the softer flour.

Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter Biscuits

2 1/4 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons (10 to 20 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons (125 grams) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400. Combine dry ingredients and work butter in as quickly as possible with your fingers. Stir buttermilk in until just combined. Turn onto a floured surfaced and fold dough back on itself a few times. Pat into a circle 1 inch thick and cut out biscuits. Reform scraps and repeat.

I placed mine shoulder to shoulder on the pan so they could lend each other support while baking. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden, turning pan halfway if needed.

These are best fresh from the oven (and then to snack on the rest throughout the day. I had one leftover for breakfast the next day and it had dried significantly.

Buttermilk Biscuits: The Alton Brown Recipe

biscuits

I remember my first biscuit. I was around 15 and was working at that amazing icon of fine southern fare: McDonalds. It is really no wonder that I thought biscuits were pretty terrible, right?

dough

Thankfully, I’ve come around to appreciate the southern biscuit. They are so different than the flaky, buttery biscuits I grew up eating and they are also so much more versatile: breakfast, dinner, snack. They can do it all. I made this batch and left it on the counter where we all snacked on them throughout the day.

cutting

I’m certainly no expert on biscuits but I’m working on it. I am starting here with Alton Brown’s recipe. I’ll admit that I didn’t use the White Lily Flour that he talked about on the biscuit episode but I will next time. Mine were clearly flatter than his and I’m guessing the flour makes a substantial difference. I just hated to buy yet another bag of flour so close to an across the country move.

12

Alton Brown’s Biscuits

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don’t want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that’s life.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

baked

Project Cornbread: The Alex Guarnaschelli Recipe

slice

I grew up in the mitten-state of Michigan and, therefore, had little exposure to the wonders of cornbread for many years. Even after we moved to the south, I still wasn’t convinced since most of the cornbread I had was terribly dry and grainy stuff from restaurants. It wasn’t until a friend invited me over to her very southern grandmother’s house for a very southern meal that I had amazing cornbread. Moist, just sweet enough, buttery, and perfect for soaking up everything else on the plate.

batter

I’ve made do with just so-so cornbread since but another perfect recipe quest is about to begin: Project Cornbread. I chose to start with Alex Guarnaschelli’s skillet cornbread recipe. I had everything on hand, so off we went!

crust

In all honesty, I should have let the pan heat up longer than I did. I didn’t get the amazingly golden crust I was hoping for. In the end, this cornbread was just ok. For one, it was far too buttery. I love a butter flavor but this had so much butter that, after it cooled, there was solidified butter sitting on top of the bread. Not so good for eating cold out of the fridge (you do that, right?).

Alex’s Cornbread

1 1/4 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a 9-inch cast iron skillet inside to preheat.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In another bowl, combine the wet team: milk, buttermilk, and eggs. Whisk in almost all of the melted butter, reserving about 1 tablespoon for the skillet later on.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Coat the bottom and sides of the hot skillet with the remaining butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and place it in the center of the oven. Bake until the center is firm and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and serve.

Whew–an entire stick of butter. I will try this recipe again but I will dial the butter back to 6 tablespoons.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

slice

My Grandmother had many fine qualities–she was an artist, a great card player and all around amazing lady. She was not, however, a terribly good cook. My childhood food memories from stays at her house feature her amazingly dry turkey, drinking ginger ale (Canada Dry ONLY) and eating butter cookies while playing cards, and cinnamon swirl toast for breakfast. These days, I seem to be the only person who tries to buy cinnamon swirl bread in the store because every time I buy a loaf, it is hard, dry, and so close to stale it isn’t even enjoyable. That is no way to relive a childhood memory, so I do what a baker does–set out to find the perfect swirl loaf.

First candidate: Walter Sand’s White Bread from King Arthur Flour. I omitted the raisins because I don’t hate myself. If you do insist on raisins…well…that’s between you and your loaf. Mine remains raisin free.

helper

The dough came together beautifully. I didn’t bother breaking out the stand mixer since I wanted to knead this loaf by hand with my ever-present kitchen helper.

spread

I made one a plain white bread loaf and the other half of the dough into the swirl bread. I wish I had made more of the spread and rolled the dough out longer so there would be more layers to the swirl with more filling. More cinnamon and brown sugar=better for everyone.

Another rise and then a trip through the oven and the loaves were perfect!

loaves

I stored the loaves in some larger ziplocks and they are still fresh-ish three days later. I think today may be the last day for them though but they are nearly gone anyway!

This makes a soft, fluffy white bread–perfect for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but I think there needs to be more fat in the dough to make a really great cinnamon swirl bread. Next time I make this, I’ll make both loaves plain and either gift one to a friend or try freezing it FOR SCIENCE!