Saturday, February 2, 2013

january's goal: sourdough bread baking

well, i am happy to report that my new year's goals are getting off to a good start.

january's goal was to learn how to bake a good loaf of sourdough bread.  it took me almost half way through the month to get started, but since then i have already baked at least 10-15 loaves.  some of them were better than others, but none were so bad that they got fed to the chickens or chopped up for bread crumbs.
sourdough country loaf

i have tried just three recipes, because i felt like it would be easier to learn if i focused on perfecting just a few recipes by making them over and over.  here are the recipes i have used:

sourdough whole spelt bread- the main reason i tried this recipe is because spelt is lower in gluten than wheat, and we wanted to start with a low gluten flour as we introduce gluten into esther's diet after suspected gluten intolerance.  we really liked this recipe.  it came out quite like a sandwich loaf one of the times i made it.  not only was it delicious, but it was also pretty easy to make... it didn't even require kneading! (instead it called for a technique called stretch and fold, which is explained in the video).

sourdough country loaf - this is the first recipe i made. i chose it because it calls for mostly white flour and a little bit of whole wheat flour (gasp!  we are going to die an early death because we consumed some white flour!!) which i knew would help with a good rise and good texture.  i didn't want to bake a bunch of bricks of bread for my family and have them scared to keep trying my sourdough creations.  also i knew it would give me more confidence to start out with successful loaves.  the flavor was good and the crumb was light and airy.  i tried different proportions of white to whole wheat flour, and though i didn't taste a difference, my mom liked the one with the most WW flour the best (it was 50/50).  i also want to try this with 100% whole wheat flour.

sourdough spelt/rye bread - rye is also low in gluten so i also wanted to try this recipe for variety.  honestly, i wasn't that impressed, and i plan to find another rye bread recipe for next time.  it was ok to eat, but the bread was crumbly and dense.  i think part of the reason is because the baking temperature was lower than the other loaves, so it didn't pouf out beautifully.

things i have learned about sourdough bread baking:

*wild yeast loves warm temperatures.  well, i already knew this, but i was able to see a big difference between dough that i let rise in a warm oven verses on a cold counter.

*bread baking isn't scary and is even a bit fun.

*there are so many bread baking tools that i could own.  i bought a scale (makes measuring ingredients more accurate) but i would really benefit from a baking stone, dutch oven, scoring knives, stoneware bread pans and a proofing basket (ok, that one isn't really a need... they just look cool :) ).  if i keep up with baking bread, i'm sure that i will at least get some better pans.

*a loaf of store-bought bread can last for weeks at our house.  most of the homemade loaves have barely lasted a day!  in other words, they have been a hit :)

*the best way to know if bread is done is to measure the internal temperature.  i measured with a meat thermometer.

*the number one mistake newbies make is too add too much flour (yes, i think i made this mistake a few times in the past.  now i know better!  turns out a really sticky dough is actually a good thing!

*many bread recipes don't require kneading!  though i enjoy kneading, it can be time consuming (20 mins or so per loaf).

february's goal: cheese making!  this goal will probably also have to wait until halfway through the month as the next two weeks are pretty busy for me, but i hope that making cheese goes as well as making sourdough bread!

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