Hi. My name is Cher and I am a bread-aholic. Seriously. There are not many things that tickle my goat like a freshly baked loaf of bread. I could go on and on and on about the process. The feel. The smell. The taste... Yeah. It's like that.
My love of bread has taken me through what feels like a myriad of recipes - and I still feel like a newbie at bread making. Some are winners. Some... well, not so much. Quick breads. Slow breads. Wheat breads. Rye breads. White breads. Sweet breads. Egg breads. Holiday breads. Bread here. Bread there. Everywhere a bread, bread.
But no matter where my bread quest takes me, there are always those one or two recipes that act as my anchor. My bastion. The recipes that I always go back to when I have had too much new. Have tried too many unfamiliar techniques and need something familiar and stable. And good.
When I need to be sure of my end result, I reach into that funky colored circa 1980-somethingTupperware container that sits in the back of the refrigerator, pull out a cup of sourdough starter and slowly let the magic of the process envelope me. Cup by cup. Stir by stir. Everything else fades away as I immerse myself in the process. Knowing that no matter what else is upside down. Off kilter. Out of whack. Miss-aligned. Topsy turvy. Inside out. In this one thing, I can be fairly certain.
I guess we all need our security blankets.
Ah. Sweet kitchen therapy.
This Farmstead Sourdough Bread keeps fairly well - making it great for sandwiches. It makes excellent panini. And once it has lost its first luster - it makes great toast. For sure! The slice in the first picture is smeared with a healthy dose of date butter - which will be featured in a post in the near future!
Farmstead Sourdough Bread
Adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger
1 cup sourdough starter - whatever you have on hand is fine, just bring it to room temperature
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
1 Tbs sugar
8 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 Tbs salt
1 cup white whole wheat or rye or spelt flour
4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, + more as needed (may need up to another 1/2- 1 1/2 cups)
2-4 Tbs yellow cornmeal (for the pans)
Create sponge by combining 1/2 cup warm water, yeast & sugar into a small bowl. Stir to dissolve & let rest for ~ 10 minutes, until foamy.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (paddle attachment), combine starter, 1 cup water, sugar, butter, salt, 1 cup of wheat and 2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour. Beat mixture well (~1 minute). Add sponge (yeast mixture) and beat for another minute. Add remaining flour - about 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a shaggy mass that clears the side of the bowl (dough should remain fairly sticky- don't over-flour - you can always sprinkle flour in later if you need to). Change to a dough hook and knead for about 3-4 minutes. Dough will be smooth.
Transfer to a lightly greased bowl. Cover & let rise until doubled in bulk (depending on your starter & the temperature of your room, this will take ~1-2 hours).
Gently deflate the dough. Lightly grease two 9 x 5 loaf pans & sprinkle generously with cornmeal. On a lightly flour surface, divide dough into two pieces and shape into rectangular loaf shapes. Place dough in prepared pans. Cover & let rise until doubled in bulk (dough should be ~1" above the top of the pan). The second rise should take less time than the first - maybe an hour or so. It really depends on your kitchen!
About 15-20 minutes before baking (when dough has just risen to the top of the pan), preheat oven to 350F. Place the pans in pre-heated oven on a middle rack. Bake for ~35-40 minutes. The edges will pull slightly away from the edges of the pan. The tops will be golden & the bottoms will sound hollow when tapped. If the bottoms need a little more browning, remove from pans and place directly on the rack in the oven for a few minutes.
When done, remove from oven & pans. Cool on a wire rack. Make sure loaves have completely cooled before slicing.