September 8, 2008

Adventures Continued...

So yesterday was my day to finally make my sourdough bread, and the verdict is in... It's awesome! I really wanted to take pictures as I made it so I could show you each step, but I can't find my camera yet- it's still hidden somewhere in the boxes. SO- maybe next week. However, I'll still tell you how it worked...

You use:
two quarts of the starter, which over the course of the week had turned into about a gallon (so it's about half of your total amount of starter).
In a LARGE bowl, mix your starter, which consists solely of water and wheat flour, with
1 1/2 Cups of water,
2 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt, and
13 Cups of flour. (More on the flour later)

Mix it together until it forms into a dough. Turn the dough out and gently knead it, using more of a pulling and folding over motion than a punching and turning.

This type of kneading is something I neglected to do. I saw 'knead for 15 minutes' and I had at that dough. Really, the air that is in the starter from the fermentation process is more delicate than with bakers yeast. You don't want to punch out all the air, or your bread will be really dense. Kneading is an important step, though, because that's how your dough becomes elasticky (sp?) and more able to rise. In my BYU cooking class, my teacher mentioned something about how it stretches out the gluten into strands instead of them being crammed together in a tight bunch. Since I can't remember it exactly, here's what came up when I googled this...

"One of the most important things that takes place during the knead process is the development of gluten. As the flour that makes up the dough is moistened and stirred, the gluten begins to form and also gains in strength as the dough is subjecting to the kneading process. Gluten can be thought of as the binding agent within the dough, allowing the loaf to take on a cohesive texture that will allow the substance to not fall apart during baking. The presence of the gluten also sets the stage for another good reason to knead bread dough when making fresh bread at home.

As the gluten is acting as a binding agent, it is also helping to create small air pockets of bubbles in the dough. This is very important, as these bubbles are necessary to allow for the formation of small pockets of carbon dioxide as the dough is rising. The carbon dioxide is created by the interaction of the yeast with the other ingredients in the recipe. By filling the small air pockets in the structure of the dough, the bread has a chance to rise and become supple enough to result in a loaf of bread that is light, flavorful, and airy."

So, since this bread isn't made with yeast, it uses fermentation and natural bacteria to produce the carbon dioxide that makes the dough rise. It's more delicate because it's completely natural, and not as strong. Neato.

Long story made short, it's important to knead the dough for a full 15 minutes, but be gentle with it. Try the pulling and folding over. I will next time, and I think it will definately impact the density of my finished product.

Now, about the flour... My starter, as afore mentioned, was made with rye flour. It has a lower phytate content which encourages more bubbliness and faster, better fermentation. (Can't you use rye to make some kind of beer? Maybe I'm wrong, but this is a similar idea, just not so fermented.) I'm not a huge fan of rye. Actually, that's saying it nicely- I hate it. It's too strong of a taste for me. However, I used the rye flour all week for the starter. Pleasantly, I couldn't taste the rye at all in the finished product! yay!

For the actual dough, I planned on using spelt, but I didn't entirely have enough. So I ended up using about 10 cups of spelt flour and 3 cups of wheat flour. (FYI: I used white wheat, which isn't the best for bread. It makes a nice wheat loaf the normal way, but as far as nutrition goes, you really want hard red wheat. It's heavier, but really is good for you.) For those who are wondering about spelt, it's just another grain. I bought it at the local Good Earth in the bulk section, and ground it up in my wheat grinder (oh, lovely grinder!).

Spelt is heavier that white wheat, but not as heavy as hard red. It works nicely for bread. If anyone remembers my muffins, I used it for that as well. Those turned out ok. I'm going to work on the recipe a bit and see if I can't make them a bit more tasty. I'll be back with more on that later.

We had some friends over for dinner last night, which I used as a chance to test the success of my bread on an unbiased audience. Honestly, I wasn't expecting much since this was not your traditional bread, and it was sourdough, which might not be everyone's cup of tea. I set it out on the table with butter and honey, and what do you know? By the end of the night, there were 3 pieces left from the whole loaf! There were only 5 of us, but somehow, we managed to eat almost all the the bread, which was from the largest loaf I baked! I was really excited that everyone liked it, and hopefully I can make it even better next week.

As a side note, I tried to bake it on a cookie sheet, just in a loaf, like italian bread. Don't do that unless you want to make biscotti or something, because that was pretty much how tall it was. (small exaggeration). It rose, but mainly it went out, not up. I'd use a loaf pan next time.

Whew. Hope this isn't all too confusing! I'm not the most eloquent of speakers, especially when I get excited, I tend to leave out pertinent things. If for nothing else, this is a fun thing to do, just as an experiment! Or a science fair project? Hahaha.. And you get some really healthy bread in the meantime. I'll post the entire recipe later on, when I'm at home, and maybe talk a litte about my muffins! Also, I need to post this great risotto recipe I've found and made a few times... Check back soon!

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