I confess. I am a horrible baker. I worked at a bakery for two years full-time and all I got, was fatter. I was a good student of those who are far more experienced than myself. Cripe, at that point everyone was better than me, but for some reason I just couldn't help myself. I insisted that I be taught how to do the bread that the bakery sold everyday. I had to learn how to do this thing. I was smitten. I was totally blown away by how you could mix three very simple ingredients and make something from that. Who on earth ever discovered flour, water and yeast could make the stongest person's knees buckle with happiness? Really who cares as long as I can eat the stuff.
Since my favorite time of the year is the fall and I have been going nuts about Sourdough I have to keep experimenting. This one is for the other bread obsessed. I am still using Betsy Oppenneer's book, The Bread Book.
Crusty Sourdough Bread
Makes 2 loaves
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 cup warm water (105F-115F)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Dough
1 1/2 cups warm water (105F-115F)
2 teaspoons salt
5-6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
At least 12 hours in advance, combine the starter, water and flour in a large glass or pottery bowl. The sponge will have the consistency of a cake batter. Cover with plastic wrap and let ripen at room temperature for at least 12 hours but no longer than 36 hours.
When ready to make the bread, add the 1 1/2 cups water, salt and 3 cups of the flour to the sponge. Beat vigorously with a dough whisk or heavy-handled spoon for 2 minutes.
Gradually add more of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.
Knead for 8-10 minutes, add more flour, a little at a time as necessary, until you have a smooth, elastic dough and blisters begin to develop on the surface.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a ball, cover with a towel, and let rest for 15 minutes.
Shape each piece of dough into a ball again. Flatter the centers slightly and place them well apart on a well-greased baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 1 1/ hours, or until almost doubled in size.
Brush the loaves with cold water.
Put 1 cup of ice cubes in the hot pan on the bottom shelf of the oven. Immediately put the bread on the shelf above and bake for 25-30 minutes, or untill the loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when tapped or the internal temperature reaches 190F.
Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.
Notes: I asked a local baker why my sourdough looked different than his. He said that he cuts slashes in the top for the steam to escape and dusts the top with flour. I had forgotten about those two things. So my loaf looks very plain. It was totally crusty. The ice cube trick creates steam, which helps the bread to be crusty. Commercial ovens have a steam cycle in them that does that same thing.
I thought the bread didn't taste "sour" enough for me, but everyone else said it did. My tastebuds must have been having an off day. I would make this again, and again, but with the slashes and flour.