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Sourdough

Serendipity, and a Sourdough Kalamata Bread

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Last Saturday we woke up to an expected high temperature of 60F degrees and sunny, blue skies. So we decided to take advantage of the unseasonable weather, put the home renovations on hold, and headed out for a walk and picnic lunch. Fortunately, I had been forced to bake a sourdough bread the night before, so we threw half a loaf together with some cheeses, cold cuts, and roasted tomatoes and headed for the Trail. That's the Appalachian Trail, by the way, which is about a 10 minute drive from our house. This was our picnic view from the base of the original Washington Monument (did you know there was more than one?!) on South Mountain, which straddles Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland, and over which the Appalachian Trail traverses. The town of Boonsboro lies just beyond the treeline, and in the distance are hills in Pennsylvania (to the right) and West Virginia (to the left).


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And this is the view of our serendipitous picnic.

One of the truths of caring for a sourdough starter is that it does force you to innovate. With regular feedings, you end up with use-it-lose-it-or-give-it-away sourdough every 4-5 days. This is where I was last Friday, while in the midst of home projects that did not allow for the careful timing of no-knead sourdough bread or for testing the bookmarked and drool-stained new recipes for sourdough pancakes or crumpets.

What I wanted was something relatively quick and a recipe I was already knew — so I adapted the method for the sourdough multi-grain loaf and substituted all bread flour and kalamata olives. Without too much thought or planning — Voila! a nice olive bread just waiting for an occasion.

We liked this bread so much that I will probably make another loaf this week when it's time to feed the starter again. A subtle tang from the sourdough, and plenty of savoriness from the tapenade, olives and olive oil — this bread is an olive-lover's dream. Alone with cheeses and/or cold cuts, or to sop up a savory stew or soup, this is a loaf that will turn any occasion into an event!

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By the way, here's what the first Monument dedicated to our first president looks like — it was erected by the townsfolk of nearby Boonsboro in 1827, and is just a couple hundred feet off the Appalachian Trail. We actually didn't think about it on Saturday, but last weekend was Presidents' Day weekend, commemorating the birthdays of our first president, George Washington, as well as our sixteenth, Abraham Lincoln.

Bake some bread — you'll be prepared for anything! (Yes, we're talking to YOU!)


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SOURDOUGH KALAMATA OLIVE LOAF
Makes one 2½-lb. loaf

Before you begin, you will need a sourdough starter. If you choose to make a starter from scratch, it may take 7-10 days before it is ready to use so plan ahead. If you already have a starter, this is a good way to use even a groggy starter or some you are ready to cast off. The sourdough lends more flavor than leavening since active dry yeast is also included.


½ cup sourdough starter
½ cup lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 TBL olive oil
3 TBL olive tapenade (optional, but highly recommended)
(if using, taste for saltiness and decide whether to include sea salt with dry ingredients)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together well.

250g bread, aka strong, flour (Typ 500)
½ tsp sea salt (optional, may not need if using tapenade)
2 tsp vital wheat gluten

In a separate bowl, mix well to combine, and add to sourdough. Attach dough hook, and knead for 7-9 minutes. Or knead by hand for 10-12 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, the dough may become stickier as you knead so sprinkle board and top of dough with more flour if it becomes unworkable. By the end of the kneading time, I did find the dough a little tacky but not clinging to my fingers.

Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic, or a shower cap. Set in warm, draft-free place for first rise, about 2 hours, or until about double in size.

To finish:
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, about 100g

Punch down the dough and gently knead to stretch. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Gently flatten dough into a large rectangle. Add half the olives, fold dough over and flatten out again. Add remaining olives and fold dough over. Gently knead to distribute olives.

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Shape dough into a round, or your favorite shape. Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet. Place dough on baking sheet and cover (I used an overturned bowl — the one the dough rose in earlier, or just plastic film).

Allow dough to proof, about 2 hours, or until you can press the dough and the imprint does not immediately spring back.

About 15 minutes before the dough will be ready, pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Remove cover, and score dough, if desired. Bake on middle rack of oven for 40-50 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190F/88C, or the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles.

Remove from oven and brush with olive oil. Allow to cool completely on wire rack.

Enjoy!


More sourdough bread recipes:
No-Knead Sourdough Boule
Sourdough Multi-grain Bread
New York-style Light Rye
Raisin Rye







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BMB: Sourdough Multi-grain Bread

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After a long hiatus, I'm finally baking bread again. This is actually the second loaf of the new baking "season" — a Sourdough Multi-grain Bread adapted from a recipe on the King Arthur flour website. This is an easy sourdough recipe since it does not rely on the starter for leavening; in fact, it has as much yeast as a typical bread dough. Instead, the sourdough gives this bread a tang and chewy texture like an artisan loaf, but has the quick rising time (2 hours) and softness of a good sandwich loaf. Best of all worlds, really.

This is a great way for sourdough starter "guardians" to make use of that excess sourdough you find yourself with when it's time to feed the starter. You can use that "unfed" starter in this recipe because you'll also be using yeast to give the bread its rise.

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I've adapted the King Arthur (KA) recipe by substituting two ingredients that are proprietary KA blends with more readily available ingredients. First, I used vital wheat gluten (VWG) instead of KA Whole-Grain Bread Improver. Vital wheat gluten is available in either the baking aisle or natural foods section of many supermarkets, and in bulk in many natural food stores and co-ops. It helps homemade breads retain moisture, and improves their rise. Second, I made up my own blend of grains and seeds in place of the KA Harvest Grains Blend. I started with a multi-grain hot cereal blend that has whole-grain rolled rye, barley, oats and wheat (available at Trader Joe's) and threw in flaxseed, black and white sesame seeds, cracked mahlab seeds (a type of cherry seed from the Mediterranean, available at Penzey's Spice and in Middle East groceries), and white poppy seeds (we didn't have black poppy seeds).

King Arthur is our default choice for baking flours — we keep KA all-purpose, whole wheat, and bread flours as pantry staples. King Arthur flours are neither bleached nor treated with potassium bromate, a flour enhancer that is a possible carcinogen and has been banned in many countries, including the European Union, Canada, and China. It is allowed in the U.S. because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use in 1958, before it was identified as a carcinogen (particularly linked to breast cancers) in the 1980s. For some reason, the FDA continues to decline to ban potassium bromate, and instead "urges bakers not to use it"… what?! In California products containing bromated flour must carry a warning label! (Source: Wikipedia and Livestrong)

This is the third time I've made this loaf. It is every bit as chewy, soft and scrumptious as described in the original recipe. It is divine completely naked, or dressed in a coat of butter and dab of boysenberry jam. It is a soup's best friend, and is an equally great companion to a plate of cheeses with fruit or chutney. Oh, and yes, it holds a sandwich together with some pizazz, too.

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SOURDOUGH MULTI-GRAIN BREAD
Adapted from baker Clay Miller's recipe on the King Arthur Flour website

1 TBL raw sugar
1 to 1½ cups (132g-150g) all-purpose flour
(start with the smaller amount and add 1 TBL at a time, up to an additional 3 tablespoons)
½ cup instant potato flakes
½ cup (65g) whole wheat flour
1¼ tsp sea salt
4 tsp vital wheat gluten (optional, but helps rise for heavy doughs)
cup blend of seeds and rolled whole grains
(see article above for some suggestions)

Combine all dry ingredients.

cup sourdough starter
cup lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 TBL olive oil

Place starter, warm water and yeast in large mixing bowl. Stir to blend. Add dry ingredients and olive oil.

Secure bowl to mixing stand, and attach dough hook. Stir on low speed until dry ingredients are incorporated, then increase speed to medium and knead for 7-10 minutes.

The first two times I made this bread last year, the dough was pretty sticky by the end of the kneading time, even after the full 1½ cups of all-purpose flour was added — this was predicted in the KA recipe, and is okay as long as you can handle the dough with floured hands. But this last time the dough came together as a solid dough with no stickiness at all with only 1 cups flour.

Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rise for 1½ -2 hours. The dough might not double, but it should rise significantly.

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Lightly oil a 9” loaf pan (the original recipe calls for an 8½” x 4½ “ loaf pan, but this is the smallest I have). Punch down the dough and shape it into a loaf to fit your pan. Cover pan with a disposable shower cap, or greased plastic film. (Disposable caps are a genius tip I learned from the original KA recipe — they give the dough plenty of space to rise. You can find multi-packs of these cheap shower caps in dollar stores. They are like the ones you find in hotel toiletries too.)

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Set in a warm room, and allow to rise for 1½ -2 hours, or until the dough is well over 1” over the rim of the pan. A finger pressed into the dough shouldn’t spring back right away and should leave a slight impression. Because this dough will not get a dramatic rise once it’s in the oven (known as “oven-spring”), it’s important to give it a good chance to rise in this final proof.

In the last 20 minutes of the proving time, pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190F/88C. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, you can use the tried-and-true method of pulling the loaf out of the pan and giving it a good knuckle rap on its bottom — if it sounds hollow, the loaf is done; if it sounds like a dull thump, put it back for a few minutes more.

Remove loaf from pan and cool on a wire rack. Let bread cool completely before slicing. Resist the overwhelming temptation to cut this loaf while it’s hot. You get gummy bread slices — I speak from hard-headed experience. This loaf does have a most heavenly aroma, and it’s really, really tempting to just tear into it when it comes out of the oven. I had to leave for a meeting after taking it out and had to bribe T. with a promise that I would bake him a small roll next time if he promised not to cut this loaf while it was still warm.

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Pairs perfectly with a bowl of your favorite soup
(turkey vegetable soup, anyone?)
and/or with some flavorful cheeses. Bon Appetit!



The first bread I made to kick off the new baking season was the No-Knead Sourdough, which is easy but requires a long lead time. A variation on a straight sourdough are these rye breads: NY-style light rye and sweet raisin-rye.









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BMB: No-Knead Wild Sourdough Boule

Kate's first true sourdough loaf — no commercial yeast involved...Yay! Kate is the wild sourdough starter I began on New Year's Day when I vowed to bake more breads. She's only 3 months along, but doing well, don't you think?!

This No-Knead Sourdough Boule — still warm from the oven is winging its way to Italy for Bread Baking Day #38, hosted this month from the gorgeous Lake Garda in northern Italy by Cinzia at Cindystar. Cinzia is holding a "No-Knead Festival" and welcomes breads with ingredients of your choosing, as long as they are made using a variation of the no-knead method made famous by Jim Lahey of the old Sullivan Street Bakery. Bread Baking Day is that wonderful monthly collection of homemade breads from around the world, the brainchild of Zorra at 1x Umrühren Bitte. If you'd like more inspiration for baking with sourdough starters, you'll love Champa's Round-up for last month's Bread Baking Day: Breads Made with Sponge/Pre-Ferment.

I was happy to see that Cinzia chose no-knead breads as her theme because I've never actually baked one before. Sure, I followed the craze and drooled over everyone's beautiful breads online over the last 4 years, but no, there was no actual bread. Now that I've finally unpacked my cocotte (Staub's oval Dutch oven) and have a live and happy sourdough starter, this theme was perfect timing!

This recipe was adapted to use the flours I had on hand from one lovingly detailing the making of a no-knead sourdough loaf by Ann Marie at Cheeseslave. But the biggest difference between Ann Marie's and this one is not really in the ingredients but in the timing — I did not have a chance to bake mine for 78 hours after the dough was assembled. That's not a typo — it was over 3 days before I was able to bake. So to be honest, I was expecting this to be more a flattened brick than a nice airy boule.

My initial timing was thrown off when it took much longer to wake up Kate than I thought it would. Maybe because she's a wild one — sourdough, that is. It was 10pm before I could use the activated starter for a dough, so I refrigerated the whole thing to retard the rise, hoping to bake in 28 hours or so. Life intervened in the form of workshops. Twenty-eight hours became forty-eight, then seventy-eight. Well, a retarded ferment is supposed to improve the bread's flavor so I thought I would at least try baking it and maybe get an interesting flatbread. Maybe a useful doorstop.

Believe me when I say no one was more surprised than I, when the cover of the Dutch oven came off and I saw that crusty boule! I did sneak a taste already and this is the first loaf I've gotten from Kate with a very distinct sourdough tang. Not like the San Francisco sourdoughs I love best, but definitely along that vein. Guess there really is something to that long fermentation! The crust is surprisingly thin and crisp, with a little bit of a chew. The interior is bursting with flavor — yeasty with that tangy sourdoughness and good salt balance; and a moist yet airy crumb, with lots of toothsome mouth action.

I still can't believe this worked out after such a long first rise. I can only guess that using the higher gluten bread flour and very gentle handling helped the dough cope with such a long ferment. Next experiment will be to do this again with the prescribed 18-hour ferment in the original recipe. Since this is my first go at the no-knead loaf, I have nothing with which to compare it.

Happy Baking, Everyone!

NO-KNEAD SOURDOUGH BOULE
Adapted from Cheeseslave
1 one-pound loaf

Note: Please read the full recipe before starting. You will need a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or other 5-6 quart pot with a tight-fitting lid to bake the bread, and a large colander and lint-less cotton or linen towel for the final rise. If you already have an active sourdough starter on hand, you will begin at least 20 hours before you intend to bake, but if you have to grow a starter it will add an extra 24 hours on top of that to your prep time, so plan ahead.

¼ cup (40g) **active sourdough starter (for growing a wild sourdough starter [like Kate], I used this one from Know Whey)
12 oz (355 ml) filtered water, at room temperature
12 oz bread (340g) bread flour (aka strong or Typ 550 flour)
4 oz (112g) whole wheat flour
1 tsp. sea salt
rice flour, for dusting (I used mochiko, a glutinous rice flour)

**Make sure you wake up your starter by feeding it with equal parts of flour and water about 8 hours before you intend to make the dough. (You will find more information about activating a starter here.)

In a glass or other non-reactive bowl or cup, combine water and active sourdough starter and set aside.

In a large glass, ceramic or other non-reactive bowl mixing bowl, whisk together both flours and sea salt. Add starter and stir together with a wood spoon, or other non-reactive stirrer.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for at least 18 hours. If you would like to retard the ferment at this stage, you can place the covered bowl in the refrigerator. As I mentioned above, I unintentionally left the dough to ferment for over 3 days (78 hours) and my loaf still came out well. This may have been possible because of the bread flour (as opposed to regular all-purpose in the original Lahey recipe), but just know that if you exceed 18 hours fermentation, the dough might still be saved!

If the dough is refrigerated, bring it to room temperature for an hour before proceeding.

Place a clean, fragrance-free cotton or linen kitchen towel (do not use terry cloth) in a large colander, and sprinkle the towel generously with rice flour.

When the fermentation period is over, sprinkle all-purpose or bread flour generously on your clean countertop. Very gently, coax your dough out of the bowl and onto the countertop.

Still gently, fold the dough on itself, like folding a piece of paper in half. Do not press or you will lose some of those wonderful large holes in your dough. Rotate the dough mass 90 degrees and fold again. Rotate once more and fold a third time. Resist the urge to press on or knead the bubble-filled dough.

Gently cradle the dough and lift it into the prepared cloth-lined colander with the fold seam sides down. Cover the colander with an oiled plastic cover. (Hint: If you have a cheap, never used shower cap (like the ones you might find in a hotel), it makes a great cover because it is domed and unlikely to touch your rising dough.) Set your timer for one hour.

When timer goes off, place the covered pot on the middle rack of the oven and pre-heat to 500F/260C. Note: It is not necessary to prep the pot in any way; if the pot is properly heated, the crust will set and release cleanly when the bread is done. Set timer again for 30 minutes.

When timer goes off, remove Dutch oven from the oven.

Take lid off of pot. Using the kitchen towel as a sling, gently (always gently!) lift out the dough and turn over the dough so it is now on the bottom of the Dutch oven. The seam from the foldings, which had been on the bottom of the colander, should now be on top of the loaf. Instead of having to slash the loaf, the seams will form a natural place for the loaf to open as it rises in the oven! Pretty cool, no?

Cover Dutch oven with lid, return to oven, and reduce heat to 450F/232C. Set timer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove lid and reduce heat again to 400F/200C. Bake for another 15 minutes. Test by rapping on the bottom of the loaf — if it sounds hollow, it’s ready!

Cool on wire rack. Admire your gorgeous loaf and marvel at how easy it was to make. Walk away if you feel the temptation to slice it while it’s still warm. Go to another room. Leave the house if you must.


When cooled, slice and savor — your just reward for waiting 24 hours (or more!) for this flavorful, moist and chewy bread. I love nothing more than to dip this in a nice extra virgin olive oil, maybe with a mixture of herbs and spices — try an Arbequina EVOO, a spicy, grassy olive oil available under the California Estate label at Trader Joe's. We also added a za'atar spice blend which included hyssop, sumac and sesame that balance the peppery notes in the oil quite nicely. Delish!

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BMB: Raisin Rye Bread


Update: Champa's Round-up for Bread Baking Day #37: Breads with Sponge or Pre-Ferment, is ready. You'll find a wonderful collection including a twist bread, pancakes, several versions of ryes and raisin breads, ciabatta, and so much more to tempt you!

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Behold Son of George, the rye sourdough starter — smaller, milder and studded with golden and dark raisins, but no less chewy and perfect for snacking, slathered in butter or not: the Raisin Rye Loaf.

This recipe is an adapted version of master baker George Greenstein's recipe for light rye bread, and assumes you have a sourdough starter on hand already. With only half as much rye flour in the final dough and only one stage of rye development (as opposed to three in Mr. Greenstein's), the loaf is much less tangy and the rye flavor, while distinctive and clear, is more of a background note than the defining flavor.

Since we undertook this resolution last month to bake bread at home, the recipes we've tried have not been enriched (added oil, dairy or eggs) and mostly whole grain — whole wheat, rye or oatmeal. We soon remembered one of the most challenging things about home-baked whole grain bread: you have to eat it within a couple of days because it becomes stale very quickly. Since there are only 2 of us and we are not usually very big bread consumers, my strategy involved dividing the dough to make smaller loaves, and giving away one. Great way to try many different bread recipes, not gain 10 lbs. a month, and gain popularity with colleagues and neighbors! While we would never want to take anything away from sharing, there is another solution. It's called vital wheat gluten (VWG), and when baking with whole grains I think it is the home breadbaker's BFF.

I came across mentions of VWG while perusing the forums on The Fresh Loaf, a wonderful resource for tips and stories from real bakers, both passionate hobbyists and professionals. VWG was touted as increasing the rise and improving the chew of whole grain breads, as well as prolonging their shelf life. We tried it with our first rye loaf, and were impressed at how fresh the loaf remained even on the third day after baking. The same as been true for this raisin rye, and now I don't think I would bake whole grain bread without it. When a bread dough is enriched with eggs, milk and oil, these additions also aid in prolonging bread's freshness and softness so vital wheat gluten is not necessary.

This loaf takes its sweet note to dear Champa of Versatile Vegetarian Kitchen, this month's host for Bread Baking Day. In the 37th edition of this monthly event — the brainchild of our Zorra @ 1x Umrühren Bittethe theme is Bread Made with Sponge/Pre-ferment. I am late to the game this month, as the last day to submit entries is tomorrow, but Champa promises to have a round-up by March 5th that will include not only yeast breads, but may include cakes, scones, waffles, pancakes and the like as long as they use a sponge (such as a sourdough), are vegetarian (can include eggs), and made in the month of February.

RAISIN RYE LOAF
Makes approximately two 1lb. loaves or one 1kg loaf

Start about 30 hours before you intend to bake.

For the Sponge:
1 cup (230g) sourdough or rye sourdough starter
1 cup (90g) rye flour
½ cup (120ml) water
½ tsp caraway seeds (optional)

Combine starter, rye flour and water and stir well to combine. Add caraway seeds, if using, and stir in. Leave to ferment at room temperature for at least 24 hours.

For the Dough:
¾ cup (98g) whole wheat flour
2¼ cup (293g) bread flour (aka "strong" or Typ 550)
4 tsp. vital wheat gluten
1 tsp sea salt
1 TBL raw sugar
cup (158ml) warm water
2¼ tsp. active dry yeast (about 1 cake fresh yeast)
1 cup (150g) golden raisins
½ cup (75g) dark raisins
1 TBL flour, for raisins
1 TBL cornmeal, for baking sheet
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp water, for glazing

In a mixing bowl large enough to hold the finished dough, combine both flours, vital wheat gluten, salt and sugar. Mix well. Make a small well in the flours, add warm water and yeast and allow yeast to dissolve. Add fermented Sponge to yeast mixture in well. Slowly incorporate flour mixture into the well, until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured table and knead well until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, this took me about 13 minutes of hard kneading. Shape into a ball for first rise.

Oil a large bowl and turn dough ball to coat lightly with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until doubled in size, mine took about 1½ hours.
Combine raisins and toss with 1 TBL flour to coat. Set aside until needed.

Pre-heat oven to 375F/190C. Sprinkle cornmeal over baking sheet.

Punch down dough, and gently knead. Allow to rest under cover for about 10 minutes. Gently roll out dough to the size of a sheet of paper. Sprinkle half of raisins over half the sheet, and fold dough close, as if closing a book. Press dough to lightly, and press dough back to the size of a sheet of paper again. Sprinkle remaining raisins and fold over dough to enclose the fruit again. Gently knead to distribute fruit through the dough.

Divide dough into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a free-form loaf. Place on prepared baking sheet. Cover each loaf with oiled plastic film and allow to proof until doubled in size, about 50 minutes to 1 hour. To test: gently press dough with a finger, if it springs back quickly, the dough needs more proofing time; if the indentation remains, it is ready to bake.

Brush loaves with egg yolk glaze, and slash tops with sharp razor or scalpel.

Place baking sheet in middle of oven, and spray sides of oven water. Immediately close oven door and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped on its underside. A single 2lb/1kg loaf may take 35-40 minutes to bake. I turned the sheet around about half way through baking to ensure even browning.

Allow to cool completely on rack before slicing. Its mild sweetness and toothsome chew are wonderful on their own — it's the only way T. has eaten it so far. I've indulged with a pats of unsalted butter to accompany my morning coffee.




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BMB: New York-style Light Rye Breads


My new year's resolution to bake bread at home has continued apace (Bake More Bread: BMB). From Anadama to Oatmeal to fruity Banana Yeast, finally we get to the sourdoughs. These are New York style sourdough rye loaves.

On the first day of the new year, I began a wild sourdough starter and attempted to follow directions from Sue, an accomplished bread baker and cheesemaker, at Know Whey. I began running into trouble early on. Sue's directions called for removing a quantity of the starter each day by weight. That sounds logical, and on sight it seems easy. It was not. At least not for me.

The starter batter is very sticky. Could-be-used-to-set-wallpaper sticky. And equally gloppy. In the end I was just not talented enough to weigh and remove the required amount of starter each day without creating a huge mess. Goop on my clothes. Streaky smears on the counters. And paste coating all the utensils, bowls and kitchen scale. It was getting discouraging, so rather than give up on my starter, I gave up on the weighing the starter. Instead I eye-balled what looked like 50% of the starter to use or dump, but still weighed the flour and water going in. And I kept my fingers crossed.

After the requisite one week development period, I was happy to see that the starter looked healthy and active. I gave her a couple more days to really settle in and develop some "sour" before putting her to work. Yes, her. We know sourdoughs are live, active cultures — they must be fed and changed on a regular basis, right? Well, meet "Katharine" or Kate for short — she's bubbly and energetic, with a stern backbone (of whole wheat) despite her soft appearance. Kinda like the actress after whom she's named. This photo was taken today.

My first attempt to make an all sourdough bread (i.e., no yeast) was a potato sourdough that I made into a braid and into rolls. This recipe cautioned that raising and proofing times could be quite extended. The first rise took 8 hours, and the proofing sometime less than 6. In fact, I miscalculated the proofing time based on that first rise, and by the time I checked the breads at 6 hours, the braid had collapsed. The rolls came out all right — a bit dense and light-colored.

For the second sourdough I chose a light rye recipe from "Secrets of a Jewish Baker" by George Greenstein since I had made a Jewish recipe called Schmalz & Gribenes that is often served with rye breads. This is a very involved bread recipe. You begin well over 48 hours before you want to bake by first making a caraway-seasoned rye-based starter. After the first 24 hours, the starter is fed more rye flour in 3 additional stages. After another 18 hours, you're ready to start the dough.
Instead of starting from scratch, I used Kate as the beginning starter and added crushed caraway seeds along with the first measure of rye flour and water for Stage One. The seeds completely disintegrate by the time the starter is ready to be made into a dough, so if you don't want seeds in the final bread, you can still add them at Stage One for the flavor boost they will give your starter. After each feeding, the starter is allowed to double, though the time required for doubling shortens with each stage. Maybe because I did not start from scratch with Mr. Greenstein's recipe, the Stage One rise took 10 hours. Stage Two took about 5, while Stage Three took about 4 hours.

After Stage Three, I removed about a half-cup of the rye sourdough to use for our next loaf — his name is George, of course. Per Mr. Greenstein's recommendation, he's covered with a film of water and lives in the fridge. Kate sits on the sideboard at room temperature.

When making the dough, I again had to depart from Mr. Greenstein's meticulous directions because I had neither clear flour nor left-over rye bread to make something called the Altus, basically a wet mash of left-over rye bread that provides that je ne sais quoi of real rye breads. Clear flour, also called first clear, is a specialty bakery flour — it is traditionally what's left after the first sifting of milled wheat to create white flour. So clear flour has some quantity of wheat bran and germ that are considered undesirable for white flour purposes. Evidently one doesn't find clear flour on market shelves(super-, co-op, specialty or otherwise). You either have to chat up an artisan baker into selling you some, or order it online. Online sources can charge twice as much for shipping as they charge for the flour itself, so you might want to plan accordingly and put all your specialty baking needs in one order. Alternatively, one bread baker's forum suggested a ratio of 3:1 all-purpose flour to whole wheat as a passable substitute for clear flour. I used 3:1 bread flour to whole wheat flour. This bread uses yeast as a leavener in addition to the sourdough, and I also included vital wheat gluten to increase the bread's lift and keeping ability.

The bread is painted with cornstarch solution before it is slashed, then again as soon as it comes out of the oven. I had not used this glaze before — it adds an interesting powdered shine to the finished loaf, don't you think? During baking, the sides of the oven are sprayed with water to create steam that for that distinctive chewy thick crust.

These are the final loaves we got: 2 plain, free-form loaves and one stuffed bread (a la Reuben). I am tickled at how chewy and tasty these breads were — pleasantly sour and redolent of rye. I doubled the amount of caraway seeds called for in the recipe, and I think it could hold up to even more. The rye and sour develop beautifully and taste even better on the second and third days. It was kind of hard but I portioned out a couple of slices to dry and keep for the Altus next time.

I refer any interested bakers to Mr. Greenstein's recipe for the directions for this wonderful bread — they reflect a lifetime of learning and a close understanding of the bread baker's art. Don't be put off by the long lead times — the starter itself is very simple, and most of the work is done by Mother Nature. I am looking forward to baking this again with the Altus and clear flour to see just what the difference will be, but I would not hesitate to bake this with the substituted flours again if I didn't have time to sweet talk a baker.

As I hoped, the light rye was the perfect foil for the Schmalz and Gribenes (GRIB-buh-nuhs).
Translation: Seasoned chicken fat and crispy chicken skin.
Mmmm, chicken skin... Look for that soon.





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