This is the other basic sourdough recipe in Ruth Allman's book Alaska Sourdough. While the first recipe I used - the "Quick and Easy" one - contains additional yeast and baking soda to aid in the rise, this recipe does not. In this batch we rely completely on the power of our starter.
And, if you've been feeding and caring for your sourdough, you should have no problem with that.
First thing you'll need to do, if you want to make this entire (4 loaf) batch, is to build up your starter so that you'll have enough to donate 4 cups of it to the bread and have some left over to keep in your sourdough pot. You can either build the starter up gradually over several days by adding maybe a cup of flour and a cup of water to the starter each day until you have enough, or you can do it all at once, with several cups of flour and several of water. You can also add a pinch of sugar with the feeding, if you want to give the sourdough a slightly bigger boost.
Here's what you'll need, according to Ruth Allman (the recipe can be found on page 90 of her book):
4 cups Sourdough
2 cups potato water
1/2 cup sugar
6 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp salt
10 cups flour - approximately
I didn't have any potatoes (forget to get them at the store), so I just used plain ol' warm water. I would also increase the salt maybe by another teaspoon - for a bit more flavor, but that's just me.
I would also advise that if you are planning to make this whole recipe, you make sure you have several REALLY BIG bowls on hand.
Okay, once you have all the ingredients assembled, you're ready to go.
Make soft sponge mixing the Sourdough, sugar, water and oil. Add half the flour.
Set in warm place to double in bulk.
Add remainder of flour (and the salt - this is left out of the book, but this is when I'd make the addition) to make dough that is easy to handle, smooth and elastic.
(here's where extremely big bowls come in handy)
(I stirred the flour in with a wooden spoon until it became too difficult to maneuver. Then I dumped and scraped it all out onto the counter and finished working it by hand.)
* If you would like to see a slideshow of how to knead dough, you can go here.
(The magic of breadmaking - transforming the ingredients from this shaggy, lumpy mess into this...)
Before you continue with the recipe, if you have any doubt about the life of your sourdough (which you shouldn't, but we're all human), here's how you can check on it. Poke the dough with your finger or fingers, up to or just past the first knuckle.
When you take your hand away, the dent will remain...
but as you watch, the dough will push back...
and the dent will almost disappear.
Pretty cool, no? You can also use this little trick to see if your dough had finished rising. If the dent fills in, as it did above, then the dough isn't finished. But if the dent remains a dent, then the dough has risen all it can and you're ready to go on to the next step.
Place in greased bowl. Cover. Let raise in warm place until double in bulk.
Knead down. Let raise to double bulk.
Form into loaves
or roll out 1/4" thick. Roll lengthwise and place on cookie sheet. Slash.
Bake 500 for 10 minutes, then 400 for 45 minutes.
Sorry about the poor picture quality on these last two. It was getting dark and the lighting wasn't great.
One thing to keep in mind also, if you're mentally deficient like I am, is that when you decide to separate the loaves, you should probably put the pan down on the counter, rather than leaving it on the top of your 4-layer cooling rack. Know why? Because when you're (foolishly) picking up the two left-hand loaves to separate them, the balance on the pan will shift to the right in dramatic fashion, and the nice loaves on the right that you'd just separated will FLY INTO THE AIR! One will do a few Olympic dive style flips before landing on the floor. (Fortunately your floor will be scrupulously clean and, five-second-rule in effect, you can safely put the loaf back on the counter.) The other loaf will drop into your sink, where there will be a couple of large bowls soaking, and the loaf will land RIGHT IN THE WATER. With your almost-lightning reflexes, you will snatch the loaf out of the bowl before it becomes entirely soggy, and you will trim off the wet half. And you will curse your ineptitude, and you will opt not to take pictures of this latest fiasco, because really, why torture yourself over an over with the memory?
Just like the very first sourdough batch I made, the texture is soft with a tight, firm crumb. Perfect for sandwiches, toast, french toast, and whatever else you can think of. The flavor is nice - it still doesn't have a really noticeable sourdough tang, but that's okay - it's still a young sourdough.
And...because it's me...here's a not-very-great-but-still-kinda-cool shot of the starter, and water and oil, before I added the sugar and mixed it all together. See how much fun it is to make bread? You get to see cool science-class stuff like this!