Its cold and rainy, Mike is fishing – ugh getting up at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday to go fishing in the rain? Maybe if you would give me $1000 to go gambling in a casino I would get up at 6:00 am. but that’s pretty much how far my (anti) love for getting up early goes. In any case, I have the house for myself and bread making comes to mind.
I have spent hours and hours for the past 12 months trying to master the art of Artisan Sourdough Bread, have read the Bread bible – Tartine Bread – have made my own Sourdough starter (his name is “Bubbles”) and spent countless hours figuring out the chemistry of water, flour and salt, ate ALL of my experiments and came to the conclusion to leave the 3 day process of baking a perfect San Francisco Sourdough bread up to Chad Robertson, the Bread Master at Tartine. I figure that the below recipe gets me to 100% of the look I was going for, 90% of the crust consistency and 80% of the taste of the Tartine Method but takes waaaaay less time. This bread is not as airy and light as a Tartine baked sourdough bread would be but to be honest I like a dense more sour bread anyway.
A lot of the Tartine Method is about letting the sourdough penetrate the dough in hours and hours of resting and having the gluten develop in the dough through these extensive resting periods. I decided to use my own sourdough and just let Bubbles get a little bit more smelly (aka ferment longer) and have a stronger flavor so that the “sour” taste is there right from the get go and I don’t have to wait days for it to develop in the dough.
I did though learn a few things from reading the Bread Bible:
- Buy a cast iron pot with lid. You can simulate a professional bread oven with a cast iron pot; it will enable you to bake at very high temperatures and also provide a closed environment in which you can create steam which is important for the crust building process.
- Bread has to be baked at very high temperatures (450 degrees) and allows the dough to do a so called “oven spring” – which is the expansion of the dough to its maximum capacity.
- A bread bannetone is a very handy little basket that is used for the dough to rest. It will provide great support for the dough to get in shape and will make your bread look much nicer than just letting it rest in a simple bowl.
- Don’t skip “scoring” (slashing a line or x or other pattern) your dough. It allows the built up gases in the dough to escape in a “directed” way and prevents your bread from random cracks.
Here the recipe for the Sourdough starter I used. Its really easy to make and once you have it sitting in your fridge, just use the amount needed for the recipe and replenish with feeding your starter the amount that you took out for the recipe (1/2 water; 1/2 flour).
And while I was baking bread, poor Sky wished I would have walked her instead. But since that wasn’t happening she chose the second best thing to do and decided to climb onto the table on the deck to observe the neighborhood on her “high chair”
- 3 oz sourdough starter (1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon salt (10 grams)
- 1 tablespoon dry yeast (10 grams)
- 2 cups flour (500 grams)
- 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water (300 ml)
- Mix all ingredients in a standing mixer until well combined and a ball forms. If its too sticky add a tiny little bit of flour until the ball comes loose from the bowl. If the dough is to dry add a tiny little bit of water.
- Let the dough rest in a bowl (or bannetone) at a warm place for an hour or until doubled. I usually preheat the oven to 100 degrees, turn it off and then put the covered bowl into the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. If you have a cast iron pot with lid heat it up in the same time in the oven. The trick to a nice crust and fully expanded bread is a very hot baking environment and you can simulate a professional bread oven by using a cast iron pot. If you plan on baking a lot of bread I can highly recommend to buy one, since I am using my covered cast iron pot to bake my breads, they always come out really crispy.
- Be SUPER careful when you remove the ultra hot pot from the oven, as you can imagine the danger of burning yourself is very high. Place the bread into the pot (by turning over the bowl/bannetone (so the top will now be the bottom) and slash an “X” into the bread with a very sharp knife. Place the lid back on and put the cast iron pot into the oven. Turn back the heat to 450 degrees. I usually spray a tiny little bit of water into the pot prior to closing it with the lid to create some steam, that helps to achieve a nice shiny crispy crust. Another reason to bake with these really high temperatures in the beginning is that it allows the dough to do a so called “oven spring” – when you switch the bread from the bowl to the pot and slash/score it, it will lose volume and look flat, the high temperatures make the dough pop back up (oven spring) and sets its crust. I tell you lots and lots of science goes into baking bread, reading Tartine Bread is very interesting even for the not so serious bread baker.
- Bake the bread covered for 15 on 450-500 degrees and then remove the lid and bake for another 20-25 minutes on 450 degrees until the crust is brown and the internal temperature reaches 208-212 degrees (a candy thermometer comes in really handy). The bread should sound somewhat hollow.
- Remove the bread from the cast iron pot and let it cool out on a rack- usually 1 – 2 hours but that never happens in my household!