13 week cooking course

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Baking and Bread Making

The Art of Sourdough Bread Making

bread made with a sourdough starter

Bread made with a sourdough starter.

Sourdough bread is a beloved staple in many cultures around the world. Its unique flavor, texture, and the satisfaction of creating it from scratch make it a rewarding baking project. This unit will guide you through the process of creating a sourdough starter, maintaining it, and using it to bake your own sourdough bread.

Introduction to Sourdough: History and Benefits

Sourdough bread dates back to ancient times and is one of the oldest forms of grain fermentation. It's known for its characteristic tangy flavor, chewy texture, and crisp crust. Sourdough is also highly nutritious. The fermentation process makes the nutrients in the bread more available for digestion, and the lactic acid bacteria present in the bread have probiotic properties.

Creating a Sourdough Starter

A sourdough starter is a mixture of flour and water that has been fermented with wild yeast and bacteria. To create a starter:

  1. Mix equal parts of flour and water in a jar. Whole grain flour works best as it contains more nutrients for the yeast.
  2. Cover the jar loosely and let it sit at room temperature.
  3. Feed the starter daily by discarding half of it and adding fresh flour and water.
  4. After about a week, the starter should be bubbly and have a pleasant sour smell. It's now ready to use.

Maintaining a Sourdough Starter

Maintaining a sourdough starter requires regular feeding. If you bake often, keep your starter at room temperature and feed it daily. If you bake less frequently, you can store the starter in the refrigerator and feed it once a week. Always remember to feed your starter after using some for baking.

Making Sourdough Bread: Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Mix the Dough: Combine your starter, water, and flour. Mix until you see no more dry flour.
  2. First Rise: Cover the dough and let it rise until it has doubled in size. This can take anywhere from 3 to 12 hours, depending on the temperature and the strength of your starter.
  3. Shape the Dough: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a round loaf.
  4. Second Rise: Place the dough in a proofing basket or a bowl lined with a floured towel. Let it rise until it has doubled in size again.
  5. Bake the Bread: Score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife or a bread lame. This allows the bread to expand in the oven. Bake in a preheated oven until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Tips for Achieving the Perfect Sourdough Crust and Crumb

  • For a Crispier Crust: Use a dutch oven or a baking stone and create steam in the oven. This helps to achieve a crispy, golden crust.
  • For a Lighter Crumb: Make sure your starter is active and healthy. A strong starter will give your bread a good rise and a light, airy crumb.

By the end of this unit, you should be able to create your own sourdough starter and use it to bake a loaf of sourdough bread. Happy baking!