In my endless quest for real food, I look for real bread. This is not it:
The RecipeI get numerous requests for the recipe of the bread in my Potato Hack book. I really don't have a recipe, I consider my breads to be living creatures, like the tomatoes in my summer garden. Each batch of bread is different. Here, I'll show you the birth of my latest batch.
I like to make a sourdough starter every winter and have fresh bread while I try to stay warm. You can keep a sourdough starter alive for years of you treat it right. The average lifespan of my sourdough is about 4 months, though. A vacation or weeks of neglect will kill it. But it's really easy to make and keep alive.
This year, I'm using a Cultures for Life sourdough starter I got from Amazon. They send you a small packet of dried sourdough starter, you simply mix it with water and a spoonful of whole wheat flour. The next day, add a bit more flour and water. Repeat for 4-5 days, and soon you'll have a jarful of tangy smelling sourdough starter. You simply take out a cup of the starter mix and add it to your flour and let it sit a while.
Timeout for some science and history!
"Sourdough" is a catchall phrase for bread made with a special mixture of yeast and lactic acid forming bacteria, It's a cross between sauerkraut and bread, kinda. A truly fermented food. They call us Alaskans "sourdoughs" because the old miners relied on it for bread during the goldrush of 1896. Then there's the old joke that most of us up here are sour on Alaska, but ain't got the dough to leave.
Not to be confused with sour "toe."
|Strange things done in the midnight sun...|
My Starter:My sourdough culture resides in a quart jar. I keep it where it's about 75-85 degrees and feed it daily. If I'm not going to be around for a few days, or getting tired of home made bread (ha!), I'll put it in the refrigerator and only feed weekly.
Looks like a thin pancake batter. Smells "tart."
I cover the jar with a lid that's been replaced by a paper towel. This let's it breath.
When there's enough starter to steal some, you take about half your starter culture and mix it with whole grain spelt flour. Cover it with a towel or saran wrap, and store it in a cool place (40-60degF) for up to several days. The cooler it is, the longer you can keep it. The taste of sourdough breads made with varying fermentation times and temperatures is very noticeable.
If you lack patience (like me), you can put the bowl of bread dough in a warm place and be ready to bake bread in just a couple hours.
After the dough has fermented a while, it will get bubbly and expand. This internal expansion is caused by the yeast and bacteria and what gives bread its characteristic look, taste, feel, and smell. Once it's nice and bubbly, I add about a quarter cup of honey, a tsp of salt, and then any various seeds and whole grains you have laying around. Today I used oat groats, pumpkin seeds, and flaxseed. I love using spelt (a form of wheat) flour for my whole-grain breads. Spelt is not as dark as rye and never fails with my sourdough cultures.
Stir and let rise again in a warm or cool place. You can put the dough in its baking pan or tray at this point if you like. This type of bread does not need endless kneading or mixing, just a quick stir to incorporate all of the ingredients and wet the flour is fine.
Pro-tip: Line the pan with parchment paper to prevent sticking.
This is the trickiest part. You want to cook your bread so that it's nice and crusty and the inside is not still raw. If you take the bread out too early, it's hard to re-cook it. If you leave it in too long, it can get burnt and overly dry and hard.
I like to bake my bread at 400F for 40 minutes, then use an electronic temperature probe to check for an internal temp of 200 degrees. I might even check at the 20 minute mark to see how close I am.
If you get it right, you get to enjoy a slightly pungent smelling, tangy bread that's been eaten by tough men for hundreds (thousands) of years. Makes good sandwiches, but even better toast.
A meal in itself. Sourdough whole grain spelt bread and aged Irish cheddar.
Pro-tip: Sourdough also makes excellent pizza crust.
There ya go! Now go make your own.