Saturday, March 31, 2007

i'm so lamé; a sourdough tutorial of sorts

So, in an attempt to share what my techniques are, in a sourdough tutorial of sorts, I blew it. I thought about taking pictures AFTER mixing up the dough, so this opening pic is really a re-creation of the ingredients involved. I'm so lame. I'll try and make it up to you with a story, I promise. Anyway, from bottom left to top right it goes: "fed" starter*, water, bread flour, whole wheat flour, salt keep, and partially risen, made ahead of time like on TV dough.

Okay, see, what you're aiming to do here is combine a cup of active starter (nice and bubbly), a cup and a half of warm water, 4 cups of white bread flour, 1 cup of whole wheat flour, and mix while you can. Then knead together for a few minutes on a bread board. Or in a mixer if you like, but I prefer my hands. Keeps 'em strong and makes me feel connected more with my food. After making dough just a few times, you will begin to feel more of the texture and gluten development as you knead and the time involved will become less. Oh yeah, after kneading cover with a clean cloth while you go do something else. Sourdough hates to be watched. Don't know why, just does. (Perhaps because of modesty; it's alive and ALOT of procreation is happening during the first rise, hmmmmm.)

Come back about half an hour later, mash into a flat disk with your hands and sprinkle half of your salt on it. Knead for another minute, then add the rest of the salt. Knead for five more minutes and then put into a lightly oiled large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Put in a warm** place for a few hours and punch down when doubled in volume, cover, and leave alone, so continued doughy hanky panky occurs. Come back when doubled in size again.

Punch dough down again, remove from bowl, place on floured board and cut in half. Take one half and using a rolling pin, or your hands if you're up to the challenge (most days not), form dough into a rough rectangle shape roughly 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

Take long edge of dough and roll, forming a plain, jellyroll looking thingy, dust with more flour, and place on parchment paper. (I can totally relate to the anal-retentive chef sometimes, so I like to trim the paper to a shape about an inch or two larger than the loaf, with an extra few inches on one side for pulling off of its rising place before putting in the hot oven.) If you have a pizza peel, or something like it, you would probably let your bread do its final rise on it and then tranfer to the oven, but I don't have one and having a large paddle in the house is not a good idea with a toddler around. Besides, using parchment works fine. The extra tab of paper at the end will make a nice pull handle for smoothly transfering your loaf onto a pizza stone.

Oh yeah, equipment. I have baked free-form loaves on cookie sheets and the results are alright. Putting loaves in baguette pans is nice, but I get the most satisfaction from shaping by hand and transfering to a pizza stone. The stone puts a huge amount of heat into the bread while retaining it's own, so in essence it cooks things as evenly as possible. If this doesn't make sense, look it up sometime. The extreme hot temperatures of the stone will make one poofy loaf as all the gas in the dough rapidly expands. Since you don't want to blow up your bread, it's nice to cut it, or give it a few slashes with a bread scoring device called a lamé in order to help it escape. If you don't know what that is, just go down to a nice kitchen supply store, like Sur La Table, with your little one and ask the kind person who strikes you as having the highest likelihood of speaking the most french. Put the accent on the last vowel and announce confidently "Yes, I'm here for a lamé, have you ever heard of one of those?"

With any luck, they will direct you over to them and show you the varieties in stock. While discussing their attributes and razor sharp edge, if your child is perhaps banging on your legs and demanding your attention and wanting to see what you are holding whilst trying to have an adult conversation, hand your kid one to play with and shock the clerk. (Taped up, rendering it safe, mind you.) As you strain to understand the clerk discussing the proper use of said bread tool behind their thick accent, catch snippets of what your child is saying in a low but clear voice as they run the tool up and down your upper thighs, working toward your crotch "scrape, scrape, scrape." Scrape, you think. Huh?

You look down to confirm the safety of the hopefully still good to play with instrument and try to refocus on the clerk, "yes, so what are the advantages of this model over the other?"

"Scrape. scrape.......oh, mommy uses this in the shower....." you hear emanating from somewhere below your belt.

"Yes, I see the longer handle would come in nice with larger loaves" you say rather loudly, hoping to drown out your child as the clerk politely smiles at you, then glances at your kid as they continue dragging the tool up and down the front of your pants.

"Yes, this green handled one seems like it might work rather nicely" you blurt out abruptly as your monkey is now innocently running what they think is a shaving razor with a protective cover over the top, all over your thighs and partially between your legs, saying "scrape, scrape, scrape, mommy uses this to shave her vulva."

"Thank you very much, you've been most helpful. I believe I'll take this one, yes. Might you direct me to the register?"

I highly recommend getting one of these. Purchase one alone if you don't want to announce to Berkeley's Fourth Street shopping district that it is summer time and therefore possible that the bikini line and inner thigh shaving that accompanies such fine weather was witnessed by your (then ) 2&1/2 year old. The lamé edge slices into a loaf much easier than a kitchen knife and it's curved orientation allows for much shallower approach angles. Bake a couple loaves at the same time and cut them different ways to get a feel for the range of possibilities and your own personal preference. So far, I prefer orienting the curved blade so that it matches the curve of the loaf and I cut as quickly as possible with light finger pressure and much wrist.

With the pizza stone in the oven, and having been preheating at a good 500 degrees for at least an hour (depending on the width and thickness of your pizza stone), slide the freshly sliced loaf onto the stone and begin spraying the sides of your oven with copious quantities of water for a minute. Close the oven door and set your timer for about 7-10 minutes depending on the size of the loaf. After two minutes, open the oven door and spray vigorously into it, wetting the walls, bottom, top, and even pizza stone and bread.

When the timer goes off, pull open the oven and flip the bread around 180 degrees in orientation and put back in for another 7-10 minutes. Resist the temptation to spray it again. When loaf looks nice and brown and done, turn off oven and place loaf onto upper wire rack and let sit with the door open while the oven cools off for about five minutes. If you are going for the ultimate in texture and springiness, let the bread cool completely before cutting into it. If you have a life and/or kids, cut it when you can't stand waiting any longer and immediately spread some coagulated butterfat or oily substitute all over it and stuff it in your face.

After loading up on carbs, run down to the "playground" and make sure you follow the painted lines on the asphalt wherever you go, letting them dictate the route from one end of the basketball court through the four-square and over to the monkey bars. The exercise will help settle your stomach.

While enjoying the spontaneous game of "horsies flying around like airplanes daddy!" think back to the artwork at your house. If there is a small artist in residence, perhaps the geometric hand prints left in the steamy window, prompted by their attempt to make order out of the chaos we call modern life, might come to mind.

While you contemplate your child's growing expression of life and art, think about your own expression of that. Think about the delicious bread being digested into your cells. Think about the love and process that went into it. Think about how whenever you use a lamé, a little voice pops into your mind saying "scrape, scrape, scrape." Then fall onto the ground, laughing your ass off and crying with joy as you realize how much you love your job here on earth.......

Thanks for bearing with me on my first "tutorial," if you can call it that. If you have any more questions and still have the confidence that I may be of some further help, please go ahead and ask.


* A fed starter is one approximately the consistency of pancake batter that was mixed with one part flour and one part water the night before and allowed to sit on the counter, covered until use. The remainder of the starter gets put back into a container and placed in the fridge until used again, usually within 5-10 days.

** A warm place could be the inside of your oven with the door closed and light on, somewhere near a warm air vent, or simply your countertop. Covering the dough is ideal, as with longer rising times you will keep most of the airborn cooties from interfering with flavor and it will keep from developing a skin and drying out. I find somewhere near 70 degrees works nice.


Mallika said...

Does this bread recipe not use yeast? I am allergic to yeast and desperate for bread that I can actually eat.

Mimi said...

Thank you, thank you for doing this! I already see a couple of pointers that will help me make better bread. I was especially happy to see a better way to form a baguette. Last week the experiment at my house consisted of trying to follow Julia Child's recommendation to flatten the dough into a rectangle, fold one third over and seal, fold the other third over and seal and then roll into a baguette shape. I have never formed an uglier bread in my life. I'll be trying the jelly roll from now on!!

Speaking of jelly rolls, I just baked these cinnamon rolls last night and highly recommend them to anyone with a sourdough starter:
I added rum raisons (bring a half cup raisons with enough rum to cover to boil, turn off and let sit for an hour) and diced apples to the filling.

Love the story about purchasing the lame'. Poor kid. Sounds like you'll have plenty of embarrassing stories to tell her potential suiters when she grows up.


chilebrown said...

Hey mallika, sourdough starter is a yeast, so be careful.

D-Man, Question? Why do you wait to add salt?

El said...

Thanks! It looks as good as it could possibly be.

(I completely understand about feeling like an AR chef; I just did a posting about breadbaking on my own site and I felt completely, well, dictatorial. Thou Shalt Not and all that. Fortunately, as you know, the breadmaking process is a wee bit more forgiving than that.)

I do envy you your Bay Area air for making some stinky sourdough, though.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Mallika: Chile is right. Sadly/gladly the starter is loaded with yeast. It's just a wild strain is all. Have you done any experiments with baking soda as the lifter? English muffins/crumpet type griddle bread?

Mimi: Great to hear this was of help. Let me know how your further experiments go and come on by the ranch again.

I looked at those cin rolls and they looks delish. We've made some very similar ones around here and now pretty much prefer the sour/sweet ones.

Chile: I read somewhere that delaying putting in the salt aids in the gluten formation. I didn't say it in the post because I have also heard the exact opposite. Basically, after reading about the delay technique (a few times) I tried it out. It seemed that the dough felt like I had worked more than I had when I went back to it. Also, this was about when I started consistently letting the dough relax. Maybe it's really the combination of letting it relax and then adding the salt but my loaves have been better since. Before then it depended more on the monkey dynamic for the day, sometimes the dough rested, sometimes not, and the results were much more variable. Note taking helps to see the patterns.

El: Hello! Thanks for dropping by. I just went and glanced at your post and it looks nice! I'll have to come by and spend more time lurking. Catch you soon!

chilebrown said...

I only mentioned it because the dough is a little moister to dissolve the salt on your first mixing. Do you have an espresso machine by your computer. You definitely are a wordsmith or a sourdough monkey!!

deinin said...

Oh, what a fabulous tutorial! Sadly, my sourdough starter went the way of the dodo last winter (apparently they started stinking up the fridge and got flushed down the toilet, every last one of'em, poor birdies), but maybe I should try again. Either that or start baking often enough that I could keep it on the counter. But then I wouldn't get to crumble fresh yeast!

Callipygia said...

Well though bread isn't something that I will pursue, I've certainly admired your loaves & pizza- so it was fun to be a fly on the wall of your kitchen and watch it happen. And of course the story of monkey shocking the uber-chic of 4th St. is priceless. A bread and life tutorial indeed!

HipWriterMama said...

Your little monkey is hysterical. Thanks for this tutorial. Now I'll actually have to try making the bread. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Chile: If unmixed salt came into contact with raw sourdough the results would be bad, so maybe the wait method makes sure this doesn't happen.

And you've seen my home bro', the computer is usually located within 5 feet of the coffee source.

Deinin: Ooooh. Down the toilet huh? If they were stinkin' up the fridge I see why though. Try starting another one, keep it to one, and get a better container. You can keep one going much easier and really only need to use it or feed it once every 10 days. It's using it consistently that seems to get most people.......they forget that they could just feed it regularly without even baking with it.

Calli: Honestly, I'm not even sure what the monkey was saying was really comprehended in it's entirety. Then again, I guess most 2.5 year olds don't use "vulva" as part of toddler vernacular and it simply didn't register.....

Hip: Thanks. As you can imagine (I'm sure at least one of your's qualifies as this, number 2 perhaps?), wordy little ones can be hard to keep a straight face around while engaging in "adult" conversation. With 3.5 on the horizon, and a fully blossoming imagination happenin' around here, I find myself on the ground in stitches often.

drbiggles said...

Yeah, ya know I've read this post more than a few times over the last few days. Checked and rechecked my intuition, skills and wicked good cookbooks at hand. Your methods, points of interest and information is so far off the mark it makes me eys blur.

How can you possibly regurgitate such drivel? You do realize you're spreading mass misinformation to people that really look up to you for the highest knowledge. For shame.


Oh man, I just love this month.

Baking bread brings most of us to our knees. And to have someone who can give us sheeps (MmMmMm, sheeps) some guidance, it's very much appreciated.

Don't sweat it about recreating anything for a post. If you think everything at Meathenge is in sequence, you're very much mistaken. I've even been known to use Stunt Meat.

Cheers Mega Wrangler,


Monkey Wrangler said...


I can hear it now; if only Beavis and Butthead were still around:
"Dude, did he just say, stunt meat?
*hunh, hunh* yeah, yeah..... he said: stunt meat

That is some funny shit Biggles, thanks.

HipWriterMama said...

Hey D-Man! I thought of you earlier...the kids and I were listening to one of their favorite books on tape...Junie B. Jones and a little monkey business by Barbara Parks, narrated by Lana Quintal. Your monkey will love this series in about a year or so.

The Junie B. Series starts off in kindergarten, and it is downright hysterical. The little monkey business is all about Junie B. and the confusion that erupts when her grandmother call her newborn baby brother a monkey. Funny, funny stuff.

doktor dough said...

Hey monkey wrangler--
I did it! I made ravioli (thanks to you!). they came out alright, stayed together and were yummy. I overstuffed the second batch (a little too enthusiastic) but we'll see how that goes. the tip about just smearing the filling over the dough was a lifesaver. also made a killer baguette to go with -- the whole wheat flour from the farmer's market is great.
i have lots of leftover roasted pumpkin if you would like some for your week's cooking escapades.
hope you had a good weekend. my little monkey is home so we'll touch base this week.

Monkey Wrangler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monkey Wrangler said...

HWM: Sounds good, I'll go give a look see at the library soon. Thanks! I love monkeys!

Doktor: Congrats on the success! Just think of all the different raviolis you'd like to make now! And yeah, that whole wheat is great. Thanks Full Belly Farms!

Good to hear your monkey is back. How about tuesday?

cookiecrumb said...

MW: I've heard your oven light can blow up if you spray it when it's hot. I hope you avoid spraying any glass.

Monkey Wrangler said...

CC: My oven is so old, lightbulbs were a new enough technology of sorts that they weren't quite in them yet. But thanks for looking out for me and my family. In fact talking with Shuna today I was reminded that such an old gas stove is an advantage when the power is out as it has no electrical hook-up whatsoever.

Three cheers for old Wedgewoods!