Cannot wait to serve this bread to my neighbors tonight. Finally have my thumb back on the social pulse of Rochester, (hopefully not occluding with the pressure) the epicenter of which happens to be usually hovering around Southtown (a neighborhood some call Slatterly), and today there is much festivity! Johnny Mango’s this afternoon for a song; backyard around our campfire next to the sadly chicken-less coop for a block party kickoff; house to house as the neighbors desire for a progressive dinner. Here’s Izzy watching my tomatoes grow and waiting for guests to arrive. Beyond, a nice group home for chickens if you know of any looking for cheap housing.
For my culinary contribution, these loaves of sourdough bread, I was basically on call last night. I’m pretty sure the bread dough paged me at 2am. This bread is not for the EasyBake chef—it is for the kamikazee boulanger. Longest recipe ever, but worth the result.
San Francisco Sourdough Reflexology
Adapted from the Village Baker
This recipe takes several refreshments—which means you need to get your sourdough starter hyped and producing complex molecules that taste and smell right, which means that you will be getting up in the middle of the night to tend to it.
1/2 cup (approximately) of sourdough starter
1/2 cup very warm water
1 cup flour
Place the starter in a small mixing bowl, and add the warm water. With a fork, mash the starter around in the water until it softens and begins to dissolve, and continue mixing and beating it (like a batter) until the consistency of the liquid is smooth.
Add flour to the liquid a little at a time, and blend it in. Eventually the liquid will become a paste, and then a dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping out the drier bits of dough and remnants of flour. Knead the dough mixture until it is smooth.
Place the resulting ball of dough in a bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and leave in a warm, draft-free place to rise.
Allow this dough to rise for six hours or more, which, for me, meant 2am.
The sponge from the previous refreshment
3/4 cup cool water
1 3/4 cup flour
Place the sponge in a bowl, and pour the water over it. Mash the starter around in the water with a fork, as before, until it softens and dissolves, and continue beating the mixture until it becomes a liquid of smooth consistency.
Gradually add the flour to the mixture, blending it with the fork. As the mixture thickens, you may wish to switch over to stirring with a wooden spoon. When the mixture has transformed from liquid into dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping the remnants out of the bowl, and knead it for a couple of minutes, until its consistency is smooth.
All of the sponge from the previous refreshment
2 1/4 cups of lukewarm water
5 cups flour
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp salt
Mix the sponge and the water together thoroughly, until the resulting liquid has a smooth consistency. Gradually add four cups of the flour and the salt and mix it in.
When all of the flour is blended in, leave the dough in its mixing bowl to sit for fifteen minutes or so to allow autolysis (a process in which all of the gluten strands relax and align–a miracle) to occur.
Knead the dough until it has a smooth consistency, without lumps. Allow it to rise for four or five hours. Then, you are ready to proof!
(This is a new technique to me…a bit of an experiment. In theory, when the ball of dough rises, the bread is ready to bake.) I only share it because I think it actually worked quite well. I’ll let you know if there are ever breads for which this technique fails. It actually saved me some time. For my second rising, I was going to let the loaves rise another 2 hours when the ball rose… I think it takes into account the ambient specifics better than the recipe’s blanket estimate “8 hours” or whatever. What you will. When you start, the ball should sink to the bottom.
Form two tight boules with the dough and place them in separate bannetons to rise until the water-ball gets to the surface of the water. I only needed a second rising for two hours (as opposed to four– before this technique I might have waited four hours and then wondered why my loaves didn’t lift much further in the oven…)
Preheat the oven to 450ºF. I bake my bread on a baking stone in my oven, and this demands substantial preheating time. Move the freeform loaves onto a sheet of parchment paper, leaving plenty of room between them for expansion. When the oven is ready, glaze the tops of the loaves with a wash of egg white and a tablespoon of cold water. I take a spray bottle filled with water and mist the loaves. Then I slash the loaves with a very sharp knife; always choose new designs. More experimentation.
After a minute, I open the oven, slide the bread on the peel inside, and thoroughly spray the loaves with the spray bottle. The humidity helps the crust to glaze properly. When the crust is thoroughly golden-brown, after 40 minutes or so, take them out and allow the loaves to cool on a wire rack. Now, if you are unsure that your bread is done with surveying the color of the crust, you can always check for hollowness when you thump the bottom of the bread.
Also, sometimes, a tuning fork. I assume that somewhere in there my loaves have posterior columns for sensing vibration and joint position sense, and I would hate to learn that I’ve served sourdough with tabes dorsalis to my guests. This would also raise my suspicion a bit concerning where my sourdough starter had been before she came to me… possibly San Francisco?