The theme of this month's Recipe ReDux is fermented foods. Fermented foods have many health benefits, and most of us eat them every day - yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, soy sauce, and yes, beer. :) I did actually think about writing a post on homebrewing, but alas, I can't really say that beer, although delicious and quite scientific to make, is that great for you. So instead I challenged myself with a new culinary adventure - making homemade sourdough bread.
While most breads use yeast for leavening, sourdough is the only (I think?) bread that actually requires the yeast to ferment, which gives it that unique sour flavor reminiscent of tangy yogurt. The process of making it is interesting and rustic - you start by making a starter, which is a combination of yeast, flour, sugar and warm water.
The starter must ferment for 8-12 hours, so I mixed it together last night and let it sit in the oven overnight.
The starter is actually alive at this point, and you can keep it living for as long as you want by "feeding" it; every time you take some out to use in a bread dough, you just add some more water and flour and stick it back in the fridge. You could literally have sourdough starter on hand for years, and the longer it sits, the more "sour" it becomes. I can't wait to see what kind of character this starter takes on down the road. This process reminds me of the thousand-year-old Asian kimchis I've heard about.
Making the starter is the longest process, so once you have one, you're good to go. If you have bread-loving friends, you could even gift them a jar of your starter since you'll likely have plenty leftover. Local friends, care for a jar of yeast? ;-)
Once the starter is ready, just mix it with flour, knead it for a few minutes and let it rise.
Then bake it for an hour and let the smell of yeast fill your whole house. It's probably one of the best smells in the world.
You're supposed to wait 30 minutes before slicing it, but really, who does that? Not me. Warm bread is the best.ever.
Check out the other great Recipe ReDux fermented food posts below the recipe!
Herbed Sourdough Bread
Makes 1 loaf
Adapted from Basic Sourdough Bread by Emeril Lagasse
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sourdough starter (below)
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. dried thyme
Combine the flour, starter and salt and knead until the dough comes together. If using an electric mixer, use the dough hook and knead until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl (I use olive oil cooking spray), turning to coat. Cover with a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 2-3 times. Then knead into a small circle, shape into a small ball, and pinch the seams together underneath. Place on a floured board, seam-side down, cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size again, about 1 hour.
Dust a baking stone with cornmeal and preheat it at 400 degrees (if you don't have a baking stone, just use a baking sheet). With a sharp knife, cut an "X" on the top of the dough. Spray lightly with olive oil and sprinkle thyme across the top.
Transfer dough to the baking sheet/stone and bake 45-60 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. Remove from oven and let cool 30 minutes before slicing.
3 cups warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3 cups flour
Combine the water, yeast and sugar in a bowl. Let sit until the yeast becomes foamy, about 5 minutes.
Add the flour and whisk until combined. Cover with a towel and let rest in a warm place (such as inside an oven with the light on) for 8-12 hours. Starter should be bubbly when it is done.
To Feed and Preserve the Starter
Each time you remove a portion of the starter for a recipe, reserve at least 1/4 cup and replace the amount you have taken out with equal amounts flour and water. For example, if you remove 1 cup of starter, replace it with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Whisk them together, cover loosely and return to the refrigerator.
The starter must be fed every few days or the yeast will die. To feed the starter, remove 1 cup (use it or discard it), and add 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. Whisk until blended (not smooth) and return to the fridge again.
The starter will last in the fridge for about a week. Otherwise it can be stored in a sterilized, airtight container and frozen. Thaw the starter 2 days before you plan to use it. Refresh as indicated above, then cover and leave at room temperature overnight before using.
Caution: Do not keep your starter tightly closed. The yeast will expel gasses and build up pressure, and may cause the container or jar to burst. If using a Mason jar, leave the lid unscrewed and resting gently on top.