I've been experimenting with my sourdough starter recently. I'd like to understand what I"m doing, beyond feeding it once a week and adding more flour to the part I want to turn into bread.
I'm reading The Bread Builders by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott, which is a super-informative book about natural leaveners and hearth baking. To hear them talk, the only way to make real bread is to skip the yeast and fire in a hand built oven that burns wood. My boss keeps talking about moving the oven he built several years ago to the farm...I hope it happens. Then I could make real bread.
In the meantime, I offer Walnut Bleu Cheese Sourdough, which apparently is Peter Reinhart's favorite. I made it a couple weeks ago and Eric and I brought a loaf with us to Durham, North Carolina. (Along with some Potato Rosemary bread, which I will post next). This cool cat Gretchen who thinks blogs are lame lives there, and we like her enough to visit. (We like her a lot, actually) Our good friends Leah and Drew came too, and we had a blast. Leah has a blog, which I think is good reading. She and Drew build sweet things around their house.
The coolest part about this bread is the color! It's purple! Do you know why it's purple? You're thinking "The bleu cheese, duh" right? WRONG! It turned purple after I added the toasted walnuts and before the bleu cheese. Weird, I know. It's the oils in the walnuts.
For this bread, make your sourdough as you normally would, and add 25 percent toasted walnuts and 15-20 percent crumbled bleu cheese. This will seem like an absurd amount, breaking and spilling out of the dough at every side, but it will work in the end, even if it requires some guerilla shaping of the loaves. Add the walnuts during the last two minutes of kneading and fold in the bleu cheese carefully at the end of kneading. (Press out the dough and sprinkle one third of the cheese on it, roll it up and repeat this two more times.)
As soon as I really, truly figure out this sourdough thing, I'll post my findings, but in the mean time you can check out The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (which is a must have bread book. The Authority, some say.)
Here are links to his sour dough bread recipe
(note: if you don't have hours and hours to let your bread rise, or if your starter is new, you can add 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast to the bread to ensure a 90 minute first rise and a 60 minute final proof. Is this cheating? Opinions differ. You decide. Bear in mind that the bread is definitely less sour if you use yeast.)
...but I recommend buying the book so you can read all about bread and how to bake it.
MMmmm, we grilled the bread with butter for dinner at Gretchen's house. We ate it with local spinach, sausage and chutney.
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