About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Sourdough Bread, Did you know it has ears?

Sourdough Boule, the dark peaked edge is an "ear"
I'd resisted the thought of baking sourdough for years.  It's the Olympic Marathon of baking.  Was it necessary to my cooking repertoire?  I didn't think it was worth the effort of all that feeding a starter like it was a pet until I discovered a young chef by accident on YouTube, Joshua Weissman.  Remember the name, he's going places.  I watched all his videos noting he frequently uses a contraption called a proofing box or fermentation station.  A collapsible box with a heating element in the floor and a water pan.  It was the answer to my hesitation and expansion of my baking skills.  The proofing box allows you to set the precise temperature and humidity for any bread or fermentation recipe.  All that stuff about "cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place" makes for very inconsistent results.  I do have a great bread machine but it only knows one temperature and I have no control over that.  Now I could control the proofing environment for professional results.  So what's just one more gadget in my already packed kitchen?

I studied Joshua's video, written schedule and techniques over and over.  I wasn't sure if it was a recipe or an IQ test.  It involves math, chemistry, vocabulary, logic, organization and above all else, a commitment.  Joshua made it as simple as he could but it's still got a lot of moving parts.  I'm not going to review the recipe but just give you the link and some tips for success.  The cookbook from the famous Tartine Bakery in San Francisco goes on for 80 pages  about sourdough. Joshua Weissman No Knead Sourdough Bread (13 minutes and 23 seconds) is more manageable.  https://youtu.be/eod5cUxAHRM

The Perfect Loaf website is another excellent source of baking wisdom.

scoring the loaf before baking
I admit to having all of these baking tools except the proofing box so I put them to good use.  Equipment is pretty important here so save up those pennies.  Baking is an investment.  Check out The Perfect Loaf website for more equipment.

-A Brød & Taylor proofer; a digital scale and an instant read thermometer (Amazon).  If you're into baking all of this will become indispensable.  So splurge.

-Use unbleached organic flours and filtered water.  It's a chemistry thing. I used a mix of rye and all purpose for the starter, bread flour and whole wheat for the dough.  Rice flour for dusting the liners.

-A razor blade will do for scoring but a lam (a razor blade with casing so you don't cut yourself) is better.

-A cast iron dutch oven.  I have an enameled one by Le Creuset.  Another splurge but worth it.

-A Kitchen Aid Mixer with a dough hook.  A big investment.  You can, of course, use your hands but how bourgeois.

-A banneton proofing basket.  It supports the bread shape as it rises.

Yes, this is the most expensive loaf of bread you could make so make a lot of them and think about all the history and effort that went into it when you do.  The starter can be used in any baking that involves a leavener.  Experiment and Bake on!

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