“There is no reason I shouldn’t be making my own bread.” This was me a couple parties ago when I had just started my own sourdough starter. I LOVE sourdough bread. When given the option, I will ALWAYS get sourdough. I had been wanting to make my own for a long time. Enter A World of Breads by Dolores Casella (published in 1966!). I believe that I have mentioned my love of cookbooks and that I have quite a few older ones. I’ve been perusing this one quite a bit, and found a starter recipe and a sourdough french bread recipe. I’ve tried making the bread twice now, and the second loaf was better than the first. I’m not sure if that means the starter is improving, but I hope so because the bread isn’t quite sour yet. Here’s the run-down:
- 1 or 2 cups milk
- equal parts flour
- glass or pottery container
- Put 1 or 2 cups milk in a glass or pottery container, cover it with cheesecloth, and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Stir in an equal amount of flour. Blend. Cover with cheesecloth again and put the container outside in a protected place for 12 to 24 hours. (The purpose of putting the jar outside is to collect the wild yeast that is already in the environment).
- Bring the jar inside and put in in a warm place until it starts to bubble and becomes full of bubbles. This will take 2 to 5 days depending on the conditions of your kitchen, the weather, and the wild yeast cells in the air.
- After there are sufficient bubbles, cover it and store in a refrigerator.
Each time you use some starter in a recipe, replenish the starter by stirring in equal amounts of milk and flour. Cover it with cheesecloth and leave it out at room temperature or in a warm spot in your kitchen until the jar becomes full of bubbles again. When there are sufficient bubbles, cover it and store back in the fridge.
Day One: Milk sitting at room temperature for 24 hours
Day 2: Flour added (about to sit outside for 24 hours)
Day 3-5: Jar back indoors; Bubbles have started to form
Sourdough French Bread (my adaptation)
- 1 cup hot water
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 teaspoons yeast
- 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
- 4 to 5 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
- 1 tablespoons minced garlic (optional)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
- 1 egg white & ice water
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour hot water over the honey and butter. Stir on low to melt the butter. Then let it cool to lukewarm.
- Add the yeast, starter, 2 cups of the flour, and the salt. Blend ingredients.
- Add the optional items (cheese, garlic, pepper). Combine.
- Stir in another 2 cups flour. Then add up to another cup of flour – just enough to make a firm dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead thoroughly.
- Place in an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled. (This will take 1-2 hours depending on your kitchen environment).
- Punch it down and let it rise another 30 minutes.
- Turn it out onto a floured surface. Let it rest for 10 minutes before shaping. You can shape it into a large round loaf, a large oval loaf, a long thin loaf, 12 rolls, or it can be put into 2 bread pans. Whichever shape you try, the cookie sheet or loaf pan should be well buttered and sprinkled with cornmeal. For added protection, I put down parchment paper (but I still oiled it and sprinkled it with cornmeal).
- Let it rise until doubled again.
- Slash the dough in several places with a very sharp knife just prior to baking. Glaze with the egg white/ice water mixture.
- Bake at 400 for 40-50 minutes. (Rolls should only take 15-20 minutes).
- Glaze 2-3 times during the baking process.
It was an experiment to add the flavor elements (cheddar, garlic, black pepper), and we honestly couldn’t really taste any of those elements, but they helped to make the bread more tasty. Next time, I’m going to play around with different additions (olives maybe?) and the quantities. The possibilities are endless!
Making bread is definitely not quick. All the waiting around for the rising … but it’s definitely worth it! It’s something that I can do for my family that makes me feel really good … And no plastic or paper bags to contend with! I just wrap up our bread in a cloth and store it on the cutting board for up to 2 days. After that, if there’s any left, I make croutons or bread crumbs with it. No waste!