well this didn't quite turn out to be the amazing loaf I was expecting... not sure what i did wrong but i'm going to have to remake next week I think... it came out a little dense and heavy for my liking...
... with bread-making there's so much you have to put down to trust, experience and feeling... it's quite an emotional activity making bread... and like many of my mood swings, sometimes I get it just right and others I should give up when I know it's going wrong but by stubborn nature simply won't let me....
... I lost patience and this was the biggest problem, so let' start again next week shall we?
... but just in case you're wondering, stage four should go something like this:
Several hours before you plan to make your dough (recipe below), you need to make a sponge. A "sponge" is just another word for a bowl of warm, fermented batter. This is how you make your sponge.
Take Lucretia out of the fridge. Pour her into a large glass or plastic bowl. Meanwhile, wash the jar and dry it. You may also wish to pour boiling water over it, since you don't want other things growing in there with your pet!
Add a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to the bowl. Stir well, and set it in a warm place for several hours.
Watch for Froth and and Sniff. When your sponge is bubbly and has a white froth, and it smells a little sour, it is ready... The longer you let the sponge sit, the more sour flavor you will get.
The proofing-time varies. Some starters can proof up to frothiness in an hour or two. Some take 6-8 hours, or even longer. Just experiment and see how long yours takes. If you're going to bake in the morning, set your sponge out to proof overnight.
The Actual Recipe
2 Cups of sponge (proofed starter)
3 Cups of unbleached flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil or softened margarine
4 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
First, let's talk about leftover sponge... you should have some. The leftover sponge is your starter for next time... so put Lucretia back into the jar, and give her a fresh feed of a half-cup each of flour and warm water... keep her in the fridge as above... you'll have starter again next time.
Now, for the recipe:
- To the sponge, add the sugar, salt, and oil... Mix well, then knead in the flour a half-cup at a time.
- Knead in enough flour to make a good, flexible bread dough. You can do this with an electric mixer, a bread machine on "dough cycle," or a food processor. You can also do it with a big bowl and your bare hands.
... keep in mind that flour amounts are approximate; flour varies in absorbency, and your sponge can vary in wetness. Use your judgement; treat it like ordinary white or french bread dough. Trust your hands and eyes more than the recipe, always.
...let the dough rise in a warm place, in a bowl covered loosely with a towel (if you're using a bread machine's dough cycle, let it rise in the machine). Note that sourdough rises more slowly than yeast bread... let the dough double in bulk, just like yeast-bread dough.
- Punch the dough down and knead it a little more. Make a loaf and place it on a baking sheet... slit the top if you like, and cover the loaf with a paper towel and place it in a warm place to rise again, until doubled in bulk.
- place the pan with the loaf in your oven, and then turn your oven to 350o Farenheit and bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven. The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack or a towel and let it cool for an hour before slicing...
eat and of course, enjoy!