Sunday, 24 October 2010

sourdough... success at last

... even though my dear Lucretia failed me the first time, i've not given up on her... feeding her regularly each week... and last night I felt the urge to make bread...

...this time i let the sponge rise overnight and it clearly made a huge difference... very happy... and very tasty...

so... 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. (or overnight... )

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!


  1. Your bread looks just perfect. I could just eat a slice slathered in butter. Yum

  2. When I woke up this morning I thought I smelled toast.LOL. All kidding aside the bread looks awesome. How close does it come to the bread in San Francisco?

  3. Sounds Good!
    Granny you're right with butter should be delicious, I was thinking the same . . .

  4. Looks like you've cracked the secret of making sough dough bread. What a lovely looking loaf - hope it tastes as good as it looks.

    I now wish I tried harder to keep my sourdough going... maybe I'll have another go.


  5. Hurray! By George, I think you've got it! I, too, am excited, as I started my own sourdough starter from your post and will be ready in a few days to try my hand! This post came along just in the nick!

    That loaf looks terrific! This bread thing is so rewarding when it works, huh?

  6. hello...i was happy to see you at farmhouse this morning...LOVE your blog and i see some of my fellow bloggers here as have a wonderful kitchen..i just love it.

    you were right here in california this summer. if you were in big sur i bet you drove right through cambria..about an hour and a half south..i lived there for 30 i live in san luis obispo...30 minutes more south.

    i love nepenthe of my favorite spots...

    happy to visit here today.
    kary and teddy

  7. Its all gone... eaten it all... now do I go for another one tonight or leave it a week?

    My Farmhouse Kitchen... we spent 3 days in Cambria... I LOVE it there, wonderful place!

  8. It looks wonderful! And very tasty!

  9. Seems to have worked a treat - I can almost taste that bread from here!! Must get myself organised and make a starter .... that I don't kill!

  10. thank you all for the kind words... i know that baking bread is such an emotional thing, it really is like nurture... and it tastes and smells so good to boot!

  11. Your sourdough bread looks perfect! Too bad it's all gone! I was hoping for some French toast with maple syrup! Oh well, next time! Good job on cracking the sourdough code!

  12. I've had more sourdough failures than I care to confess - so now I'm really jealous - not that I'm competitive or anything..

  13. Percy made bread at the weekend, and I was amazed. Mr. Sconefingers has done it again! We're doing sour dough next, so will be looking more closely at your Lucretia posts :)

  14. Our family loves sourdough bread. Feel like trying to make one but too scare to do did well for this one! Great job!

  15. Congrats - sourdough is my cooking Everest! Yours looks beautiful and chewy, and oh my - that crust!

  16. Great news on the bread. I like the way you have named your starter. Quality.

  17. I've been putting off trying a sourdough for a long time. You may have persuaded me to take the plunge...that loaf looked like all it needed was salty butter and a healthy appetite.

  18. Yum, that looks like a highly successful and most delicious loaf - well done Lucretia

  19. I'm right behind you here Dom. Thanks for coaxing and coaching us into a sour dough frame of mind!

  20. again, thanks guys, clearly bread-making and particularly sourdough seems to bring out the master baker in all of us... I guess the trick now is to make another one from what was left over and make sure it comes out as good as this one! I will make my sponge again tonight when i get back to the kitchen and so we'll see tomorrow... fingers crossed this wasn't a fluke!

  21. Questo pane è perfetto!!! complimenti, davvero invitante!! :)


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