Nothing to report. Nothing nothing nothing. Rather than piss, moan, whine, and make excuses, I’m gonna blog about bread. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If life doesn’t give you lemons, make something else.
Besides — license plates, right? Bread goes on plates. There is a connection.
I made bread yesterday. This is what it looked like this morning:
I’ve been using sourdough almost exclusively since my 25-year-old starter died in March 2009. I got a new one going and I give it plenty of exercise. If you don’t have a starter, this recipe — such as it is — can be converted for active dry yeast. Instructions at the bottom.
All measurements are approx. The only time I’ll give is for kneading. Everything else depends on the peppiness of your starter and the temperature of your dwelling. In summer loaves often rise to baking size (“double in bulk,” as the saying goes) in a little over two hours. These guys took about six and a half. Active dry yeast is faster, but temperature still makes a difference.
The night before you want to bake, whisk and/or stir together the following:
1 cup sourdough starter
1 3/4 cups chicken stock (my usual liquid is fruit juice, but I had some left over)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey (i.e., 2 long squirts from a teddy bear squeeze bottle)
3+ cups flour (I use half whole wheat, half unbleached white)
Add the flour gradually. What you want is a stirrable batter, what bread people call a sponge — not a dough ball.
Leave it out all night, at least 10 hours. Longer in cool weather. In warm weather the rising will be obvious. In cool weather, not so much, but it should look more bubbly than it did the night before.
Stir it down, then add:
8 ounces grated Parmesan (fresh, please)
1/2 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
scant 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Now start adding flour, a cup at a time. First you’ll be stirring, but after 2 or 3 cups it’ll be stiff enough to knead. I start kneading in the bowl, then turn it out on a floured bread board and go to it. Add flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Knead for at least 10 minutes, longer if you want. (If you’re kneading by hand, you can’t overknead.) You want a cohesive, resilient dough ball that’s smooth on the surface.
Loaf it however you want. I usually use two good-size loaf pans. Small pans and round loaves also work. Grease the pans before you put the loaves in. Let the loaves rise until “doubled in bulk,” then bake for about 40 minutes (less for small loaves) at 375 degrees F.
Active dry yeast method:
Instead of sourdough starter, use 2 packets active dry yeast. That’s 2 very scant tablespoons (approx.). Combine 2 or 3 cups of flour with yeast and other dry ingredients in a big bowl. Skip the baking soda: that’s mainly to temper the sourdough if it gets too pungent. Add liquid (and cheese and onion if you haven’t already). Add flour a cup at a time until you have a kneadable dough. Knead as above.
Grease the big bowl and put the dough ball in it, rolling it around so it’s greasy enough to not stick to the bowl. Let rise till doubled in bulk. Punch down, knead out the bubbles, then loaf. Let rise in the loaf pans till doubled in bulk. Then bake as above.
P.S. If you see anything glaringly wrong in these instructions, let me know soonest. I make bread on automatic pilot. Trying to describe it step by step is like trying to give step-by-step instructions for tying a shoe.