I’ve always enjoyed baking bread and often use the dough hook on my mixer to do the kneading. But, during this pandemic, I have been doing an awful lot of bread making and kneading by hand. Punching that dough can be therapeutic plus none of us are able to go to the gym so I’m thinking it also counts as exercise. As my daughter said, sometimes you just have the need to knead. Amazingly enough I have never made sour dough bread so this was a first for me. But you can’t just wake up in the morning and say I’m going to make sour dough bread. You have to plan ahead and start a starter. A few days ahead. But right now we are all on orders to stay at home so I have nothing but time. My friend Jane gave me her recipes for the sourdough starter and the bread. This bread recipe is Viola Tibbets’ Sourdough White Bread. I think the recipe has been around a long, long time. Step one is make your starter. You’ll need a good size glass or ceramic bowl. I have a perfect enameled metal bowl that I was going to use but after I googled it I decided against using a metal bowl.
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 T sugar
1 T vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 cups AP flour
2 cups warm water
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water. Add the next four ingredients and add the 2 cups of warm water.
Cover the bowl loosely and allow it to stand in a warm place for two or three days to ferment. I just laid a piece of wax paper over the top. It will be bubbly and sour when it’s ready. Actually kind of gross, slimy, and smelly.
Your sourdough starter can be kept alive by replacing the starter you use with the same measurements of flour and water called for in the recipe. For instance, my recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of starter so I added 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1 1/2 cups of water to the remaining starter. Your starter can be kept indefinitely but you need to use it at least once a week for it to stay alive, just like the BeeGees song. You can put the starter in a glass jar and refrigerate. Just remember to use it or remove some of the starter and feed it once a week. Now that you have this sour, kind of gross starter ready, you can move on to making your bread.
1 cup hot tap water
3 T sugar
2 T butter
2 1/4 tsp of dry yeast (or 1 cake of yeast)
1 1/2 cups of starter
4-5 cups of unbleached or AP flour
2 tsp salt
Dissolve your yeast in 2 T of warm water. Set aside. Measure your butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and pour hot water over them. Stir and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm. Once the mixture has cooled add the yeast, starter, two cups of flour and salt.
Using a wooden spoon beat to blend the ingredients. Stir in the remaining flour to make a firm dough. The dough will look shaggy.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a nice smooth, elastic dough.
Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. I never expect anyone to actually use a dirty dish towel, but recipes I read always suggest a clean towel so I’m just following suit. Put the dough in a cold oven to rise until the dough has doubled in bulk. My oven has a proof setting, but Viola’s recipe specifically said a cold oven.
Punch the dough down, cover with that same clean towel, and let it rise for another half hour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into two parts. I did two round loaves and put them on a parchment lined sheet pan. If you prefer you can lightly grease two loaf pans and shape the dough accordingly.
Again the towel. Cover the loaves and put them back into the cold oven and allow them to rise until double in bulk, about an hour.
Remove the loaves from the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Once the oven reaches 400 return the loaves to the hot oven and bake for 35 minutes.
I say 35 minutes but the original recipe said 50 minutes. I set my timer for 40 because I always like to check on progress early. Well, 40 minutes was at least 5 too long. The tops of my loaves were burnt. Not to a crisp. But burnt.
So lesson learned. The bread tastes great minus that top crust. My friend just baked some for 35 minutes. And you can see what a difference 5 minutes makes!
I fed my starter and put it in a quart jar in the refrigerator for next time.
I will try this again soon but I will be watching my bake time very carefully. I made avocado toast this morning and it was perfect!
NOTE: The longer you keep your sour dough starter around the more your bread will have that distinctive flavor. This starter was only two days old so the flavor is very “white bread”. Also, unlike this recipe, many sourdough bread recipes use only the starter and no additional active dry or cake yeast. The starter itself is what makes the dough rise. There is plenty of information online to help answer your questions about feeding and maintaining a sourdough starter.