Friday, June 15, 2012

Rustic Bread: Round One

I fought the bread, and I thought the bread won.  BUT, it didn't!!  I'm pretty pleased with round one and am ready to try again in a week or so with some tweaks.

I used the basic sourdough white bread recipe from the La Brea cookbook.  The recipe is eight pages long so I was a lot bit intimidated.  The instructions for feeding the starter were precise -- measurements in ounces and not cups -- and feeding three times a day.  I was dubious about that, but dutifully pulled my starter out of the refrigerator and fed it exactly as instructed for three days.  It changed from a sour smelling, slightly bubbly slurry to a thick, yeasty mass that clung together and cackled merrily.  I was impressed.

This was at the start of day two.  It got even better; frothy, like the top of a rootbeer float.
When it was time to mix the dough, I assembled my scale (to weigh the water, flour and starter), my instant thermometer (to check the temp of the kitchen, the water, and the dough at various stages), my bench scraper and my proofing bowl.

I mixed up the flour, water, and starter and then dumped the clumpy, gooky mass onto the work area.  I started kneading it and pretty soon it came together and transformed into a wonderful elastic dough.  After letting it rest 20 minutes, I sprinkled on the salt and resumed kneading.

...and kneading

...and kneading...

Brett came into the house and asked what I was doing, making such a racket.  At that point, I had been kneading for half an hour.  My heart rate was up, I was sweating and the dough still wasn't at 78F.  It crept up from 72 where I started to 75 but it wouldn't budge beyond that.  Brett took some short video of my fighting the dough.  At this point, I had scraped my knuckle raw (can you see the blood streaks on the table in the picture above?) and I was frustrated -- and tired. 

Finally, after 45 minutes of beating that dough to a pulp -- from satiny, to beaking down, to satiny, to breaking down -- I quit.  I looked at the instructions and it said that the kneading should only take five minutes or so.  I was supposed to stop at the first satiny part but I didn't trust myself and kept going; focused on the dough temperature.  I was SURE I had wreacked the dough by over-kneading it.  I put it in the  proofing container, snapped on the lid, and left it to rise for four hours, while I sulked.

It rose, but it didn't double like it was supposed to.  Crap.  I dumped it out, formed it into boules and put the rounds of dough in cloth lined baskets for their second rise in the refrigerator.

The next morning, I pulled them out.  They had hardly budged.  I put them on the counter to finish their rise (rustic bread rises slowly which develops its wonderful flavor).  They didn't ever reach the top of their forms, but they did rise a bit and get ever so slightly puffy.  I felt a glimmer of hope. 

I agressively slashed the top of the loaves to encourage a big spring in the oven, pumped my spray bottle full of water into the oven, and popped them in onto a baking stone. 

And they pretty much worked.  I have a few things to tweak next time around but overall I was pleased.  The bread tasted great -- we had a feast of artichokes from the garden, homemade mayonnaise, rustic bread and butter. 

Bon appetite!


  1. bloody knuckles from making bread? you take this stuff seriously! :)

  2. GORGEOUS bread. I'm so intimidated by making bread from scratch- so I'm very impressed!
    Looks delicious!

  3. Beautiful crust on that bread - and the texture looks perfectly chewy too! Good thing I was already eating my (halfway decent) dinner when I read this post!

  4. No way could I ever do this....BEAUTIFUL!

  5. That bread looks fantastic. I woke up at 11pm last night when I remembered to go take my starter out of the fridge so I can bake bread for Father's Day tomorrow! I know all about that (i don't trust myself that I have kneaded it enough) bit...,but bleeding are one determined lady!! Sourdough bread baking keeps you thinking! Ha ha! Have a great weekend Anette and Brett. xoxo

  6. The finished product looks awesome! I'll bet it tasted good too.

  7. Umm, that is a LOT of work. Loved the video even though it scared me a little : ) Great finished product!

  8. That is hardcore bread-making!
    The end result looks delicious!


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