Pita bread is simple and easy, it’s also very quick which makes it ideal for ‘same day’ cooking. Sourdough bread is a bit more time consuming, but it’s just as easy to make. However, I should say that the bread-baking purists/hardcore-ists out there will go out of their way to make sure that EVERYTHING is perfect for a sourdough bread. That’s why this is not going to replicate your favorite bakery’s sourdough goods. Truthfully, they have access to machines and ingredients that the typical person does not. If you had dough conditioners, the means to create perfect cooking environments, and years under your belt...there would be customers outside your door as well. Let’s face it. Good sourdough is freaking awesome. This is an excellent recipe, again borrowed from the wonderful Mark Bittman, and it makes equally excellent bread; however, don’t be discouraged if it’s not on par with the corner shop’s.
There is a downside to this recipe. If you don’t properly cover it, it can cause your kitchen or tent (yep, backpacker friendly) to smell a bit like beer. Which, personally, I kinda enjoy that smell. It’s not...pleasant, but it’s not awful. I know that when I’m making sourdough bread; I’ve done it correctly when I smell that smell ($10 says you just started humming Lynyrd Skynyrd).
Just like the last recipe that we covered, this is another essential to the basics of bread baking. In fact, the only thing that’s this recipe even remotely difficult is the amount of time that it takes to make and the temperatures for fermentation are a bit more picky. The preparation to baking time is around 3 days. It’s not that terrifying and it opens up an entire realm of different possibilities for your budding bakery (I’m on an alliteration kick lately.). Three days is 3 days of just watching it sit in your kitchen and watch for bubbles. Truly, I promise it is no more involved then the forethought that if you want bread on Sunday, you should start this on Thursday or Friday.
Here’s the beautiful thing too, that 3 day start date only happens once. Because it’s for the ‘starter’ dough. Once you have a healthy batch of happy yeast, you can mix, rise and bake in just about the same time as any other bread. WIth that said, let’s get down to making a starter.
1 1/2 cups of flour (If you have fancy flour save it for later)
1/8 teaspoon of yeast (Dry or Instant)
1 1/2 cups of warm water (remember, almost finger ouchies [~120°F to 130°F or 49°C to 54°C]
This cannot be more easy. Get a big bowl and mix the flour and yeast together then add the warm water. Simple. Done? Good, cover that and walk away for the next 2 or 3 days.
See? That’s wasn’t terrifying at all. Your dough is going to start foaming and eventually it will develop that slightly sour beer-ish smell.
A quick note on sourness though. You can leave it for longer but it will develop more and more fermentation and that will carry over into the final bread. If you like super sour sourdough (which I do) feel free to let it sit there and stew a bit longer. Once you are satisfied the next step is to simply feed the starter and keep some for the next batch.
Here’s what you need:
2 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of tepid (that means lukewarm, which is as vague as tepid, so just warm.)
Toss those into your starter dough and mix it. Done! Now cover it again and let the dough rise for about 6 hours. Again, if you want to put it in the fridge and get a slower rise time ( which amounts to more complex flavors and textures...) you can.
After it’s risen take half and simply set it aside. This is your new starter for the next batch! Keep it in the fridge and start this step! You never need to make starter again. Unless you let those yeast die, but your not cruel and heartless are you?? Try to make another batch of bread within 2 weeks. This is such good bread that it will disappear very quickly; you should not have a problem needing to make more.
With the half that is going to become your bread, add the following:
1/2 teaspoons of yeast
2 teaspoons of salt
1 cup of flour (Rye, Wheat, Bread, All-Purpose, 1000 year Georgian Monk Flour, etc.)
Add that in and start slowly adding water (~1 cup or so) like before. Until you get that shaggy ball of dough, just slightly sticky and let it rise yet again! Remember, if you feel like it’s too wet or too dry, slowly add more flour or water until it gets the consistency you want. If you happen to just dump the entire water in, which I’ve done on numerous occasions, it is not ruined. Just add more flour! Your bread not rise as much, but it will still taste the same.
The final step is to shape the dough as you wish. Like before, at the moment I don’t have access to an oven, I make flatbreads and small rolls in my skillet. A hot rock works just as well, and an oven is ideal. But work with what you have! By and by...and by, if you do have an oven, the proper temperature is ~375°F to 400°F or 190°C to 240°C. Watch your bread for golden brown goodness and then remove it! I would give you a time period, but each loaf is different. A skillet takes about 3 minutes for each side, so if you want instant satisfaction (and who doesn’t) use a skillet.
Next post? Since I live in Japan now, I'll teach you how to make gyoza wrappers or "egg roll" wrappers from scratch! Happy cooking!