Posts Tagged ‘bread’

Bread: A Sourdough Story

July 25, 2009

Two bags of flour. eleven days. One goal: Sourdough Starter.

If that sounded very much like of the opening lines of the formerly popular TV reality show “Survivor” to you, then pat yourself on the back. You got my stupid joke.

But here’s what this is really all about, for the last twelve days, I have had a secret project on my shelf in my room. A cup of water and a cup of flour sat there festering, bubbling, rising and falling, taking my nightly feedings with glee. No, it I am not talking about some alien flesh-eating plant that I bought in China Town. I am referring to the king of all bread-making experiences: the creation of a sourdough starter. And finally on Day twelve it was ready to bake.

Here’s how it looked on day three:

And here’s what came out of the oven, on day twelve:


Golden delicious!

Here’s how I did it (based on the cheeseboard recipe!):

Day 1: 1 cup Rye flour, one cup water, in a ceramic or glass bowl. cover with an old cloth (I use a t-shirt). let sit at room temp, in a dry place.

Day 3: Feed your baby 2/3 cup water and 1/2 a cup of white flour. stir with a wooden spoon. Recover, let sit.

Day 5: reserve a quarter cup of the mixture, throw the rest away. return the 1/4 cup of reserved starter to the bowl and feed that voracious little monster 1/2 cup of water and 2/3 cup white flour. stir. recover let sit. (watch out for mold… eww)

Day 7: repeat day 5. Name your starter. Mine’s named Sherman Audrey III.

Day 9: repeat day 5

Day 10: repeat day 5

Day 11: You’ve made it! If you’re gonna bake right away (which of course, you’re gonna do), add 1.5 cup flour and 1 cup water, mix and let sit for 12 hours. Then you can use it for any recipe that calls for sour dough starter! but remember save a quarter cup and replenish a la day 5.

Cheeseboard says you can keep your starter in the fridge for ever, keeping it alive with monthly feedings (like the ones on day five). The older, the better, I’ve heard.

Bread: Sweet Potato Rye

July 11, 2009

After salvaging five sweet potatoes from the dying produce section of Berkeley Bowl (for a total cost of 49 cents!) I naturally found myself in possession of an abundant amount of sweet potatoes. In trying to decide what to do with them (they really were on the verge of dying, action needed to be taken) I naturally tossed then in a pot of water to boil. And after they were boiled, I decided to invent a Rye bread recipe based on sweet potatoes, naturally.

This was to be the first bread recipe I had invented on my own. Standing at the threshold of my kitchen, I felt a surge of reckless adventure, as if I was sailing out into uncharted waters (aboard a viking ship, of course, since it was to be rye bread that involves boiled potatoes). Oh, the sagas of bread-making.

Here is what I came up with: IMG_2850

Indeed, the image is sideways and blurry. But you get the idea, right? I have gotten requests for more description of the bread-making process, so here goes:

Here’s what I used:
1 Medium Sweet potato
1 ½ tablespoon dry yeast
3 cups lukewarm water
¼-1/2 cup sugar (maybe add more or use brown sugar!)

¼ cup Molasses

1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cardamom

1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 cups rye flour
4+ cups whole wheat flour
extra water and flour for kneading

and here’s how you make it:

Start that potato a-boiling. let it boil until it is soft all the way through. When it is done, you should be able to pull it out, scrape the skin off easily, and mash it up. But leave a few small unmashed chunks in there, they are rather nice in the bread.

In a large bowl, dissolve the dry yeast in the 3 cups of lukewarm water. Don’t use water that is too hot, or else you’ll kill the little yeast-ies that are at work in there. Let the mixture sit for around five minutes until there are little bubbles in it. At this point, add the sugar (you may want to add more if you want sweeter bread, but I prefer it not too sweet) molasses and cocoa and spices. Mix well until all of these delicious ingredients  have combined. Add the mashed Sweet potato, and combine ingredients.  Next, add the two cups of rye flour. Stir with a wooden spoon. Yes it must be a wooden spoon. don’t ask me why, that is simply the rule. Continue to add in the 4+ cups of Whole Wheat flour (you can used all-puporpuse if you desire, but when making bread in general I usually prefer WW flour). You may need to add more flour in order to allow the mixture to form a soft dough. At this point you should use you hands to mix the dough. Really, it is the best way. When you can form it into a small round ball, do so. Place it back in the bowl, cover it with a cloth, and set it in a warm (but not hot!) place to rise for about 45 min to one hour. Use that hour to read twelve pages of “The Brothers Karamazov”. Yes, it very well may take you that long.

After the hour has passed, return to your bread. It should have grown a bit bigger, noticeably so, but nothing too dramatic. Spread out some flour on a flat clean surface, and plop the bread dough down on it. Add a half a cup of WW flour here and there, depending on how much the dough will take. It seems to vary every time. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Return to the bowl and let it rise again, this time 30-45 minutes. Read six pages of Dostoevsky.

Return to your bread. It is time to shape the loaf, my favorite part! The way I personally did it was by rolling out the dough, separating into three strands, braiding then and the fitting the whole thing into a loaf pan. This makes a coherent loaf with a top that has a pull-apart quality. But you can do it however you want. If you are using a loaf pan, don’t forget to put some sort of anti-sticky agent (read: butter or PAM) in the pan. You won’t regret it. Bake at 350 for 50 min to one hour, until the top of the loaf is just slightly browner than the rest of it. Let it cool off (or eat it right away, which it what i usually do. That usually lands me with a burnt tongue.)

Enjoy with butter, peanut butter (highly recommended, by the way) or chocolate. I may also one day try this with raisins baked inside of it. Yum. Happy baking.

Bread: Gammelsurbrød, round 2

July 6, 2009


This was my breakfast. The all rye-meal gammelsurbrød that I thought I had killed eventually turned out to be pretty good. Very sour. I mean, it really put the “sur” in gammelsurbrød. It is likely the most potent rye I have made throughout this entire arbitrary obsession. That’s because it had a long time to ferment—this bread was over 24 hours in the making—and the dough smelled pretty much like alcohol when I put it in the oven.

Bread starters are semi-frightening because they are very much alive. They get all bubbly-like and ferment-y, they rise and fall (like breathing), and they sometimes can learn to recognize simple words and phrases. Basically, they develop the intelligence level of a human infant, or a really dumb toddler.

While the last part of that paragraph was utter nonsense, it is true that bread starters are finicky things. Like I said, I almost killed mine. I added too much flour and it didn’t rise overnight. So I added and extra tablespoon of yeast and some warm water, re-mixed it, and let it rise all day (hence the extra time for fermentation). Thankfully, it revived itself and I was able to bake it at night, and enjoy with fried egg the next morning.

For this bread and other Danish recipes, check out:

But I think that you should add less rye meal during the first rising. And remember, patience is key. Let that bread dough get totally raunchy and semi-alcoholic. And don’t forget a fried or boiled egg. yum.

Bread: Rye—t on, sista!

July 4, 2009

Last Monday I was at Berkeley Bowl and I came across a bucket in the bulk section labeled ‘organic rye flour’. I couldn’t pass it up. So I bought a bag of it ($2.54 worth to be exact). I came home and went completely rye-crazy.

Rye is a very common bread in Northern Europe, especially in Germany and Scandinavia. In America, most breads characterized as rye contain caraway seeds, and sort of resemble the breads found containing pastrami sandwiches in delis. But in fact there exists a whole rainbow of different ryes: from the heavy Danish Blackbread, to the sweet tinged Swedish, to the German pumpernickel (which I’m pretty sure is german for daemon bowl movement…) Rye is a powerful bread, to say the least. It is thick, hearty, quite potent, and truly loving it is not for the faint of heart.

First I baked the “European” rye recipe from the amazing Cheese Board cookbook titled: Cheeseboard: The Collected Works. It’s a wonderful book of all the recipes invented by the local bakery/pizza co-op of the same name. It’s available for purchase at a Cheesboard near you (read: the one on Shattuck in Berkeley, California, USA). It turned out delicious, but more like the American version of Rye. This was the result:


The next recipe I made was the Swedish version (one of the swedish versions, actually), called limpa. It is lightly sweet and soft, and flavored with molasses. I added a bit of cardamom to the original recipe. In all, yum. Som säger de i sverige: det smackar bra!

(forlåt, jag har ingen bild…maybe I’ll add one later)

Next came the danish version: Danish blackbread, gammelsurbrød. This one is almost entirely rye flour, and it is the thick, delicious hearty rye bread that I mentioned before. If you’ve ever had a smörgås, imagine the taste of the cracker part of the smörgås. Then make the texture thick, soft, and chewy instead of krispy and with a little more powerful flavor and you have gammelsurbrød.


Next up is gammelsurbrød with ONLY rye meal. coarse rye meal. the bread of all real badasses. yea, we’ll see how that works out. I also may try finnish rieska with rye flour. I don’t know when I’ll get tired of rye, but for right now, it doesn’t look like any time in the near future.