I am trying to think only good thoughts, cause I want to have a nice holiday with my kids.
I’ve been trying to teach my kids how to eat right. It seems so simple, but it’s easy to forget how important it is to eat well. My son explained it – being hungry makes you stupid. And cranky. And depressed!
I like to eat, so I had to learn how to cook. One of the best things I ever learned was how to make sourdough bread.
I really enjoy making my own bread. I make it about every three days – I try to time it so we don’t run out. It starts out the night before when I feed the starter I keep in the refrigerator and take out a cup for the next loaf. I feed this portion again, cover it and set it on the counter over night. When I wake up the next morning the smell of bread fills the apartment.
As I’ve made bread again and again, I’ve learned a few things. First, it’s good to make it often so it’s a routine. When it’s a routine you are more likely to do it, it’s not some special event that causes a circus in your kitchen. You have your tools all figured out and your ingredients ready, it’s a lot less fuss, and that means you will like doing it. It also means you use the ingredients up and keep them fresh. I can get the stuff together in 15 minutes before bedtime and then get up the next day and have a fresh loaf of bread by 8:30 or 9 am. I do it earlier in Summer when the 3-digits set in.
Second, I find proofing the yeast really makes a difference. I used to just stir the granules into warm water and dump them into the sourdough batter. One day I had to deal with the dogs and left it setting on the counter. It seemed to double in bulk and get really lively. That loaf seemed bigger and puffier, so ever since, I have proofed my yeast.
The other thing I learned is, I don’t need to knead it as long as previously advised – the original recipe said 20 minutes. Whoa. After 20 minutes of flopping that dough I felt like I’d gone 10 rounds with Jake LaMotta. I got different advice from tv chefs – 8 minutes. That works fine, no need for over-kneading. I put the bread back in the oiled bowl and cover it for an hour.
For my original investment of about four cups of flour and a few teaspoons of yeast, I get a pretty good pay-off. I stretch it into a rectangular shape, and then I roll it into a loaf and set it on a bed of corn meal to keep it from sticking to the board. The cornmeal will form a little crust that also helps it keep from sticking to the baking pan, which I have already set in the warming oven.
It sits on the counter and fattens up pretty plump. Getting it into the oven is sketchy – it gets so big and lively I can hardly support it with my hands. I told my family, I would like a bread peel for Christmas.
The house is warm by this time, and smelling great.
Routine is nice when Winter circles in.