I’ve been baking a lot of bread recently, mostly based on the recipe in Molly Katzen’s “Enchanted Broccoli Forest”. In that book, she gives a base recipe, and then variations on it. The base recipe has few precise measurements and is pretty forgiving, so once you have the gist of it you can do the whole thing without referencing the actual recipe or having to remember any numbers.
My breadmaking process, circa June 2013, by Skud, aged 38:
- Warm up the big metal bowl by running hot water into it (otherwise it’s freezing and will cool down the ingredients and stop things from rising).
- Fill my measuring jug (which holds 500mL) with body-temperature water from the tap, which is achieved by turning the lever on the tap itself to about 7 or 7:30pm.
- Put the water and a little bit of honey (scant teaspoonful) into the bowl, and stir to dissolve the honey. Add a scant packet of instant yeast — could probably use half a packet, but it’s hard to split it, so I just kind of open the packet and shake it in, not trying to hard to get the bits out of the bottom of the packet.
- Blend in flour with a whisk until it’s the texture of a stiffish cake batter. I usually use mostly whole wheat flour at this point but whatevs. (Today I used a mix of rye and white flour, because I was out of whole wheat.)
- Cover and leave for a while, until it’s bubbly. I think the recipe originally said 45 mins but really I just kind of keep an eye on it.
- Add in “the mix” which is whatever tasty flavourings you want — original recipe uses more honey, salt, and a little oil at this point, and I tend to stick to that, plus add in a buttload of grains and seeds and things. I like to add pre-soaked bulgur at this point. Give it all a stir with a wooden spoon.
- Add more flour until it is a dough. You can use a mix of flours but I usually use at least half white flour at this point. I do this using a scoop and just keep going until it’s past shaggy and starting to form a ball.
- Turn it out onto the floured counter and start kneading, incorporating more flour as you go. Knead about 15 mins until it reaches that bouncy “earlobe” stage.
- Clean all the gunk out of the bowl, then add a dribble of oil. Toss the dough ball in the oil so its entire surface is coated. Cover and leave to rise again — an hour or two.
- Turn it out and knead again for 5 mins. Cut in half. Form two loaves and put them on trays. Slash the tops. Cover and rise again — a shorter time this time.
- Bake at about half-past-six on my oven’s dial for about 40 minutes. Spray with water occasionally to make the crust crispy. (Alternatively, you can brush the top with milk or egg or whatever earlier on, depending on what sort of crust you want.)
- It’s done when it sounds hollow. Cool on wire racks and try not to cut it for 10 minutes or so (yeah right).
So, I offer the above as a sort of window into my process. It’s pretty much like how I cook most things — figure out a rough process, then eyeball the measurements and adjust ingredients/flavourings based on availability. I am not much of a person for actually having a cookbook open in front of me when I cook.
My problem/question is this: I’ve been looking into sourdough lately, and I’m hoping to get some starter going. I’m cool with measuring for that, at least at first. But once I get things up and running, and start to bake bread with it, I really don’t want to have to be fiddling around with scales and things.
Can anyone point me at some sourdough baking instructions where the author thinks the way I do, and not like a scientist in a lab? Or can anyone offer me some common-sense tips for turning starter into bread, assuming I’m reasonably comfortable with yeast baking already? I’m looking for rough rules of thumb, how to do things by feel/texture, etc. Suggestions?