Thursday, March 22, 2012

For Starters....

I’m wondering if I’ve ever started one of my posts here with the line “Now why don’t she write?”…
It is a line from Dances with Wolves. The wagon carrying Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) to his post has stopped on the prairie where the skeleton of an earlier traveler is discovered. The unsavory wagon driver leans over the bones and chortles “Someone back east is sayin’, “Now why don’t she write?”..
That line stuck with me.

Why DON’T I write? Certainly, it’s not for the same reason as the unfortunate westward traveler. Though, I don’t have any clever reason either.

So, let’s just get on with this..

While I am working at a fever pitch (not at all) to perfect the techniques and recipes for gluten free wonders in preparation for teaching others. While I’m in the midst of that religious experience (and if you’ve worked with gluten free products you will appreciate the SARCASM with which I refer to the GF dough and concoctions) .I am also having a love affair with my sourdough starter. Not gluten free.

I tried making a starter a few months ago and it failed. What?! Yes! I used the pineapple juice method someone referred from someone who got it from someone and it was linked to a link to another link on the internet. I’m sure it was something I did or did not do. After a week or so, I unceremoniously poured the failed “glue” down the garbage disposal, shook the flour off my feet and moved on. I gave up.

Until, about a week or two passed and I arose shaking my fist at the flour in my pantry and tried another recipe. This one, from my own library: Macrina Bakery and Café Cookbook. I found a link here on the internet where someone else went to all the work to tell you how to make the starter with organic grapes. I followed this recipe and method and I am the proud, proud parent of a bubbly baby that lives uncovered in my refrigerator part time and now and then comes out for a feeding and a little warming up.

Since I’ve had a successful starter I’ve been up to all sorts of shenanigans. I discovered the lazy baker’s method of no-knead Dutch-oven sourdough. I’m bringing sexy back. Too much?

Well, let me tell you right now that I have not suddenly become the recipe toting responsible, chefie that I should be. If you’re like me at all, you’ll LOVE that about this sourdough bread recipe. If you’re not like me then you can spit in my general direction. In the words of Popeye “I yam what I yam”…

This no-knead dough is made somewhere between your last cup of coffee and after you do your lunch dishes. Or whenever the hell you feel like making it. But you won’t be baking it until after your first cup of tea the next morning. If you HAVE to go to work, toss this dough into the refrigerator and bake it when you get home from work the next day. Easy enough?

Amounts here are sort of general and that’s just how I roll. There are thousands of exacting recipes out there in recipe hell.

Sourdough Bread

1 cup of your most awesome starter
2 cups of room temperature (filtered) water
¼ tsp yeast
2 tsp. salt
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
3 cups All-Purpose Flour (maybe a little more)

Start with 1 cup of room temperature water. Sprinkle ¼ tsp of yeast over and give it a little stir. To this, stir in 1 cup of room temperature starter. Your starter likes to be stirred. I don’t know how I know this but I do. You are making your starter happy when you stir it. Now stir in the next cup of water, stir, stir, stir until you have a happy mixture.. this should not even be as thick as a batter.. it’s very liquid.
Add 1 cup of whole wheat flour. More if you like. I have found I like the texture of the bread when I use just about a cup of whole wheat. Stir, stir, stir. Add the salt now and then start adding the all-purpose flour a cup at a time. This dough is nothing you could ever begin to knead and/or shape into a loaf. It’s a thick and sticky glob of goo. Sexy goo! But goo.

When everything is combined (this process might take 10 minutes from beginning to end) cover the bowl with plastic wrap and just walk away. For a long time. Maybe 6 hours. That bubbly mass will grow and grow. I like to stir it down one more time and re-cover and then I usually go to bed or watch a movie or something that takes quite a few more hours. If I were going to be leaving in the morning and didn’t have time to bake the bread I would stir it down and re-cover it and put it in the refrigerator until I got home. Then I’d bring it back to room temperature before baking.

Heat oven to 450 degrees and put your Dutch oven (with the lid on) into the preheating oven. Leave it there for about 20 minutes and then take it out and sprinkle a little cornmeal in the Dutch oven to prevent the bread from sticking. Pour in the dough as though you could care less what the outcome will be. Do not fuss over this. Put the lid on, put it in the oven and set your timer for 30 minutes. Go put on something sexy like mascara and a bib for the melting butter that drips when you’re eating a hot slice of sourdough.

After 30 minutes remove the lid to the Dutch oven and return it to the oven for an addition 15 minutes to finish browning.

After 15 minutes turn the bread out onto a cooling rack and resist the urge to rip it open and start eating.

The bread will be moist and dense and yes, sexy.

I recently found a cheese at Trader Joe's that is a blend of Gruyere and White Cheddar, please, please, please rescue me from this cheese! It just begged to be paired with this bread for a grown-up grilled cheese and some roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Go ahead Spring, act as though you're winter. I've got my game on here.