Lately, in between bouts of letterpress printing, I've been somewhat fixated with making bread. We have a bit of an addiction to sourdough bread in this house, and quite happily part with $6 a loaf at our local baker a bit too regularly.
After one week, when I realised we had somehow managed to go through 5 loaves (I think we had hungry visitors that week... yes, that would be it, ahem...) totalling $30 a week just for bread, I thought instead of taking out a second mortgage to fund our sourdough habit, perhaps I should learn how to bake something similar myself at home.
So I ventured, not so bravely, into the world of sourdough starters. Which all seems rather daunting when you first attempt to get your head around it, but once you get started is really just a matter of remembering to 'feed' the starter every day.
I followed the instructions here to create my starter (read down the page a bit to get the recipe)
To bake the actual bread, I use this recipe:
My Sourdough (With a Bit of Help) Bread
150gm of sourdough starter
4 cups (or so) of high grade plain flour
2 cups of lukewarm water
1 tsp commercial yeast
1 tsp salt
(Yes, adding the yeast is definitely cheating! Normally yeast is not added to sourdough recipes as the starter itself is supposed to do the job... but after some experimenting, I find I get a higher, bigger and fuller loaf if I add a small amount of yeast to the mix - it gives the starter a bit of a helping hand, I guess. Sourdough purists would probably tie me to a stake and burn me at dawn for this, but whatever works I say.)
I throw it all into the Kitchenaid mixer and let it come together for a few minutes. Keep adding flour if the dough is too wet - you want it to come together into one mass, just sticking slightly at the bottom of the mixing bowl.
Once you've got your ball of dough, plop it into an oiled bowl (a big one) to rise overnight, and cover it with a tea towel.
The next morning, preheat the oven to a really high temp - about 220 degrees. Grab a medium-sized pot - a heavy bottomed Le Creuset-type cast iron pot is ideal, but lately I've been using a regular old Scanpan saucepan and the results are just as good. The only essential thing is the pot must have a lid.
Put the pot with lid into the oven to heat up for about 30 mins - this part is important as the pot must be really hot before you put the dough in.
While the oven and pot are heating up, pull the risen mass of dough out of the bowl and form it into a rough ball shape.
Once the pot is hot, take it out of the oven and plop the ball of dough straight in. Score the top of the dough with a cross, put the lid back on the pot, and put the pot back into the oven.
Bake the loaf for 30 mins with the lid on, then remove the lid and cook for another 10 mins to brown the top. Loaf is cooked when you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow.
And that's it - perfect bread! Not as hard as it would seem. Admittedly mine doesn't have as much of a sour taste as the local baker's, but the texture is great and the taste is pretty darn good (see evidence above of small child