Monday, May 30, 2011

From Start to Finish: Sour Dough Bread

I don't know about y'all, but around here, Sour Dough Bread is just about the best thing ever. I remember being a little girl and my mama bringing home a loaf every now and then from some giving friend. We'd all sit around that loaf in the kitchen, spreading butter on it and eating it until it was only crumbs. As soon as it was gone, we'd wish we'd rationed it out some to last longer than 10 minutes. 

Much, much later, while I was in Grad School, a sweet friend of mine, Melissa, would give my little family a loaf when she thought to. And same as when I was a kid, we'd inhale it.

Recently, my Gran gave me some starter. But of course, I did something wrong almost immediately and it didn't do as it should. So I decided to make some starter myself. After trying out a few different recipes on line, I finally found the one I liked. The one that tasted like the bread from my childhood. (I have no idea where I got the recipe from though! If I discover where, I'll be sure to give credit.)

Now, technically, this isn't "real" starter because it doesn't take months to get going. It's cheat-starter, but the bread is just as good and tastes like the real deal.

Note: Use only glass bowls and wooden spoons for this recipe. Any metal will mess up the mixture.

To Make Sour Dough Bread Starter:

First, in a large glass bowl, mix:
  • 1 packet of Rapid Rise Highly Active Yeast
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
Stir this until the yeast is fully dissolved.

Then, add:
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of instant potato flakes
Stir this mixture well until it is thoroughly mixed and pour it into a quart glass jar. Cover the jar with a tea towel or wax paper and let it sit at room temperature for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, put the lid on the jar (make sure your punch holes in the top so the starter can breath. I use an ice pick, but a screwdriver will work just as well.) Put your starter in the fridge for 4 days.

To Feed Your Starter:

Sour Dough Bread Starter has to be fed every 3-5 days or it will "die," which means no yummy bread. To feed it, add:
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of instant potato flakes
  • 1 cup of warm water
Stir the mixture well, and then let it sit at room temperature for 8-12 hours. Stir the mixture again, and remove 1 cup of starter. Put the rest of your starter back in the fridge until the next feeding.

With the removed cup of starter, you have 3 options. You can throw it away, give it to a friend to start their own bread making abilities, or make bread. The 3rd option is certainly my favorite.

To Make Sour Dough Bread: (This recipe makes roughly 3 medium sized loaves.)

In a large bowl, mix:
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of corn oil
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 cup of starter
  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 6 cups of bread flour
Mix all of these ingredients in a large glass bowl until your batter is stiff. You can use a fancy mixer with a dough hook, but I prefer doing this all by hand. Remove dough from the bowl, and, on a floured surface, knead dough until firm and elastic. Wash the bowl you previously used, and then grease it well with corn oil. Put the dough back in the bowl, letting it get good and greased on the bottom. Then turn it over so the other side gets good and greased. Cover the bowl lightly with a tea towel or wax paper and let it stand overnight. Don't refrigerate it! I either put mine into a cold oven or the microwave. While you sleep, your dough will rise and be pretty when you wake up in the morning.

The next morning, punch your dough down. You will literally only have to press on it a couple of times to make it thoroughly deflate. Remove dough from bowl, and, on a floured surface, knead your dough a dozen times or so. Again, you can use a dough hook for this, but the palms of your hands work really good, too. Divide you dough into 3 separate parts and place it into sprayed loaf pans. Cover with a tea towel or wax paper, and let them rise for at lease 4-5 hours. (I usually let mine rise all day.)

Bake all three loaves on the bottom rack of your over at 350° for 30-40 minutes. Remove and brush with a little butter if you want, although this isn't necessary. Let the loaves cool completely on a cooling rack. 


My family has figured out my bake schedule now, so they miraculously show up at my door on the days I have fresh bread. Be aware of this possible side affect.

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