The Staples: Daily Bread

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It all started with a starter. Her name was Adelaide, and she produced many delicious sourdough pancakes as well as a few semi-dense loaves in her day. Sadly, she perished in the depths of my parents’ fridge, never to be revived again. I thought my breadmaking days would be over forever. Then, Jim Lahey came along with a no-knead recipe that REVOLUTIONIZED HOME BREAD MAKING! Of course I’m talking about this puppy right here, which is truly deserving of those capital letters. Fast forward two years and here I am, utterly spoiled with the superiority of homemade bread… I’ve overfloured it and underwatered it, stuffed it chock full of fruit and nuts and mixed in spices galore, prodded cheese into its center and flattened it into foccacia, and it has never once complained. Like that foolproof cake recipe mama always makes, it seems to taste good no matter what you do (or or don’t do) to it.

For anyone who thinks bread is too difficult or time consuming, go forth and mess around with this recipe! All you need is a few basic baking ingredients and a big ole heavy pot for the oven (my darling pot is the orange one pictured below).

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A few months ago, I started to get an itch. It was the kind of itch that lets you know that you’ve gotten too comfortable, and that something needs to be changed up. It had become too easy, this everyday loaf. So I set forth with my flour, water, pineapple juice, and a small jar, to craft a new baby sourdough starter from scratch. There was anxiety, trepidation, bated breath, and wrinkled noses… A few casualties ensued; a broken wooden mixing spoon, jettisoned commercial yeast, a few flat chewy loaves. But lo and behold, s/he (still deciding on a name, recommendations welcome) pulled through, and I brought a bubbling beautiful new baby starter into this dangerous world! The rise of her loaves is nothing to be scoffed at, and although she’s kept me up for some late night feedings, she is remarkably well behaved.

The modified recipe I now use to make the same bread is just adjusted by the hydration of the starter. Typically, you want to feed it the equal amounts water and flour by weight, but since I have yet to invest in a kitchen scale, I’ve settled into a feeding ratio of 1/2 cup flour to 1/4 cup (filtered, room temperature) water. So, If I were to use 3/4 cup of starter instead of yeast in a recipe, I would simply reduce the amount of flour called for by 1/2 a cup, and reduce the water by 1/4 of a cup.

Since there can be so much variation in the consistency of the starter (referred to as “percent hydration”), make sure you make these adjustments for replacing commercial yeast with starter in a recipe. If you are using a recipe already calling for starter, make sure the hydration of your starter is the same as what they’re recommending for the recipe. Starters can range from a tougher dough to a pourable goo, so it can make a big difference.

Speaking of which, it’s time to feed my starter 🙂

ta ta for now,

Sofia-Jeanne

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