I heard an ad on the radio this morning, proclaiming; “Americans can’t sit still!”
Wait, what? We’re actually proud of the fact that we’re over-committed and running from dawn til dusk (or later)? I dunno about you, but after my initial jolt of pride, my practical side kicks in and screams…
“ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?”
Yeah, yeah, I know you don’t need another lecture on slowing down. That’s not what this is, honest. Actually what it is, is a way to help you sneak in a little “you” time when things are going crazy fast. Like my last month. Let’s just say pizza played heavily into our schedules. No time to cook.
Then a friend showed up at my door with some sourdough starter. I had been wanting to figure out how to make a quick and easy, “real people” version of sourdough. But I had abandoned that project a few months ago, when I met a couple who were crowing about the months and months they had spent studying the art of sourdough bread making. Let me just be honest here. There’s no way on God’s Green Earth that I’m going to start measuring the pH of dough, or carefully weighing and measuring to “feed” the starter every single day. My Granny would roll over in her grave laughing. [And P.S. Granny was a helluva baker.]
Anyway, I couldn’t just let that beautiful sourdough starter die. So I found myself squeezing in a few minutes here and there to try out some experiments. Miracle of miracle, they worked like a charm. But here’s the part I didn’t expect:
Making bread dough for 5 minutes in the morning actually helped me start my day off better. Yeah, yeah, I know that sounds all tree-huggy. Let me ‘splain. I love to cook — when it suits me. I hate to cook when I’m tired, don’t have enough time, or feel pressured. OK, more often than I care to admit… And when I start my day by tossing 4 ingredients in a bowl and giving it a quick stir, I feel like Julia Childs. I’ve already accomplished something, and my day seems to start off better.
I’m not saying that my shortcuts and fiddlings are ever gonna compete with those people and their pH strips. But the bread I’m making is “awesome” — in the words of our friends and family. And I get my moment of Zen. Give it a go. Don’t forget to say “yummmmmmm…”
To create your own sourdough starter, it’s super simple. Here’s a typical recipe. P.S. You do NOT have to feed it every day. Store it in the frig, stir it occasionally (every few days), and feed it from time to time.
The instructions look like the scary part. Don’t let that fool you. I’m just trying to give you all the info you need. After you do it a time or two, you won’t need any of these directions. SUPER simple!
- ¾ C Sourdough starter (see article for link) OR ½ tsp active dry yeast
- 3 C Flour (strong preference for organic here, and try it with any type of grain)
- 1½ C Lukewarm water
- 1½ tsp Kosher salt
- You'll need a Dutch Oven -- doesn't have to be fancy or expensive.
- In the morning, dump all the ingredients in a big bowl. Give it a good stir with a fork to make a rough dough. Incorporate all the flour, scrape the sides.
- Cover the dough with something like a bowl cover (or plastic, I'm trying to train myself to stop using plastic in general). Set the bowl in a warm corner of your kitchen and walk away. You can leave it for 8 - 12 hours. Go about your day. If you decide not to bake the bread later that day, just pop it in the refrigerator (covered) and leave it overnight.
- About 1½ hours before you want to eat the bread, line a small bowl or basket with parchment if you have it (this makes it super easy to transfer the dough to your Dutch Oven). Leave the sides of the parchment long so you can use it to lift the dough later. Dust the parchment lightly with flour. (If you don't have parchment, just dust a large cutting board or your counter top with flour.)
- Dust your hands heavily with flour and gently work the dough out of the bowl. Pull it, stretching gently and fold in half, repeating about 4 times. Use a bit more flour if it sticks to your hands, but don't get carried away with flour, and don't fiddle with the dough too much. The idea is to be quick about it. Shape the dough into a nice round shape, place in the parchment lined bowl or basket, or on a floured cutting board. Dust the top of the dough generously with flour. Cover with a light, damp cloth, so it doesn't dry out. Leave it to rise for about 1½ hours. If the dough is warm it will take less time. You can put it in an oven with the light on to speed up rising -- this will take experimentation, and will vary depending on your starter, or yeast, and how warm it is. The dough won't "double in size" as many bread recipes suggest. It should raise a little, and will raise more in the oven.
- Turn on your oven about ½ an hour before you're ready to bake. Put a Dutch Oven into the cold oven, so both heat up at the same time. Lid on the Dutch Oven. Heat the oven to 450 F.
- Should take about ½ an hour for your oven to get hot. When the oven is at temperature, slash the top of the bread with a sharp knife so it can raise in the oven. Cuts about ⅛" deep are sufficient.
- Remove the Dutch Oven from the oven, CAREFULLY take off the lid, and gently lift the parchment with the dough in it, and place it into the Dutch Oven. Or just gently lift the dough with your hands and gently drop it into the Dutch Oven. It's OK to leave the parchment sticking out from under the lid. Don't let it fold over the top of the bread.
- Put the Dutch Oven back into the 450 F oven. Set time for 30 minutes. Don't come back and check on it, you don't want to lower the heat.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid from the Dutch Oven. Your bread should be a beautiful light golden brown. Take the lid off and return the Dutch Oven to the oven (still at 450F) for about another 7 - 9 minutes until it gets a nice deep golden brown. Remove from oven, place bread on wire rack to cool. ENJOY!