Thursday, June 4, 2015

Sourdough Bread on the Crisper Mat

I like to make bread, and love to make sourdough bread. I usually have a culture going, sometimes two or three different ones. When the Harold Import Co. sent me a Mrs. Anderson's Bread Crisping Mat, I was eager to try it. Would I get a crispy bottom crust?

And the answer is - yes, indeed I did. I let a free-form loaf and half a dozen rolls rise in place on the mat, then slashed and baked them. I ended up with bread whose bottom crusts are just as crackly as the tops. Look at the second photo - a closeup of the bottom crust. See the little pebbly bits? This is wonderful texture. 

You can use your favorite bread recipe, or even use this mat to crisp up a store-bought loaf. If you'd like my blueprint for sourdough bread, I've included it here - though, of course, you can swap water or beer for the milk, sugar for honey, toss in a handful of chopped herbs or maybe olives and get the idea. Once you start baking, you never know quite where you'll end up.

If you like crust, though - this mat's for you.

Sourdough Bread on the Crisping Mat
by Maurita

Maurita's Sourdough Bread Blueprint

1. Prepare your sourdough culture for use - wake it up
Remove culture from fridge. Add 1 cup white bread flour and 3/4 cup (6 ounces) warm water to the jar; mix briefly. It need not be lump-free. Let stand at 70-85°F for 3 to 8 hours (this will vary) until the culture is actively fermenting, as shown by bubbles on the surface.

2. Mix in more flour and water and let rise
Transfer the active culture (should be 2 cups now) to a large (4-quart) mixing bowl, and mix it with 3 cups flour and 2 cups warm water. Again, it need not be lump-free. Cover with a clean towel, and let rise at room temperature for 12 hours or so.

3. Save a bit for next time
Save and refrigerate 1 cup culture from the 1st proof, before proceeding. I keep the sourdough starter in a glass jar in my refrigerator.

4. Now use the rest to make bread

4 cups culture (that's what's left in the bowl after step 3)
2 Tablespoons melted butter or oil
1 cup milk (2% or whole, doesn't matter)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 Tablespoons honey
Up to 6 more cups bread flour

NOTE: You can substitute 1 cup wheat germ for 1 cup of this flour, or up to 2 cups whole wheat flour for 2 cups of the flour.

Assuming the rest of the culture is in a large mixing bowl, now you're ready to go.

Melt butter, add milk to butter and warm briefly (to 75-85°F) then add the salt and honey, and stir until dissolved. Add this mixture to the culture and mix well.

Add the flour (if by hand, 1 cup at a time; if using a KitchenAid mixer, 5 cups at once) and mix well. Let rest 15 minutes before adding in the last 1 cup of flour. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny.

Divide the dough and shape into loaves or rolls. Put into greased pans, and let rise, covered with a towel, 1.5-3 hours. When the dough crowns over the pan rims, it’s ready to bake. (Poke gently: if the indentation stays, it's risen enough.) At the last minute, slash the loaves or rolls using a lame or straight razor.

Bake in preheated 375°F oven 35-40 minutes. Loaves and rolls should sound hollow when the bottoms are tapped.

NOTE on pans: If you use 1-pound loaf pans, expect to use 3; if you use 1.5-pound pans, expect to use 2. This makes terrific free-form loaves and rolls.

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