J. spent Winter break baking various kinds of bread with his Dad: English Muffin Bread, Julekage, Jewish Rye, and Sourdough. He came back to school with two delicious loaves to eat, as well as a jar of sourdough starter. So, on our first weekend back, we attempted to bake sourdough! The kitchen in my dorm is not exactly a cozy Winter nook– it’s gives more of a “public swimming pool” vibe, but we used it nonetheless.
We followed these directions, but I didn’t get photos of every step. Sorry!
The night before, J. added a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to the starter, and let it sit all night. This is called “proofing the sponge,” which I think is hilarious. I wonder if our great-great-grandmothers used that term when they made bread, or if it was invented by bread connoisseurs.
In the morning we added 4 teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the starter, and began to add flour a half-cup at a time.
When the dough began to thicken, we stopped stirring and began to knead. For the record, I highly recommend this activity for anyone with stress-related anxiety.
Although the recipe called for 3 cups of flour total, we ended up adding only around 2 cups before the dough began to get a little dry.
Okay, here’s where we ran into trouble: We let the dough rise for several hours, except that it didn’t so much.. rise. Or, very little at least. I was in class during this time so I didn’t get a picture, but it was apparently only slightly larger than our dough. Perhaps we should have given it longer, but it was a busy day, so J. kneaded the dough and let it sit again. When we reconvened several hours later, it still had only risen slightly, but we put it in the oven along with a handful of water so that it would form a nice crust.
Our result? A very large, loaf-shaped sourdough bagel. It was actually quite delicious, especially a thick slice straight out of the oven and spread with butter.
We have a few hypotheses for why the dough might not have risen: the kitchen was fairly cold (it is winter, after all), the olive oil could have lessened the rising process, or we may have simply not given it enough time to rise. Or, of course, sabotage.
Here’s what we ended up with, photographed attractively on my laptop.
So there it is: baking bread in college! I’m planning to try again with J. tomorrow, this time without the olive oil and giving it more time to rise. Mmm, delicious.