Rustic Sourdough Bread

When was the last time you accomplished something you’d really wanted to accomplish for a really long time?

I’m at a point in my life when I’m learning a lot about accomplishment. I’m doing, which is what I think most people associate accomplishment-but a huge chunk of it is also in what I learn. They’re both just as important, with the learning aspect sometimes edging out the doing.

One of the things I set out to accomplish at the start of this year was a task that had been on my Baking Bucket List for a while; upwards of a few years. I kept putting it off and putting it off. But because I’m in an Accomplishment Mode, I made up my mind a couple of months ago that I was finally going to learn how to bake sourdough bread for myself.

After two months of practice, determination, and errors, I’m pleased and proud to say, that I have.

The essential ingredient in sourdough bread is something called a sourdough starter. A starter is comprised of nothing but water and flour that’s allowed to ferment until it forms acids and gases that give the sourdough bread it’s signature tangy flavor.

When I was doing my research into sourdough baking, I heard starters being called “pets” a lot, and now that I have one of my own, I definitely understand why. They’re just as touchy and finicky as a pet, especially in the beginning when you’re trying to get it started (no pun intended). You have to ‘feed’ a starter daily, up to twice a day in the beginning. The types of flour you use matter to how strong/well it ferments. You also have to weigh out the ingredients to get the best results. It really is a science.

Because bakers get so involved with their starter in the preparation and maintenance, many give their starters names, just like you would give one to a pet. (Apparently it’s considered good luck, or something like that) I have to admit, I too joined in on this trend. My starter baby/pet/co-pilot is a He, and his name is Donatello.

No, not after the sculptor. After the turtle. (Those who know, know).

It took Donatello and I a while to get the hang of this starter/sourdough thing, but we finally have and what we made together was truly glorious.

If you take a look at the ingredients list, you’ll see that this recipe is definitely for beginners. In the first place, it uses a combination of sourdough starter and active dry yeast, which helps to ensure that the dough will still rise without needing the starter to be absolutely perfect. In the second place, there aren’t any other flavorings for the dough besides salt. Now it tastes delicious exactly as written, but in subsequent bakings I have also incorporated dry herbs and pepper into the dough, which just upped the taste factor even more.

Lastly, My recipe makes a LOT of bread. A LOT. This was on purpose, as I wanted a loaf that would pretty much fill my six quart Dutch Oven, and that’s exactly what this did. But If you prefer, you can definitely halve the recipe and still come out with a smaller, but just as delicious loaf of sourdough bread.

Here’s to the doing and the learning of Accomplishment….

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Rustic Sourdough Bread

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (454 grams) ripe sourdough starter, stirred down (I used King Arthur’s recipe for sourdough starter, which can be found here.)
  • 1 1/2 cups (680 grams) lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 10 cups (1204 grams) all purpose flour

Directions

Sprinkle the active dry yeast on top of the warm water, then sprinkle the sugar on top. Allow to sit about 10 minutes, until proofed and frothy.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining dry ingredients together in the bowl of a large standing mixer and stir together with a large fork.

Make a well in the center of the ingredients and pour in the sourdough starter and yeast-water mixture.

Use the dough hook to stir until a smooth dough comes together. (I’ve had days where I needed to add more flour, I’ve had days where I needed to add more water. This is probably just going to depend upon the weather, the time of year, and the temperature of your kitchen.)

Grease the bowl, place the dough back inside and cover with plastic wrap, and a damp kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise until it’s covered in size, about 90 minutes.

Gently deflate the dough. Shape into a boule-like round. (It’s somewhat like a tomato) Flour a banneton bowl (or a regular bowl) and place the dough inside, seam side up. Cover with the plastic wrap and kitchen towel and allow to proof for another 45 minutes-to an hour.

About halfway through the second rise, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and place a 6 quart Dutch oven with the lid on inside the oven. (BE SURE THE HANDLE IS METAL AND NOT PLASTIC)

Take the Dutch oven out of the oven and remove the lid. (It’s going to be very hot; Don’t burn yourself.)

Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. When the dough is finished rising, Turn the parchment line sheet pan upside down and place on top of it. In one swift motion, turn the dough bowl upside down onto the parchment paper, and lift away the bowl.

Grip two sides of the parchment paper and use them to swiftly lift the bread into the Dutch oven. Use a bread lame, or a very sharp knife to slash at least two gashes into the surface of the bread, about 1-1 1/2 inches deep each. You can make a cross, or any other pattern you desire) Place the lid on top of the Dutch oven and place the whole thing back inside the oven.

Allow to bake, undisturbed for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and check the color of the dough. The bread should be risen and slightly golden brown on top. If it’s still pale, place the lid back on and allow to bake for another 10 minutes, then check it again. If it’s golden brown, remove the lid and allow to bake for another 20-30 minutes.

Use an internal thermometer to check the inner temp of the bread. It should be at least 205 degrees Fahrenheit.

Carefully remove the bread from the Dutch Oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack for at least an hour.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #421.

Sourdough Discard Crackers

A few weeks back, I mentioned that I had finally decided to tackle one of the things on my Baking Bucket List and learn how to bake sourdough bread.

As an update, the learning process is still ongoing, and I’ll have something in the way of results for you all pretty soon. But until then, I’m here with these.

An unfortunate part of working with sourdough starter is having to ‘discard’ the majority of it at every feeding. For those of us who hate waste, it can almost feel like a waste of ingredients, even if the ingredients are only flour and water.

That’s where sourdough discard recipes come in to save the day. I’ve learned in the past few months that discard can work as a leavener and a flavor enhancer in a number of other baking recipes. My first experiment with it was with biscuits, and I really loved the results. This time, I put it to use in crackers.

Thanks to Julia, who reminded me of this recipe that I’d had pinned for a while to try out once I actually took the plunge and began learning how to bake with sourdough. It was easy to put together, and I was really really pleased with the results.

Make sure you roll the crackers as thin as you can without tearing the dough so that they bake crisp and chewy. The white whole wheat flour pairs well here with the flavor of the sourdough starter, and the herbs give the crackers a fresh, artisan flavor. Also, the sea salt on top is a must.

More on my Sourdough Baking adventures still to come..

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Sourdough Discard Crackers

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (227g) sourdough starter, unfed/discard
  • 1 cup (113g) white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into tiny cubes
  • 2 tablespoons dried herbs ( I used a combination of basil and rosemary, but you can use whatever you have available/prefer)
  • oil, for brushing
  • coarse salt, (such as kosher or sea salt) for sprinkling on top

Directions

Combine the flour, sea salt and dried herbs together in a medium sized bowl and stir together with a fork.

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with fork, until it resembles tiny pebbles.

Make a well in the center of the dry mix and pour in the sourdough starter. Stir together until a smooth, not sticky dough forms. (If you need to add a few tablespoons of water here, that’s fine.)

Wrap dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Divide dough in half. Working with one piece at a time, very lightly flour a piece of parchment, a rolling pin, and the top of the dough.

Place the dough onto the floured parchment and roll it about 1/16″ thick. It’ll have ragged, uneven edges; that’s OK. Just try to make it as even as possible.

Transfer the dough and parchment together onto a baking sheet. Lightly brush with oil and then sprinkle the salt over the top of the crackers.

Cut the dough into 1 1/4″ squares. I used a fluted pastry wheel, but a pizza wheel, a bench scraper or even a large knife in a pinch will work fine too.

Prick (dock) each cracker a couple of times with a fork.

Bake the crackers for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re starting to brown around the edges. Midway through, rotate the baking sheets both top to bottom and front to back; this will help the crackers brown evenly.

When fully browned, remove the crackers from the oven and place the pans on a rack to cool.

Roll and cut the second piece of dough following the directions above.

Store crackers, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to a week; freeze for longer storage.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #420, hosted this week by Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

Chicken Pot Pie

I didn’t initially plan on sharing this recipe this week, but with the way that the weather’s been going lately in my corner of the country, it felt like an appropriate time to break out some comfort, stick-to-your-ribs food, and this one’s pretty much at the top of that list.

I attempted to make chicken pot pie for the blog several years ago, and it didn’t really turn out at all. Rather than accept complete defeat, I improvised on the fly and still came out with what I thought was a pretty tasty meal anyway.

But the L I took that day still bothered me. I wanted to make it right.

It’s taken me a while, but I finally think that I have.

When it comes to chicken pot pie, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for error. You can’t lean on one ‘element’ of the dish more than the other. You may have a great crust, but if the filling is bland/soupy/off, it won’t really matter. You may have a great filling, but if the casing is wack, then you’ll just be trying to eat ‘around’ it, which makes for a less than ideal eating experience.

Both the crust and the filling of a chicken pot pie have to be good, or the whole thing is going to bomb.

Making a good filling or crust for any kind of pie comes down to two things: seasoning and time. Salt and pepper alone for a pot pie filling don’t cut it for me; bay leaf, herbs and onion powder are musts. And even after the filling’s been seasoned, the flavor needs time to become more pronounced and tasty. Plus, the colder the filling is when you bake the pie, the better the bottom crust will brown and actually cook through instead of just becoming mushy/soggy.

Flaky pie crust comes from chilled and relaxed pie dough with big flecks of butter spread throughout. Relaxed pie dough is dough that’s been chilled for a while and gone even longer without being touched or handled. This takes time.

Making chicken pot pie isn’t difficult, but my recommendation for the actual labor of the dish is to spread it out across two days. Make the filling and the pie filling on Day 1, and let them rest overnight in the fridge. This will chill and relax the pie dough long enough to make it flaky, and it will allow the filling to grow cold enough to fill the pie but not soggy-ify the bottom crust, and most importantly, to develop maximum flavor.

On Day 2, the only thing there’ll be left to do is roll out the dough into the pie dish, fill the pie, then roll the second crust on top. The whole process of assembly takes less than 30 minutes, and in give or take another hour, you have what is a pretty amazing dinner if I may say so myself.

Chicken Pot Pie

Pie Crust Recipe Adapted from Food52, Filling recipe by Jess @CookingisMySport

Ingredients

For Pie Crust

  • 2 1/4 sticks (254 grams) unsalted butter, frozen
  • 2 cups (256 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons very cold water, plus more if needed

For the Filling

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed vegetables
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Onion Powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock*
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 large sprigs rosemary
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp-1 tbsp. honey mustard (depending on taste preference)
  • 4 cups chopped, cooked chicken (about 1 large rotisserie chicken)

Directions

For Pie Crust:

In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, sugar and black pepper. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients, and stir together with a fork. Add the water, adding more tablespoon by tablespoon if needed just until it holds together.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into two portions. One should be slightly larger than the other. The larger one will be our bottom crust, the smaller one will be the top crust. Wrap both of these blobs in plastic, then press down to form a well-sealed disc. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling and assembling the pie. (I typically let mine rest overnight)

For Filling

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sweat until the onions are translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove to a small bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture is just starting to turn golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth.* (The amount of chicken broth you use here is going to depend on how ‘runny’ or thick you want your pie filling to be. If you’re unsure, I would start with 2 1/2-3 cups, then gradually add more if after adding the chicken and veggies you think it’s a little thick. Also remember that it has to refrigerate, which will also make it thicken.) Bring the mixture to a simmer.

Add the onions, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Season with salt, black pepper, onion powder and the honey mustard. Allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes, tasting adn adjusting for seasoning.

Add the frozen vegetables and allow to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, just long enough to warm the veggies through. Stir in the chicken.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Remove to a resealable container and refrigerate until cold, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Take the pie dough discs out of the fridge, unwrap, and let hang out on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes.

Roll out the larger disc into a 12-inch circle and set into a 9-inch glass deep dish pie pan. Use your fingers to gently press the dough into the corners of the pan, so it’s as snug as can be. Roll out the smaller disc into a 10- to 11-inch circle. Fill the dough-lined pie pan with the cold chicken pot pie filling and use a spoon to smooth out to fill the pan completely. Top with the smaller round of pie dough. Trim any excess so you have an even ¾-inch overhang. Use your fingers to squeeze the two layers together, then fold the overhang under itself, so the edge is tucked into the pie pan and a ridge is formed. Use your fingers to reinforce this ridge, so it’s distinctly shaped, then crimp the edge of the pie crust into ruffles. The easiest way to crimp is by creating a guide with the thumb and pointer finger of your left hand, then pushing the dough outward with the pointer finger of your right hand. (If you’re a lefty, flip accordingly.) Use a paring knife to cut four slits in the center of the top crust. Place the pie pan on a rimmed sheet pan (this makes getting in and out of the oven a lot simpler).

Bake for 65 to 70 minutes (rotating halfway through), until the crusty is deeply golden brown. Let sit on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes—the filling will still be very warm, but not too liquidy.

Cut into big wedges and serve warm.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #418.