Baking bread is one of the most satisfying and cathartic things you can do. Over the course of a couple of hours, flour, water, salt and yeast transform as they interact with each other. The smell of freshly baked bread permeating throughout the home is one of life’s little pleasures.
However, baking bread, namely sourdough, takes commitment. Having a sourdough starter is like caring for plants. In the same way plants need water on a regular basis, a starter has to be fed with flour and water in order to stay alive. The starter is either kept on the kitchen counter if it is used each day, or it can be kept in the refrigerator to be used three to four times per month, replenished each time after use.
In my busy life as a dietetic intern, I like to bake bread over the weekend. Baking bread is a wonderful stress reliever, especially if you take time to knead the dough by hand. With a little practice and patience, you can also enjoy your own sourdough bread at home. After you do, be sure to stand back and marvel at your accomplishment.
Recipe developed by Marcy Gaston
½ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup lukewarm water
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
- Day 1: Combine the flour, water and yeast in a glass bowl. Stir vigorously to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot in the kitchen overnight.
- Days 2, 3, 4: Each day, feed the starter with ½ cup flour and ½ cup water; stirring well after each addition. Continue to leave the starter in a warm spot in the kitchen.
- Day 5: Discard or use about ½ of the starter and then feed the remainder with ⅔ cup flour and ½ cup water.
- Beyond Day 5: If you keep the starter on the counter, it needs to be treated like Day 5 (½ discarded or used and the remainder fed). The starter can also be kept in the refrigerator, but once a week you’ll need to discard or use 1 cup of it and then feed what’s leftover with ⅔ cup flour and ½ cup water).
Parmesan and Rosemary Sourdough Bread
Recipe developed by Marcy Gaston
Makes 2 loaves
1 cup sourdough starter
1 ½ cups warm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey or sugar
2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2-3 cups bread flour
2 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- In a mixing bowl, combine the starter, water, yeast and honey. Add the white whole-wheat flour, 2 cups of the bread flour, salt, rosemary and Parmesan cheese. Stir with a wooden spoon or paddle attachment of a stand mixer until a dough ball starts to form. If using a stand mixer, switch the paddle attachment to a dough hook. If the dough is sticky to the touch, add a little flour. Knead the dough on medium low for 7-10 minutes. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl; add flour if it continues to be sticky. The amount of flour used depends on the humidity in the kitchen. Some days you need more flour and other days less. The dough should be soft and smooth to the touch when it’s done kneading.
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm spot in the kitchen for 90 minutes.
- Punch down the dough to release any air bubbles. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and shape into either small football-sized loaves or into boules (round loaves). Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal and place the loaves on the baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour.
- About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place a shallow pan filled with hot water on the bottom shelf of the oven to create steam in the oven.
- Right before baking, score each loaf (make marks in the top of the dough), spray the loaves with water and sprinkle with flour. Bake the loaves for 30-45 minutes or until dark golden brown and the loaf’s inside temperature reaches 200ºF.
- Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.