The pandemic has been a rather frightening and sobering experience and has made us appreciate many times over all the good things, friends and family in our lives. Thankfully no one close to us has gotten infected. But millions and millions of our fellow humans on this earth have not been so lucky, and way too many (here in the US alone over 250,000 fellow citizens) have died of Covid. And if you haven’t been hiding under a rock during 2020, you’ll also know that our current administration has done next to nothing about this ever-expanding health catastrophe! Many mornings I’m ready to have a good cry about the callous disregard for human life before I even have my cup of coffee. But truth be told, I try not to cry because I’m afraid that once the tears and sadness start to flow, I won’t be able to stop. We now have a new “President Elect” and I hope that come January 20th, we will have a turn-over that’s peaceful. But I’m not entirely convinced that all will go well as there are way too many Republican elected officials who seem to have lost not only their spines, but also any common sense and decency. After 40 years in the United States I am at a loss for words in regards to the sad State of this Union. Often I feel like I’m in a different country than the one I first got to know and love. Very sad and very concerning!
Enter Bread Baking Therapy!
Sourdough or Yeasted!
Knead or No Knead!
Making my own sourdough starter and starting up baking bread again after many years of just buying it, has helped me channel my feelings. Early on in the pandemic, there was a shortage of not only baking yeast, but also flour. It took a few trips to the store and a mail-order from King Arthur Flour to procure these supplies. When I first made the sourdough starter, I logged onto King Arthur Flour where they have not only an easy to navigate website, but also an amazing assortment of recipes for all kinds of baking and of course their detailed and easy to follow instructions of how to start your own starter. All recipes are for both American and metric measurements. Here’s the link for the starter. Their recipes are easy to follow and I’ve been extremely happy with everything I’ve made from their website. One thing to remember is to read some of the review comments. I find them very helpful in that bakers explain what did and didn’t work for them. I also learned about Dutch Oven Bread! If you love really good crusty European style bread you need to invest in one of those cast iron Dutch ovens. At first I used my trusty old Le Creuset, but then read in a comment that those aren’t good for preheating empty at high temperatures. Luckily the enamel didn’t crack, but the pot did take a bit of a beating. I now use an un-enameled Dutch oven (American-made Lodge) that I got inexpensively since I had passed on my really well-seasoned old one from our Humboldt County days to one of our kids.
Anyway, once you have your sourdough starter going, it will have to be”fed” somewhat regularly. At those feedings you’ll need to remove some of what is called the “discard”, then feed the rest and keep that. The discard can of course be discarded, but King Arthur has a number of very tasty recipes you can be creative with. We love sourdough waffles, muffins and my latest discovery of an overnight no-knead sourdough that uses the discard. It has become my favorite bread. If you don’t want to use the discard, throw it in the garbage. Sourdough starter is extremely sticky and will mess up your garbage disposal and plumbing.
Vibrant lively sourdough starter has both large and small bubbles
and a wonderfully tangy aroma!
No Knead Overnight Sourdough Boule
This dough is best started in the evening as it rests and rises overnight.
- 3/4 cup unfed (discard) sourdough starter (stir it down before measuring)
- 1 1/4 cup room temperature filtered water
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour (I use a mix of bread and all purpose flour)
- 1 teaspoon salt
Measure the water first in your measuring cup and then add the starter.
This way the starter slides right out of the measuring cup and is less messy. 😉
Pour this into a large bowl, add the flour and salt and mix with a spoon or your hands until combined.
It will be a very sticky and shaggy dough.
Don’t be tempted to add extra flour!
Cover the bowl with plastic or a kitchen towel and rest over night for 8 to 12 hours.
The next morning, lightly flour a large cutting board and turn out the dough.
Form a round using as little flour as possible to keep it from sticking to your hands.
Sprinkle some flour onto a piece of parchment paper and place the boule into the center.
Sprinkle a little more flour over the loaf and cover with the towel.
The loaf might not look perfect but will rise and bake nicely.
Let it rise for another 2 hours.
30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500° with an empty, lidded Dutch oven on the center rack.
Once the loaf is ready for the oven, very carefully take the pot out and take off the lid.
Pick up the corners of the parchment paper and plop the bread into the center of the pot, paper and all.
Quickly cut a cross or # into the loaf with a very sharp knife and put the lid back on.
Bake the bread for 30 minutes with the lid on.
Then remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes.
Once the loaf’s done, cool it on a bakers rack.
Let the bread cool for at least an hour before cutting.
Yeasted Overnight French Bread
The process is the same, except for the ingredients and baking temperature.
- 3 cups flour plus a little extra for later
- 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 3/4 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 to 3 tablespoons coarse cornmeal
- 2 to 3 tablespoons ground flax seed or hemp hearts
- 1 1/3 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl. No kneading needed! 😉
Cover with plastic or a kitchen towel and leave at room temperature overnight.
This dough too will be very sticky.
Before you shape your loaf in the morning preheat the oven to 450° and place a lidded cast iron Dutch oven on the center rack.
Then form a round loaf and place it onto a sheet of floured parchment paper.
Sprinkle the top of the loaf with a little more flour, cover it and let it rise for about 30 minutes.
Quickly cut a cross or # into the loaf using a very sharp knife.
Next, remove the pot for the oven and remove the lid. Be careful! It’s extremely hot!!
Bake for 35 minutes with the lid on and another 20 to 25 minutes without the lid.
Remove the loaf from the pot and cool on a rack before slicing!
I’ll leave you with an assortment of drool-worthy good eats!
Bread, muffins and rolls freeze really well and are nice to share!
You can share starter with others by “feeding” your discard before passing it along!