Free Sourdough Recipe

A sourdough loaf is a challenge to make. Even James Beard, that great connoisseur of breads, hardly thought it was worth the trouble a baker had to go through to make it. It takes days just to make the starter and the sour smell of it is terrible. However, when sourdough bread is made just the right way, which admittedly is hard to do, its flavor is unsurpassed. It is the perfect accompaniment to fondues, shellfish, stews and casseroles. A sourdough boule can be hollowed out to make a very singular soup bowl.

The starter in sourdough is scalded milk and water which are cooled, then mixed with sugar, salt and flour. The liquid is turned into a large bowl, covered with a cheesecloth and put in a sunny window for five days until it's bubbly and rank smelling. Then, yeast is dissolved in warm water and put into this brew. The bowl is again covered with a damp cloth and allowed to stand for an entire week.

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After this, the baker has to make a sourdough sponge, which is the starter mixed with more warm water, sugar, salt and flour. This is covered with plastic wrap and allowed to stand till it’s doubled in size. Then, more yeast is added and the sponge has to double in size again, be punched down, kneaded and allowed to rise again. Finally, the dough’s cut in half and the loaves are allowed to rise in another warm spot for another hour while the oven is preheating.

A bain marie is put on the lowest rack in the oven. The bread is slashed on top with a sharp knife, placed in loaf pans, then put on the rack above the bain marie. It helps if the rack is lined with heated tiles. The loaves are allowed to bake for about 40 minutes. They're done when the cook taps them and they sound hollow.

Yes, all this for a couple of loaves of bread, but people swear by their sourdough loaf!

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