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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

more fun with tiny life-forms: bread!

ANOTHER STORY. So, I'm at a Divinity School, and at Div School we have chapel. Not that you have to go, but they schedule classes so you are always free then and there is coffee hour afterwards, so why not. So, this one time, a few months ago, a dude gave a sermon about the loaves and the fishes and whatnot, and he gave it while kneading dough in the center of the chapel and talking about how his grandmother made bread and how he worked at a bakery and stuff. It was a pretty good talk. ANYWAY the point of my story is, after chapel everyone got a tiny baggy of sour-dough starter as like a symbolic souvenir or something. I think most people probably threw them out, but my reaction was "Sweet! Now I can make bread! AWESOME." And I took my sourdough starter and put it in a container and fed it a little bit every week, and eventually my little pet grew big and strong, by which I mean there was enough that I could do something with it, i.e. make bread. Because the thing is, I really like bread, and the other thing is that I don't feel like paying for fancy bakery bread and I don't like squishy American bread.
So, using the magic of the internet, I found a recipe for sourdough! And then I made sourdough. If you don't happen to come across some starter, as I did, you might not make sourdough, though supposedly one can make one's own starter. Or I can give you some, if you want. Or you could use regular yeast--I just got a good yeast bread recipe off my brother (who is to bread as cookie monster is to cookies) but have yet to try it because I have no yeast and I do have starter (which is basically INFINITE BREAD).
Bread after second rising.
Freshly baked bread!
Basically, making sourdough turns out to be pretty easy. First you let your starter sit on your counter for a bit, and give it is feed of flour and water, and eventually it will start to bubble. Which is kind of freaky actually, because IT'S ALIVE. Then you take two cups of the stuff and put it in a bowl, and add 2T olive oil and 2t salt and 4t sugar, and then add flour until it's doughy. Which is two or three cups, depending on your flour and your dough. [It bothers me that I can't find any big bags of flour, because making bread runs right through those little 5 lb bags and now it's gross out ad I don't want to buy more.] And you knead knead knead, until your dough is sort of flexible--like when you get the idea you could roll it out pretty thin without it breaking. This actually isn't as much work as I always thought it would be. Then, take dough, cover, put in warm place (like your oven) to rise. When it doubles, re-knead, shape into desired loaves, cover again, let rise some more, and then bake at 300 degrees for half an hour or so, until it's baked-seeming. Bread is pretty forgiving as far as I can tell.

So! I have done this I think three times now. The first time the bread had kind of a dense texture--not bad, but not what I expected. Maybe it didn't rise enough, I dunno. The next time it was picture-perfect, but I didn't take pictures. This time I made two little loaves, and froze one, and they ended up expanding out rather than up so they're a little flat. And also I tried glazing them with egg and it looks a little funny. However the bread is CERTIFIABLY DELICIOUS and good for eating.
So: Bread!

Slice of bread, with breakfast.

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