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Bread Boule

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, then you’ll know that I have an animal living in my refrigerator.  It breaths oxygen and needs to be fed on a weekly basis.  Not sure what the heck I’m talking about?  Well, then let me enlighten you.  It’s my beloved sourdough starter.

If you’ve never used a sourdough starter before, you really need to get one started and have your own little refrigerator pet.  I use mine for everything from pizza dough and biscuits, to breadsticks and pancakes.  And in fact, almost any recipe that uses commercial yeast can be converted and used with your starter.

There are tons of websites on the internet that talk about sourdough starters; how to make one, manage one, and use one.  But the basic premise to create your own is to mix one cup of lukewarm water with one cup of flour and let it sit out for 24 hours.  Cover your starter to keep from getting dust and other gunk in it, but be sure to leave a corner uncovered.  Yeast need to breath oxygen to live.

When the 24 hours is up, discard half your mixture (or just split into two bowls to make a second batch for a friend) and add another half cup of flour and half cup of lukewarm water.  Keep doing this every 24 hours until your starter begins to really foam and puff up.  It should have a pleasant beer smell to it.  And that’s pretty much all there is to it; you’ve created your own starter!  This process can take anywhere from 3 days to a little over a week depending on conditions in your area.

Once your starter is alive and kicking, you can keep it in your fridge (covered with a corner open for breathing) and feed it once a week.  Even if you forget and it goes longer, it will more than likely still be fine.  Starter is some hearty stuff.  The only thing that will really kill it quickly is to get it too hot.  When you’re ready to use it, bring it out of the fridge, discard half and feed it the half cup lukewarm water/flour.  Let it sit for a few hours to warm up and come back alive.  I like to put mine on my windowsill in the morning and it’s ready to use by lunch time.

There are many great websites out there that talk about starters.  The one I used that I thought was easy to understand and follow was THIS one. <

Ok, on to the bread.  For me, there’s nothing better than the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven.  Except maybe the point where you slice the bread, still warm, slather a little butter on it, and put your mouth to it.  It’s the closest thing to heaven on earth.  I’ve always found it amazing that something requiring such simple ingredients as yeast, flour, water, and salt, can yield a result so delicious and amazing as a loaf of bread.  Here’s what you’ll need to create this delicious bread boule.

Ingredients Needed:

1 Cup of Warm Water
3 Cups of Bread Flour
1 Cup of Sourdough Starter
1 Tbsp of Sugar
1 tsp of Salt
1 Tbsp of Vinegar
1/4 Cup of Milk
3 Tbsp of Butter, Softened

Before I get started, I wanted to make mention that when using a sourdough starter, expect your rising times to be longer than with commercial yeast.  It’s not uncommon for a rise to go 4 to 5 hours instead of 2 to 3.  This loaf of bread actually took me 2 days to make.  I did the first rise which took four hours and then did the second rise as a slow rise in my fridge overnight.   I cooked it up in the morning, and we had the bread for dinner that evening.  Just wanted to put that out there so you don’t panic when nothing seems to be happening with your dough.

The first step is to combine all your ingredients together in a large bowl.

Mix them well to form a dough ball and then begin to knead your dough on a well floured surface for about 10 minutes.  The kneading helps to get the gluten into the dough so you don’t want to skimp on the time here.  Once your dough is good and kneaded, spray a little cooking spray on the bottom of your bowl, drop your dough in and then flip it over so both sides get covered in the oil.

Cover your bowl with a dish cloth and set it aside to rise for 4 to 8 hours.  I like to put mine in the oven to rise with the light on. Sometimes I’ll even turn the oven on for 1 minute at 170 degrees and then turn it off to get a nice warm environment.  Make sure if you do this, that you can touch your hand to the side of the oven.  If you can’t, it’s too hot and you need to let it cool for a few minutes before putting your bread dough in to rise.

Once your dough is risen, you’ll pull it out and knead it again for about 5 minutes, adding a tbsp of flour at a time to keep the dough from being sticky.  I ended up adding about an extra 1/2 cup when all was said and done, but yours may vary from that.

Now you will grease up a pan, sprinkle a little cornmeal across the bottom of it and shape your dough into boules.  Cover your bread and let it rise again until double in size.  If you do a warm rise, expect it to take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.  I mentioned it above, but I did a slow rise in my refrigerator.  I placed a cover over the bread and stuck it in my fridge overnight.  Here’s what I woke up to the next morning:

They’re look quite lovely already if I do say so myself.  Run a few 1 inch cuts down the middle of your loaves and they’re ready for the oven.

Place the pan with your boules in the oven, and set your oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven. The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Let your boules cool for about an hour before slicing (if you can make it that long!).  Here are my finished boules.

And here’s what they look like on the inside. If that’s not fit for a king, I don’t know what is!  Grab your butter and cut yourself a piece of yummy homemade bread goodness.

Bread Boule

Total Time: 6 Hours

Ingredients:

1 Cup Lukewarm Water
3 Cups Bread Flour
1 Cup Sourdough Starter
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Vinegar
1/4 Cup Milk
3 Tbsp Butter, Softened

Directions:

The first step is to combine all your ingredients together in a large bowl.

them well to form a dough ball and then begin to knead your dough on a well floured surface for about 10 minutes.

Cover your bowl with a dish cloth and set it aside to rise for 4 to 8 hours.

Once your dough is risen, you'll pull it out and knead it again for about 5 minutes, adding a tbsp of flour at a time to keep the dough from being sticky. I ended up adding about an extra 1/2 cup when all was said and done, but yours may vary from that.

Now you will grease up a pan, sprinkle a little cornmeal across the bottom of it and shape your dough into boules. Cover your bread and let it rise again until double in size.

Run a few 1 inch cuts down the middle of your loaves and they're ready for the oven.

Place the pan with your boules in the oven, and set your oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven.

The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Let your boules cool for about an hour before slicing.