Saturday, February 7, 2015

Sour Dough Oatmeal Loaf

If you are looking to bake a sourdough bread you've undoubtedly read in many places that time, temperature, humidity and the natural yeast/bacteria in your kitchen are the important factors. You'll also note that proofing time is much longer than bread made with commercial yeast.  Don't be in a rush means that the bread takes a long time to proof; however, that does not mean you have to stop everything to bake this bread. I work full time and have other interests and have figured out strategies to fit the bread baking process into my schedule. So you don't need to be housebound to turn out a great sour dough loaf, you just need a bit of ingenuity about making the process work for you.

This recipe will assume you have a ripe sourdough starter: directions from BreadandBabka are just a click away. Otherwise, you can find starter instructions on the blog Sourdough Surprises , on the King Arthur Blog or any number of other baking blogs. A starter takes a week or 10 days to get going.

The recipe will also assume you have the patience of an angel and can walk away from the proofing dough and allow the wild yeast to work its magic. The more patience you have, the more fabulous the bread will be (which is a rule of thumb for many sourdough creations).

There are differences in the taste that will result from a warmer proofing environment (72- 75 degrees) and a cooler proofing period (68-70 degrees). If you want the dough to be sour, plan on a cool, slow rise. A warmer rise will still yield a great texture, just less "tang" to the dough.


  • Sourdough bread relies on having a ripe, recently fed starter. After that the bread may take up to 15- 17 hours to complete.  In order to fit making this bread on my schedule I mixed the mature starter with oatmeal and flour, went to my office and let it proof in a temperature controlled setting for about 11 hours. It may have been fine to let it proof for another hour or two. My kitchen is not well insulated and in the winter it's chilly (60- 65 degrees). I have a proofing box that can be set at a consistent temperature, but you can follow my friend Shelley's advice and use a warm utility room or use an oven that has been warmed (and shut off). 
  • Once the initial long proofing period was finished (sometimes you'll hear people call this a rising period), I mixed sugar, salt, oil, orange extract and a bit more flour into the dough. Sugar and salt are hygroscopic, meaning that they absorb water . They therefore, to some degree, compete for the water that the yeast and gluten require. Oil (and shortenings) also modify the dough environment and can interfere with yeast activity. Wild yeast is more sensitive to this interference than commercial yeast, so I held back these ingredients until the dough was proofed and well on it's way. You can learn a bit more about these interactions and chemistry  from the Sugar Association . 
  • The final amount of flour and water will be dictated by the texture of your starter. The amounts indicated are a guide. If you think the dough is too thin, you can add another ounce or two of flour. The same holds true for the final amount of water. 
  • After a shorter 2nd resting period I pulled and stretched the dough in the mixing bowl. This is similar to a stretch and fold on a bread board, but since the dough was sticky and wet and I didn't want to add that much more flour, I stretched it, using a flexible dough scraper while in the bowl and then let it rest for a short time.
  • Once those proofing periods were finished the process resembled the typical bread baking process. I divided the dough (it was gorgeous and stretchy), placed the halves into prepared pans and let them rise in place.  Since I couldn't roll out the dough and the dough was very sticky, I kept my hands very wet and patted the dough down to fill the prepared pans. 
  • The dough rested and rose in the loaf pans.  I then sprinkled them with old fashioned oats and spritzed with water. The loaves were baked in a steamy oven at 425 degrees. 
  • After removing from the oven, I allowed them to partially cool in the pans before turning them out onto a cooling rack.  Once they cooled we sliced and taste tested: the ratio of crumb to crust was wonderful, the crumb had beautiful irregular holes, it tasted was slightly tangy and the consistency was chewy.  
stand or hand mixer  with a large mixing bowl
kitchen scale 
measuring spoons, cups
flexible dough scraper, silicone spatula 
2 large loaf pans (or 8" round cake pans) 

For the initial dough:
8.2 oz (1 full cup) ripe sour dough starter 
14 oz water (you may need another ounce)- the water should be slightly warm, about 80-90 degrees 
6 oz (1 1/2 cup) whole wheat flour - I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat 
3.2 oz (1 cup) old fashioned oats 
12 oz (3 cups) all purpose flour 

For the final dough:
all of the initial dough
2 oz (1/2 cup loosely packed) brown sugar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3 oz (a full 1/3 cup) vegetable oil 
1 tsp orange extract 
and if needed an additional:  1-2 oz flour or 1-2 oz water to achieve the consistency for a wet but substantial dough 

For preparing the pans:
spray oil
2-3 Tbsp flour for dusting the inside of the pans 

approximately 1 oz (1/3 cup) old fashioned oats 

1. Combine everything marked "initial dough" and mix at low speed until well blended and pulling away from       the side of the bowl. It will be substantial and very sticky. It will look a bit lumpy because of the oatmeal,             which will soften and partially disperse into the finished dough. This may take 4-5 minutes. 

2 . Cover loosely with plastic wrap and proof for 10-12 hours in a draft-free place that is 65-75 degrees. 
     My kitchen is chilly, so  I used a proofing box set at 72 degrees.  
3. It will not quite double, but will be bubbly and puffy. 

4. Add the sugar, salt, oil and extract to the proofed initial dough. Mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes.     Correct the water or flour so that you have a sticky dough that pulls away from the sides of the           bowl. You'll notice that the dough forms long stretchy strands. 


5. Cover and let rest again for about an hour.  Prepare the pans by spraying with oil and dusting with flour. 

6. After an hour, using the flexible bowl scraper, scoop the dough from the sides, bring the scraper 1/2 way         around the bowl and fold into the center. Repeat this process 3-4 times, you'll feel the dough starting to             become even more stretchy, although it will still be thick and sticky. 

7. At this point you can place the dough in the pans or allow to rest another 20-30 minutes.  
8. Using the flexible scraper, divide the dough in half and place into the prepared pans. 
9. Wet your hands and press the dough to fit the pans. 


10. Sprinkle the dough with oats. Place in a draft free place and let proof for anywhere between 
      45 and 90 minutes. The bread will increase about 1/3 - 1/2 in volume. 

11. While the dough is proofing in the pans, place a pan of hot water at the bottom of the oven. 
      I use a cast iron frying pan,which holds heat. Place the rack at the top third of the oven.  
      Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees 
      My oven has cold spots and I've found that using a pizza stone in the oven and baking directly
      on the stone helps to create a more even baking environment. 
      Once the oven reaches temperature, let it continue to run for 10 minutes or so to make sure 
      that the entire oven is really hot enough. 

12. Spray the loaves with water and slip into the oven. Be careful about steam in the hot oven when you open the oven door. 
13. Lower the heat to 425 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. If you like to measure
     internal temperature, the bread should be between 195-200 degrees. 
14. Cool for 15-30 minutes in the pan. Turn out onto a cooling rack and completely cool before 

With patience and coaxing you'll find you've baked an amazing sourdough loaf! 

If you like baking with starters, you may also like to try  Korn Bread  . 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sourdough Pretzle-buns with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Mustard-Onion Glaze

This recipe was inspired by a sourdough recipe found @ . It is made entirely with wild yeast, sourced from sourdough starter and will make a dozen 3 oz rolls.

Soft pretzels have a long history, originating in Germany and France during the middle ages. German settlers brought them to Philadelphia in the 18th century. By the early 20th century they were available in a number of large American cities including New York and Chicago. In New York, where I grew up, they are available from street vendors, who sell them warmed on the same coals as the roasted chestnuts. When I was a child they were all salted and served with or without mustard, today you can find them with alternate toppings and flavoring.  These sourdough rolls are glazed with a honey mustard mixture, creating a taste that is reminiscent of mustard slathered pretzels. My "taste testers" at home made the point that these sourdough rolls are best with savory fillings or spreads - split and baked with cheddar cheese or served as a hamburger roll as examples, They are also delicious with a bit of mustard-butter.  The dough is a bit under-salted which will keep them in balance with savory fillings.

The more often I bake using sourdough, the less intimidating I find it to be. Yes, I have to be a bit more organized, I'm not going to wake up on Sunday morning and have a sourdough bread baked and cooling by Sunday evening if I haven't given thought to feeding the starter the previous day; however, I'm finding the experience fulfilling enough to push myself to occasionally be more plan-ful about my baking than usual.  I have had a starter bubbling (and surviving!) in the fridge for about a year, my personal baking challenge will be to see it survive through Passover this year.

If you have a mature starter then this recipe will be very straight forward. Second best choice would be to find a friend who will give you some of her/his starter, feed it and 8-12 hours later you'll be good to go. Least easy will be to start a starter after you read through this recipe. In that case, give yourself a week or 10 days of planning.  I have starter instructions on BreadandBabka , but you can also check King Arthur Flour , or Rose Levy Beranbaum  on . 

Having a complicated busy day does not preclude sour dough baking (or any yeast baking for that matter).  Although the dough will need crucial proofing (rising) periods, you can alter those periods of time a bit by chilling the dough (in the refrigerator) or speeding up proofing a bit by using a proofing box or warm oven. If the dough is left too long, don't fret, feed it a bit, stretch and fold and let it rise again. Although timing is important, you can manage to keep time on your side.

This project will take the better part of a day and a half- in increments. It will not take up your entire day,  you'll just need to attend to it now and then. Feed your mature starter and let it rest at room temperature for 8-12 hours. Then mix the dough and proof in a warm location for 4-6 hours. At this point you can slow it down, cover and place in the refrigerator and let proof overnight. After the dough has just about doubled it will still be puffy and perhaps a bit bubbly, but still sticky and disorganized.  4-6 "stretch and folds" will help the gluten further organize. Proofing for an hour or two after this will give the dough it's final push toward a highly stretchable , organized bread dough. Pretzels are boiled in a baking soda water bath prior to baking. The short boiling helps form a crust on the outside of the roll, similar to the process used in making bagels. After boiling the rolls are slashed (I use a scissors), glazed and baked in a very hot (425 degree) oven.

Note: This dough contains high-gluten flour . You can use "bread flour," which has 13-14% protein. Pillsbury, Gold Medal and King Arthur hover around 13%, Higher gluten dough (King Arthur High Gluten or King Arthur Sir Lancelot)  has about 14% protein. The final product benefits from the use of as high a gluten flour if you can obtain it.

Electric mixer/stand mixer and large mixing bowl
measuring spoons, cups
mixing spoon
2 baking sheets and parchment paper
optional, but great for drafty cooler kitchens like mine; a proofing box

8.2 oz  (1cup) fed sourdough starter
10 oz  (1 1/4 cup) warm water
6 oz (scant 1 1/2 cup) high gluten flour
10 oz (2 1/2 cup) all purpose flour OR a combination of all purpose and white whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp non diastatic malt powder or honey
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp kosher salt
2 oz (1/4c packed) diced sun dried tomatoes

Water bath:
4 quarts water
1 Tbsp salt
1/4cup baking soda

1 Tbsp honey mustard
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp kosher salt

1. Pre-measure all of the ingredients. Line the pans with parchment paper.  Mix the flours. Pour the diastatic malt powder into the water and mix into the flours. Beat at a slow speed until the flours are hydrated.

3. Add the fed sourdough into the flour mixture and mix at slow speed. Add the salt to the oil and add to the mixture. Continue mixing, increase speed to medium. Continue mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This may take 5-7 minutes. The dough should be smooth and stretchy.

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a draft free place.  I have a proofing box with adjustable warmth.  The dough most efficiently proofs at 78-80 degrees; however, I wanted to slow down the proof and give it a slower rise (over about 7 hours) and set the temperature at 71. You can also place the dough in an oven that has been pre-warmed to 80 degrees (and then shut off!). If you'd like to take a longer break, say 10-12 hours, place the dough in the refrigerator.  The rested dough should be very puffy and at least double in bulk.

5. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured surface. It will be sticky and unformed.

6. Stretch and fold for 4-5 repetitions, this will help build up the gluten strands and strengthen the dough. There are four steps to stretch and fold.  Pat the dough into a rectangle, with the longer side perpendicular to the work surface. Pull and fold the top portion of the dough over the dough and toward the middle. Stretch and fold the bottom portion up toward the center. 

6. Rotate the rectangle 90 degrees and repeat (pulling and folding the top toward the center and then pulling and folding the bottom up toward the center).  After 3-4 cycles the dough will become supple and feel puffy and begin to hold its shape. 

After you've repeated the pattern 4 times, scatter 1/3 sun dried tomatoes onto the rectangle, stretch and fold, rotate the dough. Repeat 3 times. It's OK if pieces of tomato are visible.
See the short video below. 

7. The dough should feel springy to the touch. Gather it into a ball, cover and let rest until approximately 1/3 greater in volume. This will take between 1-3 hours depending on the ambient temperature of the room. You can hasten the process by placing in a warm draft-free place.

8. Divide the proofed dough into 12 equal pieces (they will be about 3 oz each). Shape into small balls and place on the two prepared baking sheets. Let rest until they begin to puff a bit (20 minutes- 1 hour). Preheat the oven to 435 degrees.

9. While the small balls of dough are resting, prepare the water bath and bring to a boil. Mix the ingredients for the glaze.

10.  Carefully lifting one piece of dough at a time, slip into the water bath. Boil for 30 seconds, turn over and continue to boil for another 30 seconds. Slip back onto the baking sheet. Repeat for the six rolls on the first baking sheet.

11. Cut an "x" with a scissors on the top of each roll. The slit should be 1/4-1/2 inch deep. Wash each roll with the mustard glaze.

12. Slip into the hot oven, lower the heat to 425 and bake 20- 25 minutes until browned.
13. Repeat with the second baking sheet.

14. Store in a plastic bag, at room temperature for up to 2-3 days. If you will not be using them in that time, double wrap and freeze. The rolls will be very firm, with irregular holes in the crumb. The sour dough in my kitchen does not yield a very sour tasting bread, you can increase the "tartness" of your dough by adding 1/4 - 1/2 tsp citric acid (sour salts) when you mix the dough. 

Sourdough Pretzel rolls used as a hamburger bun 
Baking with sourdough or any dough starter creates a final product with a different character than bread baked with commercial yeast. Coaxing dough using wild yeast is interesting and surprising.

Comments and observations are welcome!

If you like baking with sourdough , perhaps you'd like to try Bread and Babka's Sourdough Honey Challah