French Sourdough Bread, a well loved favorite:
It is light, acidic, and goes wonderfully with cold butter ................... This recipe may seem time consuming and labor-intensive, but it is well worth it!
Start with the starter:
3/4 Tbs yeast
2 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbs sugar
In a 4-quart container (it really does need to be this big) dissolve yeast in water (110-115*); let stand 5 minutes.
Add flour and sugar. By hand, stir until blended. The mixture will be thick, but don't worry, any remaining lumps will dissolve during the fermentation process. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or foil. Let stand in a warm place for 5 days, stirring 2 or 3 times each day. The starter will "rise and fall" during the fermentation period (the reason for the big container); it becomes thinner as it stands. A temperature of 80-85* is best for the sour flavor of the starter to develop, an ideal place for it being on the counter next to your range.
When the starter is developed, it is bubbly and may have a yellow liquid layer on top; stir it into the starter before using.
The starter may be used at this point or stored in the refrigerator to use later. If refrigerated, the starter should come to room temperature before being used.
1 Tbs yeast
1 cup warm water
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sourdough starter, room temp.
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
Dissolve yeast, sugar and salt in water (110-115*); let stand 5 minutes. Add 2 cups flour and starter. By hand, stir until smooth. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a firm dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled, 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down dough and divide into 2 parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll or pat each half to a 12x5" rectangle. Starting with the longer side, roll up tightly, pressing dough into the roll with each turn (this prevents air pockets inside). Pinch edges and ends to seal. Place on a greased cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal; cover and let rise until double, 45-60 minutes.
With a very sharp knife make 2 or 3 diagonal slashes across the loaves. Spray or brush with cold water and bake 20-35 minutes, until golden brown. Spraying or brushing loaves with water during baking makes a crisper crust.
To replenish starter: 3 parts flour to 2 parts water and 1 teaspoon of sugar (i. e. 1 1/2 cups flour & 1 cup water). Use a glass or plastic container with a well-fitting lid to store in the refrigerator. Stir in about 1 tsp of sugar to keep it active if the starter is not used every week.
* this recipe requires some forethought, as the starter must be made about a week ahead. Two to three weeks ahead makes for a better "sour" flavor, but you will need to "feed" the starter maintain a good ph (if the starter is too acidic the bread will not rise properly).