Easy Sourdough Loaf

With the craziness of the holidays now pretty much over (after tonight anyway), it's back to real normal, everyday life. For me, this includes getting back to the basics with simple, wholesome food. I've had my fair share of sugar over the past many weeks and I'm ready to reset and restart in 2018. 

It's been a cold couple of weeks here in West Michigan. As I write this it's 4 degrees out and snow continues to fall. It's beautiful. In this kind of weather a thick slice of hearty toast topped with soft scrambled eggs, a few thick slices of melted cheese, or a generous helping of peanut or almond butter sounds just about perfect. A slice of this bread is just the right for this type of occasion. It's made with simple and basic ingredients, nothing crazy, nothing strange, just good food. It doesn't get much better than that. 

For this recipe, I adapted another sourdough recipe that's also posted on my blog; just changing it a little to make it a more useful recipe for me on a daily basis. I added commercial yeast instead of relying solely on wild yeast for the rise, and cut the recipe in half because as a single person, it takes me quite a while to go through two full loaves of bread. These adaptations worked beautifully and gave me a tall and fluffy loaf, perfect for just about everything. 

 
 
 
 


Easy Sourdough Loaf
Adapted from Soft Sandwich Sourdough
Ingredients

  • 311 grams flour
  • 160 grams water
  • 8 grams salt
  • 32.5 grams butter, room temperature
  • 15 grams honey
  • 205 grams starter
  • 1.25 teaspoons instant yeast

Directions
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine all of the ingredients except about 10% of the water. Mix in low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, adjusting the water as needed to achieve a medium dough consistency (you may need additional water). Continue mixing to in medium speed to a medium-high level of gluten development.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. 

Turn the dough into a lightly floured counter. Shape into a cylinder and let rest, covered, for about 25 minutes. Generously butter a 8.5 x 4.5-inch loaf pan. Shape the dough tightly into blunt batards and place it, seam-side-down, into the prepared pan. Proof, covered, for 1 hour, or until the top of the dough has risen to about 1.5 inches above the edge of the pan.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 425F. Once you are ready to bake, place loaves in the oven, reduce the temperature to 400F. Bake for 25 minutes. Then remove the loaf from the pan, place directly on the stone, and bake for another 15 minutes or so, until the crust is a deep golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

Afternoon Sandwich Bread

I've been quite busy over the last couple of weeks, I'm on my OB rotation right now which has been really good, but doesn't leave me a lot of free time. This means I don't get to spend as much time as I usually like to in the kitchen, making dinner and prepping lunch for the next day. For weeks such as these it's good to have a few things on hand that make it easy to throw together a delicious meal in a short time. Recently I've been really into making sandwiches for dinner. I  still have some leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer (yes I do!), and some really good cheese hanging out in the fridge. Add a few additional condiments a few slices of good, homemade bread and dinner is served. 

This has been my go-to bread for the past few weeks. I've made 3 or 4 loaves recently and have been loving it. It's soft, tender and delicious. It's also really quick to make. There are times when I love spending 2 or 3 days make a complext loaf of bread with a long, slow rise. But often I don't have the time to spend doing that. This bread is super fast, yet still really really good. I can start making it around noon, and be pulling freshly baked bread out of the oven by 5! On a tight schedule, that is the way to do it!

The first time I made a version of this bread I made it pretty much as originally written, adding in a bit of whole wheat flour because that's how I roll. It turned out great. The next time however, I had some sourdough starter that needed to be used so I adjusted the recipe to include some of this starter. My sourdough version was also wonderful, and helped me use up my starter - a win-win situation! 

 
 

Afternoon Sandwich Bread
Adapted from Alexandra Cooks
Ingredients

  • 180 grams all purpose flour
  • 140 grams whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 110 grams warm water
  • 56 grams milk
  • 1 tablespoon (21 grams) honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 120 grams sourdough starter
  • 2-4 tablespoons mixed nuts/seeds/grains (optional): for this loaf I used a mix of coarse cornmeal, sunflower seeds, steel cut oats, and buckwheat groats, but use whatever you have on hand, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, millet, quinoa, etc. 

Directions
In the bowl of your stand mixer mix together the flours, yeast and salt. Add the water, milk, honey olive oil or butter, and starter.  

Using the dough hook, knead the dough until it begins pulling away from the sides of the bowl and clings to the hook, 6-8 minutes total.  Near the end of kneading, add in the mixed nuts/seeds/grains and continue kneading until evenly incorporated. 

Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn it over to coat all sides, and cover the bowl. Let it rise in a draft-free place until doubled, 1 to 2 hours. Turn the dough out onto the counter and shape into a loaf. Place dough in well-greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pans. Let rise until the dough domes an inch above the rim of the pan, another hour or so.

After the dough has been rising for 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 350°F. When the loaves are sufficiently risen, bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until nicely browned. Remove from the oven and tip the bread out of the pan. Place on a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Black Bean Burgers

I still have one more post to put up with pictures from my trip to Europe, but first a little detour back into recipe-land. Since it is Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start of summer I thought a burger recipe was fitting. While it's not a real burger, this still a great meal idea to keep in your back pocket for days when meat is not on the menu. I saw this recipe recently while watching an episode of America's Test Kitchen online and I knew I had to make it soon. 

I really like a good veggie/bean burger and so was very happy to see that this recipe was actually quite simple and used ingredients that I almost always have on hand.  So often it seems that veggie burgers have a million ingredients, several of which I don't usually keep at home so I was happy about this.  All I had to do was soak a pot of beans and make a quick stop to the store to pick up some cilantro and I was all set to whip up a batch of these delicious and versatile black bean burgers. If you're looking for a simple recipe to cure that (veggie) burger craving give this one a try. It's sure to be a winner, it certainly was in my house. 

These burgers have good flavor and a good texture. They did not turn out "mushy" like so many veggie burgers, but were nice and firm and held together well. I also made a little chipotle yogurt sauce using canned chipotles in adobo mixed with a little Greek yogurt. You can always use mayo instead of the yogurt, that is what they did on the show. I topped the burgers with this sauce and a few slices of avocado and it was delicious. I think a  nice slice of cheddar cheese would also be wonderful. 

These burgers are great to make ahead for a quick meal when you don't have a lot of time to cook. Full of spices and aromatics, the prep work is done so you don't need to spend time chopping and adding flavor on a busy night. Just grab a pre-made patty and you're set. Great as a burger, but also in a wrap, on a tortilla, broken into chunks and mixed with a little yogurt or sour cream as a black bean version of chicken salad, or used to top a pizza. These little guys are versatile and delicious, if you've never made a black bean burger before, this is the place to start. 

 
 

Black Bean Burgers
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen
Ingredients

  • 1 can black beans, or 4 1/2 ounces dried black beans boiled until tender (about 1 1/2 cups total, cooked)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon coarse cornmeal
  • Cheese, avocado, sprouts for topping (optional)

Directions
Line a baking sheet with a couple of layers of paper towels. Drain and rinse black beans lay in an even layer on the paper towels. Set aside to dry for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, whisk the egg. Add the flour and whisk until no more lumps are visible.  Add the scallions, cilantro, garlic, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Set aside. 

Place the bread crumbs, cornmeal, and beans in a food processor. Pulse 5-6 times until a coarse mixture forms. It should be fairly dry. Add the bean mixture to the bowl with the egg mixture. Stir to combine everything evenly. It will be fairly wet. 

Place bean mixture in the fridge for at least 1 hour, up to 24 hours, to firm up. When ready to form patties, shape mixture into 4 uniform size round patties of even thickness. 

Heat a large frying pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Place the patties in the frying pan and cook on one side until golden brown, 6-8 minutes. Flip patties with a spatula and cook on second side for another 6-8 minutes or until well browned. Remove from pan. Serve with your favorite toppings. 

Sourdough Sandwich Loaf

I've had my sourdough starter for a while now and love how versatile and easy it is to use. I only need to make sure that at least every few I use it in a recipe, or if for whatever reason that just doesn't happen, I only need to feed it to make sure it continues to do well. Since I love making bread and trying out new recipes it usually isn't much of a problem to find something to do with it. 

I discovered this sandwich loaf a little while back when I was looking for a quick and easy way to use my sourdough starter. Since I was in the mood for a few sandwiches I searched around for a simple sourdough sandwich loaf. This recipe, adapted from King Arthur Flour, fit the bill perfectly. A nice, pretty basic yeasted bread recipe with the addition of sourdough starter as well as a combination of seeds and grains for some chew and nuttiness. I changed up the recipe just a little bit to suit my needs without any real problem, and ended up with a perfectly delicious sourdough sandwich loaf, just what I needed for a few really fantastic sandwiches. 

If I'm going to make bread I like to make sure I make it worth my while so I decided to double the original recipe and make two loaves instead of just one and I was able to do this without any real problem. I've also increased the amount of whole wheat flour in my recipe to make the bread even more nutritious. Throwing in a few handfuls of whatever grains/seeds/nuts I have on hand gives the final product a nice heartiness that I really enjoy, especially in whole wheat bread. I think you could just skip this part all together if you wanted to, but it really does add a nice touch to your bread. In other words, this is a very forgiving bread that I've made several times now and really enjoyed. Play around with it to make it work for you, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Sourdough Sandwich Loaf

Adapted from 

King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • ~2 cups (11 oz) fed sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups (11-12 oz) lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon (3/4 oz) olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup (5 oz) All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 cups (15 oz) Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2/3 cup your favorite blend of seeds and/or grains (such as coarse cornmeal, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and whole oats)    
  • 2 1/2 -3 teaspoons instant yeast

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook and knead to form a smooth dough, about 5-7 minutes. Cover the dough, and allow it to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; it'll become puffy, though it may not double in bulk.

Lightly grease two 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" bread pan. Gently deflate the risen dough, shape into two logs and place in the pans. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap, and allow to rise until it crests at least 1" over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The bread doesn't have much oven-spring (i.e., it won't rise much once it's in the oven), so be sure to let it rise fully before baking. A loaf risen 1" over the rim of the pan will be denser and more close-grained; letting it rise higher will give you a "spongier," lighter bread. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 minutes if it's as brown as you like it. When it's done, the bread will be golden brown, and will register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center.

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack, to cool completely.

Yields: 2 loaves, about 15 slices per loaf

Sourdough Bread

I know I posted a sourdough bread recipe just a couple of weeks ago, but I was too excited about this recipe to wait any longer before I shared it. It turned out some of the most beautiful looking, and tasting, loaves that have ever come out of my oven. This loaf reminded me a lot of the sourdough at my favorite bakery, the bakery where I got the starter from, which makes me so happy. I just love their sourdough, and to now know that I can make a very similar loaf in my own home is super exciting. If you don't have a sourdough starter but you're interesting in trying it out, I highly recommend getting a starter from someone and giving it a shot. Don't wait as long as I did before you find that starter, just do it. Soon you too can have almost bakery quality loaves coming straight out of your oven.

So I was so happy with how these loaves turned out, partly because I tried making this recipe the week before and it failed pretty spectacularly. I did end up getting a tasty loaf of bread from this first attempt, but it was one of the funniest looking loaves I've ever seen. Not at all what I was going for, so it's a good thing it still tasted good. There is definitely a learning curve, and it took me a couple of tries, so if it doesn't work the first time for you, don't give up, just try again. It's worth it, trust me. 

Sourdough bread

From 

Annie's Eats

Ingredients

For the sponge:

  • 1 cup fed sourdough starter*
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

For the dough:

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tbsp. water (optional)

To finish:

  • 1 egg white lightly beaten with 1 tbsp. water
  • Water in a spray bottle

Directions

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the starter, water, and all-purpose flour. Mix together with a fork or wooden spoon until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.

Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill overnight, at least 12 hours.

Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and add the sugar, salt, and bread flour to the sponge. Mix until a ball of dough begins to come together. If some of the dry ingredients will not incorporate into the dough, add the additional 1 tablespoon of water to moisten them. Continue kneading the dough (on low speed if using an electric mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a large lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough once to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, 3-4 hours.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Transfer the dough ball to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Working with one piece of the dough, press gently into a rough rectangular shape. Make an indentation along the length of the dough with an outstretched hand. Press the thumb of one hand along the indentation while pulling the upper edge of the dough down over the hand to enclose the thumb. Tightly roll the dough towards you while forming into a rough torpedo shape, about 6 x 8 inches. If there is a seam, pinch it shut. Place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat shaping with the other half of the dough. Transfer the shaped loaves to the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in volume, about 2-3 hours.

Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Allow the stone to preheat for at least 20 minutes. Just before baking, lightly slash the top of each loaf three times diagonally using a sharp serrated knife. Brush the exposed surface of the loaves with the egg wash. Spray the loaves lightly with water. Slide the entire baking sheet onto the baking stone. Bake the loaves about 28-32 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the crust is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 190˚ F. Transfer the finished loaves to a wire rack and let cool at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before slicing and serving. Sliced bread freezes very well, and stays the freshest in the freezer.

*Fed sourdough starter should have a portion removed, new flour and water added, and then be allowed to sit at room temperature for about 5-8 hours. Due to the timing of this particular recipe, it works well to feed the starter in the morning, proceed as directed with the sponge and overnight chill, and finish baking the loaves the following day. The various rests are essential to help develop the proper “sour” flavor of the loaves.

Heirloom Tomato BLT

Fall has officially arrived. Summer has disappeared. It's a sad time for me every year. It's not as though I have anything against fall, I actually like the season quite a bit, cold nights, cool crisp days, colorful leaves dropping all around, and the best baking of the year. I do love me some fall baking! No, it's not fall that I dislike, it's just the knowledge that it's going to keep getting colder and colder, darker and darker, for months on end. Winter has its charm, but in my book it just can't compete with the beauty and warmth of summer. So as one last tribute to this past summer, I give you one of the best late summer meals of all time; a BLT on homemade bread with heirloom tomatoes, freshly picked corn on the cob, slathered in butter and covered in salt, and a bowl of juicy, sweet watermelon. I dare you to name me a better summer meal!

It was so much fun to go to the farmer’s market and pick out some beautiful heirloom tomatoes for my sandwich. There are so many options that all look and sound delicious; it’s a very difficult decision! I decided on one brandywine, since my brandywine plant didn’t make it this year. I don’t know what happened, but it died in July, it was a very sad day. I also went with the beautiful green tomato that you see. I can’t remember what it was called, but it was one of the favorites of the girl at the farmer’s market, and I can see why!

I grabbed some fresh lettuce at the farmer’s market as well, and stopped by the meat market and picked up just a few pieces of freshly sliced, thick cut bacon. A little mayo, some

homemade bread

and voila! Dinner is served!

Ciabatta

Sometimes all I want is a good sandwich. Versatile and delicious, I could probably eat a sandwich every day. And we all know (I hope) that a good sandwich demands excellent bread. Sub-par, stale grocery store bread just doesn't do it for me anymore. I need something better. For me, that means I have two options; head to the bakery (which, trust me, I do a lot!) or make some of my own. One of these options is more convenient and, let's be honest, probably better, but the other option is super cheap, absolutely delicious, and extremely satisfying. Pulling warm loaves of homemade bread out of my oven only 4 ingredients later is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon. I highly recommend it!

This recipe is easy, and simple, although it does take some advanced planning and to be honest, some practice (at least for me). It turned out 3 beautiful loaves of ciabatta that were perfect for my sandwich craving. 

Ciabatta

From

The Bread Baker's Apprentice

 by Peter Reinhart

Ingredients

Poolish

  • 2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) water, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Dough

  • 3 1/4 cups (22.75 ounces) poolish
  • 3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 6 tablespoons to 3/4 cup (3 to 6 ounces) water, lukewarm

Directions

For the Poolish: stir together the flour, water and yeast until all the flour is moistened. It will be soft and sticky, like very thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl with plastic and let sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, until bubbly and foamy, then place in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to 3 days.

For the ciabatta: remove the poolish from the refrigerator 1 hour before starting. Stir together flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment. Add the poolish and 6 tablespoons of the water and mix on low speed until the ingredients form a sticky ball, adding additional water as needed. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 to 7 minutes or until the dough is smooth and sticky. Switch to the dough hook and mix for 2 more minutes. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but still stick to the bottom. You may need to add additional flour, but don't add too much, the final dough should be quite soft and sticky.

Spray about an 8-inch square part of your counter with cooking spray. Using a dough scraper, transfer the dough to the counter. Dust the top of the dough liberally with flour, patting it into a rectangle. Wait 2 minutes for the dough to relax. Coat your hands with flour, lift the dough from each end, stretching it to twice its size. Fold the dough over onto itself, like folding a letter, returning it to its originally shape. Dust the top of the dough with flour, and loosely cover with oiled plastic wrap.

Let rest for 30 minutes. The repeat the stretch and fold as above. Dust with flour and cover with plastic again. Let the dough ferment and rise on the counter for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It should swell, but won't necessarily double in size.

Set up a couch with a cotton dish towel, sprayed with oil and generously floured. Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the dough. Using a pastry scraper, divide the dough into 3 rectangles, making sure not to degas the dough. Sprinkle the dough generously with flour and use the scraper to gently lift each piece from the counter and lay it on the floured cloth, folding each piece of dough from left to rich, letter-style, into an oblong about 6 inches long. Bunch the cloth between the pieces to provide a wall.

Proof for 45 to 60 minutes at room temperature, or until the dough has noticeably swelled. Meanwhile, place a baking stone in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees, placing an old heavy duty sheet on the lower rack.

When the dough is ready, gently transfer each piece of dough to a 9x12-inch piece of parchment paper, lifting from each end and gently tugging the dough out to just smaller than the piece of parchment. Slide the dough, parchment and all, onto the preheated baking stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the sheet pan and close the door. After 30 seconds, open the door and spray the sides of the oven with water from a spray can. Repeat twice more at 30 second intervals. After the last spray, turn the oven temperature down to 450 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves 180 degrees and continue baking for 5-10 minutes, or until done, the bread should register 205 degrees in the center and be golden brown. Allow loaves to cool at least 45 minutes before slicing and serving.

Braided Challah Bread

I've been wanting to try making challah for some time now, but I just couldn't seem to get around to it. Last week I decided it was time to stop coming up with excuses and just do it. I looked at several different recipes for challah, it was difficult to choose one to try, but I finally settled on this recipe I found on The Apron Archives. The pictures were beautiful and the original recipe was from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Cookbook, so I figured I was in good hands. While my loaf turned out beautifully and smelled divine, it was a little dry and overcooked. I think it would be just perfect if it baked for just a little less time. I'm definitely going to try it again and keep my eye on it. But even so, this bread made some fabulous grilled sandwiches, and killer croutons. I think my next experiment will be french toast! Can't wait!

I just love the braided look of this bread, it is so pretty. If you want to know how to achieve this look, head over to The Apron Archives where I got the recipe, she has a great little tutorial on how to do the 4 strand braid. It is really not difficult at all, and makes the finished product so festive looking.

Braided Challah Bread
From The Apron Archives
Ingredients
Quick Starter

  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsps instant yeast

Dough

  • All of the starter
  • 3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 3/4 tsps salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs + 1 yolk (save 1 egg white for the wash, below)

Wash

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp water

Directions
To make the starter, mix the 1 cup flour, 1 cup water and yeast together in a large bowl. Let the mixture sit for about 45 minutes. Add the dough ingredients to the starter and mix and knead together until a smooth is formed.Place the kneaded dough in a greased bowl, turning it over once to coat both sides. Cover it and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into four even pieces and roll each into a strand about 18 inches long. On a lightly greased or parchment-lined sheet pan, braid the strands. Once your braid is done, make the wash by mixing together the reserved egg white, sugar, and water. Brush the loaf with half the wash. Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow it to rise again for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it’s almost doubled in size.

Brush the loaf with the remaining egg wash and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, covering with aluminum foil if it starts getting too brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool completely before slicing.