Breadmaking used to be a no-fuss task for me. I dump all my ingredients in the bread machine in the evening, set the delay timer on, and wake up to the smell of freshly-baked bread.
And then came the sourdough starter.
Suddenly, it felt like I had a newborn that needed to be fed, put to sleep, required much prepping before I could get a wonderful bread.
And then the parenting woes came when some days, I felt like I got it right, and then on other days, I was a complete failure.
Today, I just had about it.
Enough is enough.
I want to go back to the good old days when I just feel my way around baking bread. So I took out my basic white bread recipe from my Breadman manual and after asking Baker Google, I got the conversion ratio for my sourdough starter in lieu of the commercial yeast. One cup of sourdough starter will replace one packet of yeast, which I supposed would be 1-2 tsp.
For repeatability purposes, I decided to also weigh the ingredients even though I used cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons.
Basic White Bread
Water - 1 cup (257 gm)
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) - 1 tbsp (13 gm)
Maple syrup - 1.5 tsp (12 gm)
Dry skim milk powder - 1.5 tbsp (9 gm)
Salt - 3/4 tsp (6 gm)
Bread flour - 3 1/3 cups (445 gm)
Sourdough starter - 1 cup (198 gm)
I took out my starter from the fridge and weighed. It was about 240 gm. I decided to observe if it would ripen even without having been fed for a week.
After 4 hours, it floated on the water. So my “Doughy” is really like a baby. Because I fed it before putting to sleep, it woke up bubbly and happy.
This will become my routine. I fed the remaining starter in a 1:1:1 ratio with flour and water, and put it back to the fridge for the next baking day.
I dumped all my ingredients into the bread machine pan and used the dough setting. After 1 hour and 30 minutes, I formed the dough and put in the proofing basket. After 1.5 hours, the dough lifted to my desired fluffiness (2 banneton lines). When I pressed my finger on the dough, it felt like a soft marshmallow, and the dent lifted back up slowly.
No fancy scoring this time. Just a single stroke slightly off-center at a 30 degree angle with the lame.
I didn’t use the bottom rack pan with water for steaming but instead, just used the Dutch oven.
I also didn’t increase the heat to 500F but decided to preheat at 425F and bake at 400F because I used EVOO in my ingredient to prolong shelf-life and soften the bread crumb. I noted that the oil gives a different taste when baked at a temperature higher than its smoking point.
I baked the bread at 400F covered for 40 minutes. Then took it out from the Dutch oven and laid it on a flat pan. At this point the bread looked pale with some brown areas.
I sprayed the crust with my water-salt-EVOO mixture (1/4 cup:1/4 tsp:1/4 tsp ratio) before putting back into the oven. After 5 minutes, I sprayed the crust one more time. That is supposed to render crispiness and a golden color to the crust.
I think I found my new routine and my desired daily bread.
And if I want a crustier more basic sourdough bread, I’ll just take out the milk, maple syrup, and EVOO from the recipe, increase baking temperature to 450F, and decrease baking time to 30 minutes before spraying with water-salt-EVOO mixture.
I guess if you’ve survived parenting beyond teenage years, you’d know how to bake a sourdough the low-key way.