Baking bread was a huge part of my childhood and I’m sure that’s why I derive such great pleasure out of making bread for my family now. From my grandmother teaching me to make cinnamon rolls as a young child, to my mother actually grinding her own whole wheat then baking sandwich bread (I was so jealous of my friends who got to eat white fluffy store-bought bread…until I moved out on my own and realized just how special my mom’s bread was!), to my father and his sourdough starter. I don’t recall my mom ever baking with the sourdough starter…that was my dad’s domain. Saturday mornings were filled with the tang of sourdough scenting the air as he whipped up bread, biscuits or pancakes and my sisters and I would hang around the kitchen ready to gobble up whatever he was making as soon as it came out of the oven.
Several years ago I noticed that King Arthur Flour sold sourdough starter. I postponed the inevitable for a few months then caved in and purchased the starter. Since then, I rarely bake any other sandwich bread or dinner roll recipe! It is definitely a favorite in my household and it has been known to happen that my granddaughter will place the empty ziplock bag that stored my rolls into the sack that goes back & forth between our homes, with a note reading “In case you need to reuse this”. I’m pretty sure it’s code for “We’re out and I want more sourdough rolls”. So of course I bake more!
It was with interest that I picked up a book by Julie Smith titled Sourdough Wars. Set in San Francisco, which truly has the BEST sourdough bread I’ve ever tasted, the story centers around Rebecca Rebecca Schwartz, a self-described “Jewish feminist lawyer”. She becomes legally involved in auctioning off a famous sourdough starter owned by a struggling actor, Peter Martinelli, who inherited it from his parents. The problem is his sister wants it along with several other people and then Peter is murdered and the starter disappears. Because Rebecca feels responsible for starting the auction which resulted in the murder, she decides she must find the killer and rescue the starter. While Julie Smith’s book did not have any recipes I still enjoyed the bit of history and insight she provided about sourdough in San Francisco along with her humorous characters. I will certainly be reading more of this author’s books!
Sourdough takes some time and patience, but it is well worth the effort. To begin, you must have sourdough starter which is what produces the tang in the bread products. If you know someone who already bakes with sourdough starter, they will be more than willing to share a bit of their starter so that you can “grow” your own. Additionally you can purchase starter from King Arthur Flour. Their starter has been passed down for generations of New Englanders since the 1700’s! Otherwise, check out this article from King Arthur Flour on how to grow your sourdough starter from scratch: Sourdough Starter Recipe
Sourdough Sandwich Bread
1 cup (9 ounces) fed sourdough starter
1 cup warm water (approximately 100 degrees)
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-1/2 cups bread flour
1-1/2 teaspoons instant active years (bread machine yeast)
Place sourdough starter, water, sugar, salt and olive oil into the pan of your bread machine.
Layer the bread flour on top of the dry ingredients. (Check your bread machine’s manufacturer’s directions and layer accordingly.)
Make a well in the flour and carefully add the yeast to the well.
Select Basic/White cycle with light crust. Don’t use the delay cycle with sourdough.
Start the bread cycle…it’s that easy!
Once the bread starts kneading, I always check the consistency of the dough – it should feel tacky but pull away from the sides of the bread pan: if it’s too sticky, add additional flour 1 teaspoon at a time. If it’s too dry, add additional water 1 teaspoon at a time.
Once baking is completed, remove bread from cooking pan and cool completely on a wire rack.
When bread is completely cooled, slice. If you try slicing while the bread is still warm, it will tear.
Wrap bread in a large plastic bag. It can be stored at room temperature for a few days, but if you live in a hot and humid environment you may want to store in the refrigerator.
My husband prefers this bread toasted to a golden brown before making sandwiches.
If you make this often, an electric knife with a bread guide will make easy work of slicing into perfect sandwich sized pieces. We’ve tried quite a few and these are our favorites: Cuisinart Electric Knife and Norpro Bread Slice Guide
Sourdough Dinner Rolls
1 cup (9 ounces) fed sourdough starter
1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) warm water, approximately 100 degrees
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
4-3/4 cup (20 ounces) bread flour
2-1/2 teaspoons instant active dry yeast
Place sourdough starter, water, olive oil, sugar and salt into the pan of your bread machine.
Layer the bread flour on top of the wet ingredients and make a well in top of the flour.
Place the yeast into the well and begin the dough cycle. (Make sure to check your bread machine’s manufacturer instructions for the order of ingredients.)
Once the kneading cycle has started check the dough’s consistency. It should pull away from the sides of the pan but still feel tacky to the touch. If it appears too dry, add additional water, one teaspoon at a time. If it’s too sticky, add additional flour one teaspoon at a time.
Once the dough cycle is completed, spray two 8-inch (or one 7-inch and one 9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray.
Form the dough into small golf ball sized rolls (2.5 – 2.7 ounces each) and place in prepared pans. Don’t crowd them since the spaces will fill in as the dough rises. I generally get about 9 – 10 rolls in each 8-inch pan or 11 – 12 rolls in a 9-inch pan and 6 – 7 rolls in a 7-inch pan. It just depends on how large or small you make your dough balls.
Place the filled pans in a warm, dry place to rise. I like using my cold oven for this with the light turned on for warmth.
Let rise for 30 – 35 minutes until almost doubled in size.
Remove pans from the oven and heat oven to 400 degrees.
Once oven has fully preheated, carefully return pans to oven and bake 12 – 14 minutes, rotating pans half way through baking.
Remove pans from oven and let cool for five minutes, then remove rolls from the pans and finish cooling on a wire rack. Or grab a knife and a stick of butter and enjoy the feast!
Once completely cooled, rolls can be stored in a ziplock bag for five days at room temperature. If you live in a hot, humid location you may want to store in the refrigerator.
To reheat: my husband prefers them toasted crisp with lots of vegan margarine melted on it. My granddaughter prefers her rolls warmed for 10 seconds in the microwave then drizzled with honey. If I have a large group for dinner I wrap the rolls with foil and warm for 10 – 15 minutes in a 225 degree oven.