October 28, 2012

Sourdough Starter & Sourdough Pretzels

Hey hey!
Welcome to the first recipe on Rise.
This one is fairly simple and will get you started on the path to baking your own awesome bread. It's also the recipe I used to make the bread letters for my heading.

Before we get started, let's learn a little bit about why bread is so awesome.
Don't freak out, but there are millions of live, wild, single-celled, yeast fungi happily co-existing with us at all times. Wild yeast lives in the air, on work surfaces, and in some of the ingredients you bake with. But most importantly, it exists in flour.
Lactobacilli bacteria are also all around us. They have a loving, symbiotic relationship with wild yeast. We can exploit and cultivate this relationship to make high-rising, super fantastic, delicious, bread.
The magic happens when Lactobacilli do what they like to do, and break down flour’s complex carbohydrates into simple sugar. These simple sugars are exactly what yeast needs for food. After feeding on these simple sugars, yeast produces carbon dioxide bubbles. The elastic wheat gluten of your bread dough traps these bubbles, causing the dough to expand and rise.
And there you go! That's basically how it all works, and why bread is so awesome.
Long live carbohydrates. Death to false dough.

Sourdough Starter 
(You are going to need this simple dough for the base of a lot of bread recipes on this blog.) 

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey (or Sugar)
  • 1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour 

  1. Pour the water into a 3 to 4 quart glass or ceramic bowl
  2. Dissolve the honey in the water first, then the yeast. 
  3. Stir in the flour gradually. 
  4. Cover the jar or bowl with a clean dishcloth and place it someplace warm. Don't use plastic wrap, it won't allow any wild yeast in the area to infiltrate and begin to work with your dough.
  5. The mixture will begin to bubble almost immediately. Let it work anywhere from 2 to 5 days, stirring it about once a day as it will separate. 
  6. When the bubbling has subsided and a yeasty, sour aroma has developed, stir your starter once more and then refrigerate it until you're ready to use it. Your starter should have the consistency of pancake batter.
Sourdough Soft Pretzels

Makes 12 traditional-sized pretzels

  • 3/4 cup luke warm water
  • 1 cup sourdough starter, room temperature
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
For the topping:
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • pretzel salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter 
    1. Mix and knead all the dough ingredients either by hand, or with a dough hook attachment on a mixer, until your dough is cohesive, and fairly smooth. It should be slightly sticky. If it seems dry, knead in an additional tablespoon or two of water.
    2. Cover the dough and let it rest for 45 minutes. It will rise minimally. 
    3. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F. 
    4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. 
    5.  Fold it over a few times to gently deflate it, then divide it into 12 pieces, each weighing about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 ounces. 
    6. Roll each piece of dough into an 18" rope.
    7. Shape each rope into a traditional pretzel shape, or whatever shape your heart desires.
    8. Dissolve the sugar in the water.
    9. Brush the pretzels with the solution, and sprinkle lightly with coarse pretzel salt.
    10. Bake the pretzels for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they're a light golden brown.
    11. Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush with melted butter, if desired. 

      These soft pretzels have a tiny bit of sweetness in them that works really, really well with the salt and butter topping. They're best enjoyed warm from the oven, but they're still really good up to 2 days later, if you keep them in an air-tight container. Enjoy!

    July 28, 2012

    Bon Jour!

    Welcome to my new blog!
    It's all about good bread.
    Stay tuned for lots of awesome recipes.
    Long live carbohydrates. Death to false dough!