Sunday began and ended in sourdough. Before church we made sourdough waffles that were lighter than summer clouds. (See below for the recipe.)
Sourdough bread featured prominently that night at our Superbowl party for non-football fans. I sliced the bread I baked Friday and served it with hummus, aged cheddar cheese, and salami.
The game and the commercials were mostly ignored. My husband was the sole attendee remotely invested in the game, and even he was not engrossed. Since one of the guests brought home-brewed beer, much of the conversation centered on fermentation — beers, yogurt, cheese, and bread.
The beer was titled “Martin Luther’s Pumpernickle Ale.” The reformer once said, “But I resist the Devil, and often it is with a fart that I chase him away.” Apparently, the word pumpernickle is derived from this idea. Pumpern is the German verb “to fart” and nickle means “devil.” If you drink the dredges of this ale, the brewer informed us, you can easily ward off the Devil.
Sunday’s bread had good flavor but lacked shape. I did not bake it in a bread pan, but hoped it would form a nice rounded boule. Instead it sprawled like suburban neighborhoods in Atlanta. When I removed it from the oven, the loaves seemed like UFO saucers. Fortunately, slicing disguised the bread’s alien tendencies.
Yesterday, I made another attempt at a whole wheat sourdough bread, following a recipe from the Fresh Loaf and directions from The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. I kneaded and shaped it last night, and then let it rise slowly in a cold room (about 50 degrees). The long rise ensures a rich sourdough flavor and a fully fermented loaf. This morning I baked it.
Touchdown! It’s a thing of beauty. The crust stands an inch over the bread pan and seems crisp to the touch. Tiny bubbles are spread evenly over the loaf. The flavor has a sourdough tang with the nuttiness of whole wheat. I can’t wait to devour into it.
I have used all my whole wheat flour and moved my starter to the refrigerator. Since cool air slows down the yeast’s appetite, it will only have be fed once a week. Thus, my baking extravagance may also slow down.
Here are some lessons I have learned:
- Be patient. The second rise can take 12 hours.
- Use water to prevent your hands from sticking rather than flour. Sourdough is very sensitive to excessive flour.
- It is important to shape the loaf.
- Knead for 8 minutes, let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes, and then knead for another 8.
- Don’t knead the same table where there are glass candlesticks — especially if those candlesticks are near the edge of the table.
For these waffles, I adjusted a recipe from the Fresh Loaf to suit our tastes and improve its nutritional value. The great thing about these waffles is that they use the excess starter you ought to throw out when feeding the starter.
- 2 cups of starter
- 1 tablespoon of honey (or maple syrup)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons melted butter.
- 1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon baking soda*
Mix everything but the baking soda together. In a separate bowl or glass, mix the baking soda with a few drops of water. Then, gently fold baking soda into batter. Cook on griddle.
*The sourness of sourdough is caused by an acid. Baking soda is a base and reacts with the acid to neutralize it. Add more baking soda for a sweeter waffle and less for a more sourdough-flavor waffle.