Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Bread Mission

Since Patrick has arrived, I've privately been on a mission to find some "good" bread. His parents had a yummy care package shipped to our house back in September, full of authentic German bread and treats. Using the information in that package, and the help of google, I found myself venturing into the world of bread making.

{I don't make bread. I did briefly in 2000 when I had a bread machine. Briefly.}

The extent of my real bread experience is in "quick breads" like banana bread, muffins, etc., and pizza dough.

All the recipes I looked at (at least the ones with good reviews) were made from sourdough starter. If I I don't make bread, then I certainly don't make sourdough bread. I got to feed some as a teenager to help out my mom. That's it. But, hey, how hard can it be? I was willing to try. (Sometimes us moms have to make up our own challenges to take our minds off the challenges of many small children, right?).

I found a great helpful website to educate myself about the art of sourdough. Visit it at Sourdough Home. They said not to try to make my own starter if I really didn't know what I was doing. They suggested getting a starter from a friend. But I don't have any friends who bake bread! So, what else could I do? I bought some organic whole wheat flour (sure to have all kinds of microorganisms on it to grow some sourdough) and was just ready to start. Then Kristin surprised me at church the next day with some Amish Friendship Bread starter. Yeah, I know the instructions on the bag are all specific to the AFB, but I didn't care--it is still basically a sourdough! I followed the AFB instructions for the full 10 days and made the bread from it. Instead of giving away my starter, I divided it to "experiment." I didn't want my bread starter to be fed on sugar and milk, so I took part of it and fed it on only flour and water. I fed it once per day. I wasn't really excited about the results, and I was filled with doubt. So I followed these instructions on Sourdough Home. I took about 1 tsp of my starter (yes, that is all), put it in a clean jar, added 3/8 c. flour and 1/4 c. water. After 12 hours I threw away half of my starter, and fed it the same amount again. I repeated this the next day and loved how it was looking--it was doubling every 12 hours. By day 3 I stopped discarding half of the starter. I doubled what I was feeding--in the morning I still did 3/8 c. flour and 1/4 c. water. At night I fed it 3/4 c. flour and 1/2 c. water. The next morning I planned on baking, so I fed it 1-1/2 c. flour and 1 c. water. I had quite a bit of starter at this point (about 4 c.). It sort of resembled a sticky goo...not runny. See how good it looks:

I decided to use about 3 c. of my starter and put the rest in a jar to feed and grow for the next time. The recipe I wanted to use had its own starter, and I was just guessing how much to make. I really had no idea...except that I had something like 3 c. of flour and 2 c. of water in the starter (maybe more?) and I wanted to cut the recipe in half (which had 4 c. flour and 4 c. water in its starter). So I literally just guessed.

I mixed together the following:
4 c. rye flour
2 c. bread flour
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white sugar

Then I added:
3 c. (approx.) of starter

After mixing in the starter with a wooden (???) spoon, I added:
1c. warm water

And mixed it in the mixer:
After a while (the mixer could only do so well), I moved it out onto the counter to knead it. I did that for about 15 min. until my dough was nice and smooth (whatever that means--I used a timer). I put it into a bowl and let it rise for about 2 hours. I couldn't tell if it had doubled or not, but it was definitely rising. :)

After 2 hours I again took it out to knead it, this time for 5 min. (Apparently this "activates the gluten.") Then I shaped it into a loaf. Now I know a better way to shape my loaf, so next time I will try it. I also want to remember to roll it in oats--doesn't that sound nice? Anyways, here is what it looks like. The kids all thought it looked weird. I let it rise for another hour.

Then I baked it at 425F for close to an hour. How do you know when a loaf of bread is done? Found this great blog entry to help me.

According to Sourdough Home, it is better to wait until the next day to cut the bread, but we couldn't wait. Seriously, I was about to pass out with anticipation (and worry). Also by this time Patrick was home from school saying, "It smells good." I think that made me more worried...LOL.
We didn't wait. We cut it as soon as it was cool enough to touch. The final verdict? Patrick said, "I'm impressed."

Whew, what a relief!! :) By the way, the original recipe is called German Rye Bread (Bauernbrot) and you can find it here at Patrick likes to top his with jam, honey and butter, or Nutella. I'm growing my starter again and will try it again. I also want to make a white bread this time.


  1. Yay!!! It looks like you did a GREAT job! On one of my very favorite blogs where I get most of my recipes, there is great bread making tutorial. It's not for sourdough breads, but she has a video of how to knead and shape your loaves and things.
    On a side note, we LOOOOOVE Nutella. Yumm-O!

    Came across this video posted on another site.