When I first got into this cooking thing, it was merely as a means of survival. I wanted to continue to enjoy delicious hot meals that were worthy of “the big kitchen” even if not quite up to the standards of my wife’s preparations. I however, will use every trick, gimmick, hint, shortcut, or clue to assure that my results arrive with the least effort or work. That is in part why I have come to depend on the air fryer, the pressure and slow cooker, and the bread machine.
I love a freshly baked loaf of bread. The commercial loaves at the store just don’t offer the same texture or taste as something you baked yourself. So, although I never thought I would, I started experimenting with the bread maker. We have tons of King Arthur bread and scone and doughnut mixes. But, while good, especially their cheddar cheese bread and their pumpernickel bread, they require nothing more then dumping the ingredients in the machine, adding your wet ingredients, setting it, and taking the loaf out when done. Where is the challenge in that? Plus, I don’t like the hole the beater leaves in the bottom of the loaf.
That is when I discovered the dough cycle. You can put all your ingredients in and let the machine do all the work kneading and mixing the dough. When done, you take it out and shape it or place it in a bread pan, let it rise again, and ultimately, bake it in your oven. I have now done this twice with a basic white bread and both times it has come out well. My only issue being me and my inability to slice relatively even slices. Then I remembered the electric meat slicer that has been snoozing on a shelf for a long time and said to myself “I wonder”. The answer was, yes you can. You can slice a loaf of bread to whatever width you wish. Problem solved.
But, I like a good loaf of sourdough bread. For years, my wife kept and fed her own starter. When she would use it, a wonderful aroma encompassed ‘the big kitchen’ and a slice or two while still warm with a little butter was to die for. However, I don’t have a starter nor do I want to go to the trouble to maintain one. So, it was with a great deal of surprise and joy that I discovered a product at the local market this week called ‘Platinum Instant Sourdough Yeast’. Yup. An instant yeast that already contains the sourdough culture. That is when the sky opened and I did my happy dance, before being asked to exit the store. Just kidding.
I have a recipe for a crusty french bread that is designed for the dough cycle that I have been threatening to try. Then, the little wheels started turning and I said to myself, “self, why don’t you make that recipe and use the sourdough yeast to ‘kick it up a notch’. So I did and ‘bam’, in it went. When the dough cycle was complete (about an hour and a half), I turned it out onto a floured board and shaped it into a big oval. Then I rolled up the long side making a cylinder shape and pinched the seams and then turned it seam side down before pinching the ends together and folding them under. I slipped it onto a greased baking sheet, covered it, and let it double in size.
This is the point at which I ran into my first encounter with separating an egg to use the white as a wash. I have seen it done in ones hand, holding the yolk while the white drips through the fingers. I decided not to do that. I was sure we had an egg separator, but I couldn’t find one, so I did the next best thing. I used our juicer.
The yolk stayed on top while the white dripped through. It worked, but I’m going to buy a separator. Lastly, I slashed the top of the loaf and baked it. And here it is. Hot out of the oven.
I made a Greek salad for dinner tonight and I thought this would make a nice accompaniment. I was not wrong. I ended up with a crusty, chewy french bread that met all my expectations but one. It didn’t taste the least bit like sourdough. I guess it was just too good to be true. But not to worry. King Arthur, and probably others, sells a sourdough powder. I have used it before and it is legit. You can use as many or few spoonfuls as your taste demands. So I will get some more of it. In the meantime, I have this great french loaf that will pair nicely with tomorrow nights Mini Cooker Beef Stew, and of course, a nice red wine. Yum.