I'm not really doing New Year's resolutions this year, but I do have a New Year's baking goal, which is to learn how to cook with natural leaven. I have always been intimidated by sourdough bread, but no more! My Uncle Jim has quickly been converting my family to sourdough, and I think I'm going to be next. :) He's passed along sourdough starter to my mom and my aunt, and I'm going to take some back to California with me or order some from King Arthur Flour if that doesn't work.
In the meantime, my mom and I have been making some delicious sourdough creations with her starter. This is the first loaf we've tried, and it's absolutely amazing. A nice tang from the sourdough, but the combination of commercial yeast and sourdough starter plus sweet grated apples means that the bread isn't too sour. The apples also make the bread really moist and delicious. I got Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice for Christmas from my dad, and his description of good bread fits perfectly with this one: cool and creamy. It's delicious topped with a little honey or toasted with peanut butter and jelly.
The kneading instructions here aren't a mistake. The cookbook author, Dan Lepard, advocates an almost no-knead approach. You knead the bread very briefly, let it rest, and repeat however many times required by the recipe. This is an easy approach to making bread and the result is fabulous!
Check out Yeastspotting, one of my favorite blog features from the blog Wild Yeast, for lots of other yeasted breads (both natural and commercial).
Rolled Oat and Apple Bread (from The Art of Handmade Bread by Dan Lepard)
1/2 cup rolled oats
6 T boiling water
1 1/4 cups peeled and grated apple (about 1 large apple)
3 T water at 68 degrees
3 1/2 ounces white leaven/sourdough starter
3/4 tsp fresh or dry yeast
1 3/4 cups bread flour
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
oats or fine oatmeal, to finish
1. Put the rolled oats into a small bowl and pour over the boiling water. Let sit for five minutes while preparing the other ingredients.
2. In a large bowl, combine the apple, water, leaven, and yeast. Stir the mixture well with a fork so that the yeast dissolves, then stir in the soaked oats. In another bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour and stir the mixture together with your hads until it is evenly combined and you have a soft, sticky dough. Add more water or flour as needed. Scrape any dough from your fingers, cover, and leave for 10 minutes.
3. Rub 1 tsp corn or olive oil onto your work surface and knead the dough for about 10 seconds, ending with the dough in a smooth, round ball. Clean and dry the bowl, rub lightly with oil, and return the dough to the bowl. Cover and let sit an additional 1o minutes.
4. Remove the dough and knead briefly on the oiled surface, retuning to the bowl as a smooth, round ball. Cover and leave for 1 hour in a warm place.
5. Lightly flour the work surface and shape the dough into a baton or any other loaf shape you wish. Rub a dishtowel with a handful of flour and place the dough inside seam side up. Wrap the dough up snugly in the cloth, and allow to rise for 90 minutes, or until almost doubled in height.
6. Preheat the oven to 410 degrees. Upturn the loaf onto a flour- or semolina-dusted baking sheet and then dust the surface of the loaf with oats or fine oatmeal. Bake the loaf in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, until the loaf is a good brown, feels light in weight, and sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool on a wire rack.