Bread Making – Guide to Raising Your Own Sourdough Starter

Stephen Jones and Stacy Adimando wrote . . . . . . . .

Baking an incredible loaf of bread falls, somewhat frustratingly, between couldn’t-be-simpler and intimidatingly complex. For 30,000 years, we’ve known that making dough requires only flour and water, yet somehow it’s taken mankind nearly that long to figure out what takes bread from the simple sum of its ingredients to the airy baguettes and chewy ciabattas we hold to impossibly snobbish standards today.

It is, however, a starter. A mixture of flour and water, pre-ferments—or starters—are called so because they’re left out on our counters to ferment prior to mixing a full bread. Some are ready in hours. Others take days. But it’s as simple as stirring and walking away.

The Background

At various moments in the last 6,000 years, the miracle of natural leavening was discovered. By the late Bronze Age, Egyptians were advancing architecture, clothing, and bread baking, the latter with pre-ferments, which led to softer, lighter, more voluminous loaves. It’s from this time period that we have the first documented sourdough—a fermented dough made from wild yeast and bacteria, which produces natural acids lending it a sour taste.

As bread-baking rituals passed from Egypt to Greece and then throughout Europe, tricks and trends were applied to the art of wild leavening, most of which were short-lived. New flours were tested, fruits and their juices were added, and brewer’s yeast was introduced to fast-track the process. Most purists believe, however, that these additions’ microbes are rendered relatively null by the more adaptive bacteria floating around on wheat, containers, countertops, and most everything else. Which is why the classic combination of flour, water, and time has persisted.

It wasn’t until the 1850s that Louis Pasteur, a French chemist and microbiologist pinpointed the science behind leavening. The gist is this: When flour meets water, a naturally occurring enzyme helps break down its starches into sugars. With enough time in a moderate temperature, wild yeasts and bacteria will help produce lactic and acetic acids, noticeably souring the dough. The yeast and bacteria also form gases which stretch and aerate the dough. The resulting starter will foam and bubble, and produce aromas of yeast and alcohol. The resulting bread will have a more open crumb, browner crust, and longer shelf life, plus the complex aromatic compounds we equate with “artisanal” flavor and finish.

Extending a starter’s active fermentation time (or maturation) amps up the flavor and makes proteins as well as micronutrients like iron and zinc more readily available to us. The time needed for each starter’s maturation varies, as does the bread with which each starter is ideally paired. Eventually, a starter may compose 15 to 50 percent of a final dough.

While pre-ferments are a mostly hands-off endeavor, they thrive best under certain conditions (like moderate temperatures) and sometimes need a little maintenance. Most famously, sourdough starters occasionally need to be “fed” with a mix of flour and water. (This may be why bread hobbyists often bestow cute names upon them, as they would to pets.)

But unlike in a hyper-controlled professional bakery, our home environments change constantly. And as a result, our starters evolve too. As unsettling as it may sound at first, a visit from a neighbor, an open window, or a nearby houseplant may introduce a new strain of wild yeast into the air and therefore into your starter. A heat wave or a polar vortex may temporarily boost or impede its growth. But this is normal. And as they change and mature, starters will go in and out of equilibria, gain a sense of place, and rise and fall. Some can be used indefinitely.

Learn to troubleshoot and rejuvenate pre-ferments with trial and error (not with the internet). You can feed them when the ritual works for you, or place them in the fridge (which stalls growth) when it doesn’t. Trust your starter, and try not to worry: Humans have been doing this for a long time.

Four Starters to Try

The flour-to-water ratio—and whether or not yeast is manually added to the mixture—determines how quickly starters ferment and in what breads or batters they are used. They may vary from a runny batter to a thick, gloppy paste, and many will change in texture as they ferment. They are ready to use when they have risen fully, or—for quicker pre-ferments—when bubbles form on the surface.

BIGA

Baker’s yeast is usually added to this fairly stiff, short-rise, one-time-use pre-ferment (you mix biga once, then use it immediately after maturing). Ideal for Italian breads like ciabatta, biga introduces an open, almost cakey texture to bread by reducing its gluten strength.

Formula: Stir together flour and water in a two-to-one ratio by weight. Though the amount of yeast you add to a biga varies depending on what you are baking and how long you have allotted to ferment it, a good guideline is to yeast biga at no more than 1 percent of what will be the pre-ferment’s final volume.

How to use: Mix, then let ferment at room temperature 12 to 24 hours prior to mixing into a final dough. Once ripe, use immediately.

POOLISH

Highly hydrated and runny, poolish can be used quickly and produces a less elastic, more extensible dough and open crumb—ideal in baguettes and country-style breads. Poolish usually has a touch of acidity, resulting in a nuanced, nutty flavor.

Formula: Stir together equal parts water and flour, and add a small amount of yeast—depending on what you are baking, this will typically be no more than 1 percent of the final volume of the pre-ferment.

How to use: Poolish ferments for about 12 hours or longer, depending on temperature, recipe, and the amount of yeast you’ve added. It can be used at up to equal weight of the flour in the final dough, and is designed for one-time use.

SPONGE

Sponge is a term that has various meanings in baking, but in this case we’re talking about a heavily yeasted, single-use starter that’s best in higher acidity doughs that require more strength. Many seasoned bakers prefer it for sweet doughs, such as brioche.

Formula: Stir together water and flour in a two-to-one ratio. Sponge is often heavily yeasted because it ferments for a shorter time.

How to use: Mix sponge and let ferment for two to 24 hours, depending on the yeast level. Sponge may make up to 50 percent of a final dough.

SOURDOUGH

The original pre-ferment, sourdough starters (or “mothers”) have no added yeast and are designed for long-term feeding and use.

Formula: In a mason jar, stir equal parts water and flour (preferably whole wheat, organic, and freshly milled) by volume—about a quarter cup of each ingredient to start. Let stand at room temperature overnight with the lid ajar (or cover with cheese cloth). Stir in the same amount of water and flour the next day, and you should see signs of life like bubbling and rising. Repeat for three days. Not much may happen during days two through four, but don’t give up.

How to use: After day five, use it in pancake or waffle batters. At 1 week and beyond, add to bread doughs, at up to a quarter of the final dough’s weight.

Source: Saveur


Read also at King Arthur Flour:

Sourdough Starter (step-by-step recipe) . . . . .

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The Simple Lemon Cake That Helped Create a Legend

Margaux Laskey wrote . . . . . . .

A golden Bundt, scented with lemon zest and painted with a tangy lemon-sugar syrup, Maida Heatter’s East 62nd Street Lemon Cake is a favorite among Times readers. Credit Craig Lee for The New York Times

When Craig Claiborne discovered Maida Heatter in 1968, she was already a bit of a Miami Beach celebrity. She and her husband, Ralph Daniels, a former airline pilot, ran a small restaurant, and Ms. Heatter, a jewelry maker, illustrator and self-taught baker, made all the desserts. The locals were crazy about them.

Mr. Claiborne, then the food editor of The New York Times, was in town to cover the culinary side of the Republican National Convention. As a publicity ploy, Ms. Heatter got her hands on some canned elephant meat and developed a recipe for elephant-meat omelets with sautéed bananas and chopped peanuts. No one ordered it, but the stunt got Ms. Heatter the attention she had hoped for. Mr. Claiborne arrived to cover the omelets but left besotted with Ms. Heatter’s desserts.

So much so that in 1970, Mr. Claiborne featured three of Ms. Heatter’s cakes in The New York Times Magazine. One was a recipe for a simple lemon cake that Toni Evins Marks, Ms. Heatter’s daughter, had found. She sent it to her mother, who tinkered with it and renamed it the East 62nd Street Lemon Cake because that’s where Ms. Marks lived. It quickly became a favorite among Times readers. Nancy Reagan and Bill Blass were said to be fans.

Four years later, with encouragement from Mr. Claiborne, Ms. Heatter published her first cookbook, “Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts,” for which she won a James Beard Award. She wrote several more (many included the cake recipe) and earned two more James Beard Awards. At 101, she still lives in Miami Beach (the restaurant sold in 1974), and with a niece, Connie Heatter, she is working on a compilation of her fans’ favorite recipes, to be published in summer 2019.

In late January, the Food section received a reader email urging us to publish Ms. Heatter’s East 62nd Street Lemon Cake on NYT Cooking. We quickly pulled the recipe from our archives, took beautiful new photos and published it online. Almost immediately, enthusiastic reader comments trickled in, like this one from Edna: “This is a favorite in our household. I made it for the first time 40 years ago when I was in the fourth grade! Now with a household of my own, it is a regular!”

The cake itself is a golden Bundt, scented with lemon zest and painted with a tangy lemon-sugar syrup while still warm, an elegant dessert for almost any occasion. Top it with berries and whipped cream, or leave it plain and serve it with tea.


East 62nd Street Lemon Cake

Ingredients:

Fine dry bread crumbs or flour for dusting the pan
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons lemon zest

Glaze

1/3 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9‐inch tube pan. Coat it with the bread crumbs.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  4. Fold in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Stir in the lemon zest. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top of the batter. Bake 1¼ hours, or until the cake tests done.
  5. While the cake bakes, make the glaze. Warm the juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until all of the sugar is dissolved. Cover and remove from heat.
  6. When the cake is done, immediately unmold the cake onto a cake rack and apply the glaze with a pastry brush to the top and sides of the cake until it is all absorbed.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

Source: The New York Times

Video: Macaroni and Cheese – A Recipe from 1784

“Mc and Cheese,” as it appears to be called nowadays, has been fetishized beyond on all reason. Nevertheless, it is a great winter or comfort food that many people like a lot.

So it was fun to share this video of a macaroni and cheese recipe from 1784.

Watch video at You Tube (5:51 minutes) . . . . .


Read also:

38 Of The Best Macaroni And Cheese Recipes On Planet Earth . . . . .

Easy Chicken Wing Recipes for Super Bowl, From Momofuku, Blue Ribbon

Kate Krader wrote . . . . . . .

On any given Super Bowl Sunday, chicken wing consumption goes through the roof. This year, the National Chicken Council projects that Americans will eat 1.35 billion wings for Super Bowl Lll in Minneapolis on Feb. 4. That’s an all-time high, up 1.5 percent, or a 20-million-wing increase from 2017. To equal 1.35 billion wings, someone with the time and the energy could feed 625 wings to every person in every seat of the 32 NFL stadiums across the country.

This new high is a surprise, because chicken wing sales took a hit late last year, according to Bloomberg. Tom Super, spokesperson for the National Chicken Council, says the decline is related to the peak price wings hit in the fall. “Wing prices were at their highest ever in September; they’ve come down since then. Chicken wing demand has proven more and more inelastic though; it just doesn’t change much with the price,” says Super. He also promises that, in spite of earlier reports of a cataclysmic scarcity, there will be no wing shortage this year.

The question, then, isn’t whether there will be chicken wings; it’s where you’ll get them. Two of New York’s top wing purveyors gave us their recipes to share with readers: From David Chang, founder of the Korean-accented Momofuku empire, comes well-glazed spicy and sweet wings. Bruce and Eric Bromberg, co-founders of the comfort food destination Blue Ribbon, supplied a Buffalo-style classic. What you’ll learn from these recipes is that wings are surprisingly simple to prepare and so much better when you do them yourself. Each recipe is made with fewer than 10 ingredients, and cooking requires little more than arranging the wings on a baking sheet and mixing sauce ingredients together; no deep fryers required. The result is phenomenal, whether you want a sticky, Asian-style wing or a more traditional, still spicy snack.

Chang who just opened Majordomo in Los Angeles, has offered wings on the menu at his iconic Noodle Bar in Manhattan in some form or other for more than a decade. The recipe below is based on a special, off-the-menu dish, made with the restaurant’s addictive Ssam sauce condiment (available at Momofuku restaurants and select Whole Foods; you can substitute Korean chile sauce instead). “We kept this recipe super-simple since everyone wants to be focused on the game and not in the kitchen,” says Chang.

Bruce Bromberg agrees: “Wings are the ultimate Game Day food, easy to make, so they’re great for the hosts.”

And if you can’t break the Super Bowl-ordering-food-in habit, both Momofuku and Blue Ribbon have Super Bowl packages for New Yorkers. The specialty in both? Wings.


Blue Ribbon’s Hot Sauce Chicken Wings with Blue Cheese

This recipe is adapted from the wings served at Blue Ribbon Brasserie, which are, in my opinion, among the best versions in New York. Blue Ribbon makes its own hot sauce, which its also sells at its Las Vegas locations; you can use your favorite to glaze the wings, but they’re best with a vinegar-based sauce such as Tabasco.

Serves 6-8

2 tbsp fine kosher salt
1 tbsp ground pepper
1 tsp thyme
16 chicken wings, cut into drumettes and wings (about 3 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup favorite hot sauce, preferably a vinegar based one
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 cup sour cream mixed with 1 cup crumbled blue cheese (or your favorite blue cheese dressing)
Carrot and celery sticks, for serving

In a bowl, mix the salt, pepper and thyme. Arrange the wings on a rack on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the seasoning. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix together the hot sauce, butter, and brown sugar.

Preheat a broiler or grill. Broil or grill the wings, turning once, for 15 minutes, until well-browned. Brush the wings with half of the hot sauce, coating both sides. Continue broiling or grilling until glazed and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes longer; turn once. Brush or toss the wings with additional hot sauce. Arrange the wings on a large plate and serve with the blue cheese dressing, carrots and celery and any remaining hot sauce.


Momofuku’s Ssäm Sauce Wings

Ssäm sauce—a mix of gochujang, miso, sake, soy sauce, and rice vinegar—adds additional tang and depth to the wings. If you use bottled gouchujang sauce instead of this blend, add a little more vinegar.

Serves 6-8

16 chicken wings, cut into drumettes and wings (about 3 1/2 pounds)
2 tbsp fine kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup Ssäm sauce or gochujang Korean chile sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Fried onions (optional)
White sesame seeds (optional)

In a large bowl, toss the wings with salt and cayenne until evenly coated. Arrange the wings in an even layer on a wire rack on a baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered in the refrigerate overnight, at least 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, toss the wings in the peanut oil until evenly coated. Arrange wings on the rack on the baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning once, until crisp and browned. If desired, finish the wings under a preheated broiler so they’re well browned.

Meanwhile, mix the butter with the ssäm sauce and vinegar. Toss the wings in the sauce until coated. Transfer to a plate, garnish with fried onions and sesame seeds and serve with leftover sauce.

Source: Bloomberg

Easy Recipes with Hot Chocolate

Deena Shanker wrote . . . . . . .

Few winter-time pleasures are more basic (in a good way) than a cup of hot cocoa — although if you’re sipping on something that started as a powder, you are missing out. Making hot chocolate from actual chocolate is neither difficult nor ingredient intensive, but the rich, luxurious results will shame every last packet of Swiss Miss sitting in your pantry.

Below are four recipes for at-home, made-from-scratch hot chocolate. The key for each is to start off with high-quality chocolate. Do that, and you’ll never use a powder again.

Water-Based Drinking Chocolate

Despite having only two ingredients—just dark chocolate and water—this recipe is not for the faint of heart. The purity of the combination makes for an intense, decadent experience that those accustomed to traditional cocoas might find too rich. Cookbook author Megan Giller got this recipe from Aubrey Lindley, co-owner of cult chocolate shop Cacao in Portland, Ore. She recommends it as a way to try different kinds of single-origin or blended chocolates, because the water base won’t distract from their flavors the way a milk or cream base would.

From Bean to Bar Chocolate: America’s Craft Chocolate Revolution by Megan Giller

Makes 2 servings

1-1/2 cups water
8-1/2 ounces dark chocolate (68 percent to 75 percent cocoa), chopped

Bring the water to a boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Cover and let sit for 30 to 45 seconds.

Whisk gently and scrape the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula to make sure the chocolate isn’t stuck to it. Put the pan back on the burner (keep it turned off) and let it rest until the chocolate is completely melted, 2 to 3 minutes.

Whisk vigorously for a minute or two to emulsify completely. Check the consistency by seeing if it sticks to the back of a clean spoon. If it is lumpy, keep mixing. If it sticks and is smooth, you are finished. Don’t confuse bubbles for clumps; small air bubbles are OK. Some bits of chocolate will stubbornly remain at the bottom of the pan, but don’t worry about them.

Serve warm. The flavors and texture will evolve as it gradually cools and rests.


Simple Chocolate Sauce for Hot Chocolate on the Go

For those looking to make easy hot cocoa again and again, or who just like a milder beverage with a milky base, this recipe is the one for you. Make the sauce once, stick it in your fridge, and use it over the next few weeks at your leisure. Nate Hodge, co-founder of Brooklyn’s luxe bean-to-bar Raaka Chocolate, recommends 2 tablespoons of sauce per cup of warm milk or milk alternative, although you’re free to add more (but probably not less, let’s be honest) as you like.

From The Art and Craft of Chocolate by Nate Hodge, forthcoming in 2018.

Makes 2 cups of sauce

1 cup of purified water
1 cup of sugar
7 ounces of dark chocolate

To make sauce:

Put the water and sugar into a small saucepan and put on medium high heat. Allow the liquid to come to a boil. Keep it at a boil for 5 minutes. Cut the heat on the stove, move the pan to a cool burner, and slowly mix in the chocolate with a whisk. Mix until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth.

Pour into a jar and allow to cool. If kept in an airtight jar in the refrigerator, the sauce should keep fresh for 3-4 weeks.

To make hot chocolate:

Add 2 tablespoons of chocolate sauce to a cup of warm milk or milk alternative. To jazz it up, grate an ounce of dark chocolate on top using a microplane.


Mission Hot Chocolate

This more advanced recipe from Dandelion Chocolate is an homage to San Francisco’s Mission District, where Dandelion has its cafe and whose Mexican American population has made the neighborhood a center of food, culture, music, and murals. Spicy and rich, it could be its own dessert course and adapts particularly well for vegans. Simply replace the nonfat and whole milks with unsweetened almond milk. Dried pasilla chiles can be found in the Latin food section of your supermarket or in specialty shops.

From Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S’more by Todd Masonis, Greg D’Alesandre, Lisa Vega, and Molly Gore

Makes 5 servings

1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground pasilla
1 cup nonfat milk or unsweetened almond milk
1-1/4 cups 70-percent chocolate chips
1 vanilla bean
4 cups whole milk

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, and pasilla in a small bowl, whisking to combine. Set aside.

Using a paring knife, gently slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the beans from the inside of the pod using the back of the knife blade. Set seeds aside.

Heat the nonfat milk in a very large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. When milk is steaming (hot to the touch), add the chocolate to the bowl. Whisk chocolate and milk mixture together until the chocolate is fully combined and the ganache is thick and shiny.

Add the brown sugar spice mixture and vanilla bean seeds to the ganache and whisk until incorporated, continuing to heat the mixture over the pot.

Add whole milk to the ganache, whisking to combine. Heat hot chocolate for another 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, until steaming. Remove bowl from pot and serve immediately.


Molten Chocolate Cookies

Just in case you or your loved ones are not the hot chocolate types (gasp!), this cookie serves a similar purpose. It’s rich, it’s delicious, and it’s best savored slowly (good book optional). Thanks to their large size—only 8 cookies on each baking sheet—and their dramatic, gooey centers, think of it as a cup of hot chocolate in cookie form. Just be careful not to overcook, which will ruin that fudgy center.

From Guittard Chocolate Cookbook by Amy Guittard

Makes 16 cookies

2-1/4 cups Guittard Semisweet Chocolate Baking Wafers
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate wafers and butter together using a hot water bath or the microwave oven (see Note: Melting Chocolate, page 51). Stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the water if you used a hot water bath and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, with a hand mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until pale yellow and slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the cooled melted chocolate mixture. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or up to overnight.

Scoop 2‑inch (5‑cm) mounds onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches (5 cm) between the cookies; the cookies will spread as they bake.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until crusty on the outside but soft in the center. Leave the cookies on the baking sheet for 3 to 5 minutes to firm up, then serve immediately.

Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Reheat to achieve the molten chocolate gooeyness by microwaving them for 10 seconds.

Source: Bloomberg