The Little Red Hen – Sourdough Edition

Anyone out there a fan of the children’s book “The Little Red Hen?”

I am.

That little red hen works so hard harvesting, threshing, milling, and baking her bread with no help from her so-called friends. In the original tale, the little red hen sticks it to her friends in the end and does not share her bread with them. Way to go, Little Red Hen! However, there are variations of the story (one of which I owned as a child) in which she is kind and decides to share. Sometimes, I am the little red hen … especially in the kitchen. Honestly, I like it that way. I love working hard to make something that I can share with others.

…but i digress…

Sourdough bread is one of my favorite types of bread. Aside from a good German rye or a hearty wholegrain, I don’t think there is a bread that I love or desire more. It seemed only natural that I should try to make a loaf myself. I have made yeast breads before so I figured I could do this too. Guess what? I did it! Guess what again? It wasn’t that difficult! This recipe is very simple but quite time consuming. Most of the steps only take a few minutes, but there is lots of downtime (literally days and days of downtime) where you must wait for things to sour, things to rise, things to sour, and things to rise again. In other words, if you plan to make this with a particular meal, you need to start making the dough about 5-6days in advanced (assuming you are planning to make the sourdough starter). This being said, my bread turned out deliciously sour on the first try. You must try this!

… and yes, I did share my bread even though I made it all by myself…

Sourdough Bread
Source: Annie’s Eats, Williams-Sonoma

3/4C warm water (100F)
2tsp active dry yeast
1/2T honey
1/2C sourdough starter
2.5 – 3C bread flour
1/2T butter, melted
1 egg
1 1/4tsp salt
cornmeal (optional)

Whisk together water, yeast, honey, and starter until smooth. Note: I took my starter out of fridge and added it to the mixture. It was cold, but it did not seem to have any negative effect on my bread. Cover this mixture with plastic wrap and let stand for about 1hr until bubbly and expanded in size.

If you have a fancy mixture, attach the ‘flat paddle.’ If you don’t (like me), I used a combination of my hands, muscles, and various spoons/kitchen utensils and my bread came out fine. To the yeast mixture, add 1.5C flour, butter, egg, and salt. Beat for about 2-3minutes, longer if using the hand/spoon method. Add additional 1C flour. Beat for an additional 2 minutes.

Attach the dough hook (if you have one). If not, now is when I switched to my best kitchen tool — my hands. Add flour in 1/4C increments until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, forming a blob. Continue kneading dough for about 6-10minutes until dough is smooth and elastic, not sticky.

Place dough ball into a lightly-oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise on counter for about 2 hours, until doubled in size.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust lightly with cornmeal and/or flour mixture. Form dough into a loaf shape and place on baking sheet. Rub flour onto the top. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise in fridge for 8-12 hours.

Preheat oven to 450. If you have a fancy baking stone, place it in the oven so it gets warm. If you don’t, turn a baking sheet over and place that in the oven (instant baking stone!). Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits into the top of your loaf. Place the baking sheet onto the baking stone in the oven. Bake at 450 for 10minutes. Then reduce heat to 400 and bake for an additional 25-30minutes. Let cool. Slice. And…. most importantly… enjoy!

Sourdough Starter

Source: King Arthur Flour Cookbook

2T active yeast
2C lukewarm water
1T honey
1C AP flour

Add all 4 ingredients into the a 2qt bowl and whisk a few times until everything is combined. Cover with a towel (not plastic wrap). Place in a warmer area of your kitchen and let it sit out for 2-5days. Stir it once daily as the mixture will separate. Once a sour aroma has developed, the started is ready. Store it in a plastic container in the fridge until you are ready to use it. There is a lot of information about making a starter, including storing, troubleshooting, and ‘feeding.’ If you want more information, read THIS.


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