No Knead Artisian Sourdough Bread

sourdough bread 2

(This post contains affiliate links. Great stuff and good deals for you, small commission for me. Thanks!)

So, we’ve made our sourdough starter. We’ve got it all happy and bubbling. Now it’s time to bake! This is the second time I’ve had a starter. And that first time I would often stare with longing at those beautiful Sourdough Boules–the crusty round loaves, chewy crumb with just a slightly sour taste. All those “bake your own artisan bread in 5 minutes a day” books were floating around. But I was seriously intimidated over the whole thing. I thought it would be so much harder than my regular old loaf of bread.

Boy was I wrong.

This recipe is so easy and so forgiving. Four ingredients. No kneading. It does most of it’s business while you sleep. And for all your laziness, you are rewarded with your very own loaf of crusty, chewy heaven.

Have I got you convinced?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Oven safe dutch oven (or baking stone)
  • 1 cup active, bubbly sourdough starter
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups of flour (I use an unbleached all purpose for this bread)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • cormeal and flour for dusting
  • a tea towl and a bowl or colander

bread ingredients

The method:

(I like to start mine at night before bed. If you have to be out of the house all day, then you could get up early and start in the morning. Then your bread would be baked in the evening.)

  • In a large glass mixing bowl, stir together your 1 cup active starter and water and salt. (A wooden spoon is good for this recipe)
Look how lovely bubbly that starter is!

Look how lovely bubbly that starter is!

  • Add 3 cups of flour to the wet mixture and stir until all the flour is wet (you may have to get in there with your hands a bit). This is where you need to decide whether or not to add more flour. It will all depend on whether your starter was thick or thin (I keep a rather thick starter). Or how much you fluffed up the flour before measuring it. At 3 cups, my bread won’t hold a ball shape all that well. It likes to spread a bit. But the flavor is just as tasty. Keep in mind that this is a wet, sticky dough. You don’t want to keep adding flour and dry it out. Just sprinkle more in, a tablespoon or two at a time until you think it’s about right. I’ll add some additional notes on this at the bottom. But don’t worry, I’ve made bread with a really wet dough and a rather dry dough and the bread has been wonderful every time!
Your dough should be a shaggy, sticky mass.

Your dough should be a shaggy, sticky mass.

  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place over night or about 12 hours (It could be more or less depending on how warm your house is). Once your bread has risen, it will look like this. It should be doubled, with a pillowy look to it.

risen dough

  • Once the dough has doubled, liberally flour your counter and your hands. Go around the outside of the bowl with your floured hands, scraping the dough away from the sides and onto the counter. You could also dust a little flour on top of the dough before you turn it onto the counter. Take care to handle it gently and not deflate it too much. This isn’t the type of dough you punch down and knead and man handle. Once it’s on the counter, take one end of the dough and sort of fold it onto itself, sprinkling flour as you need to. Fold it a couple times. Let it rest for 15 minutes or so–covered with your inverted bowl or a towel. (I saw this in some recipes, and it was left out in others. But I believe it helps stretch and line up the gluten strands just a bit to make shaping the dough easier. You could probably still skip it.)
folded dough

My folded dough, resting. I think it looks like it has a mouth 🙂

  • After that little rest, gently shape your dough by tucking the edges under until it’s in a ball. Sometimes I pinch the seams together. The shape doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Take a colander (or bowl–but probably something smaller than the one you used to mix the dough), line it with a tea towel (one of the tight knit kind–not the fuzzy terry ones). Sprinkle the tea towel with cornmeal and more flour. (If you dough was still very wet and sticky, you’ll need plenty of flour to get that ball out of there so it won’t stick to the towel. Ask me how I know…) Cover lightly with another towel, or just lay the plastic wrap you had on the mixing bowl over the colander. Let it sit back in that warm spot for 1-2 hours to rise just a bit more.
My dough ball after a 1 hour rise. Ready for the oven!

My dough ball after a 1 hour rise. Ready for the oven!

  • I set the timer for 1 hour. Once that is up, place your dutch oven with the lid into the oven and begin preheating to 475 or 500 degrees. The hotter the better. But whatever your oven can handle. Set the timer for 30 minutes.
  • When the 30 minutes are up, carefully take the dutch oven out of the hot oven. Gently (and carefully–don’t burn yourself!) place the dough ball into the hot dutch oven. I just turn it out onto one hand and gently lay it in. Quickly put the lid on and place it back into the oven. Reduce heat to 450 and bake for 30 minutes.
  • After that 30 minutes, remove the lid, reduce the heat again to 400 and bake another 5-15 minutes or just until the crust is a nice golden brown. If you want to take the bread’s temperature, it should be close to 200 degrees inside.
  • Remove the dutch oven, and take the bread out of the pan and onto a cooling rack.
  • Try to wait 30 minutes before slicing.

Notes:

About the wet dough and adding flour–This bread produces a crumb with nice little holes and cavities (for your melted butter to nestle in!) if there is enough water in the dough. That water turns quickly to steam in the screaming hot oven and will puff up the dough, creating those air pockets. A drier dough won’t have too many holes, but will still taste great. Play around with different ratios and see what you like best. I’ve done it on both ends of the spectrum and the results were still wonderful–just a little different.

The crust. This bread has a thicker, crispy crust that explodes in the oven into all kinds of nooks and crannies. Yum! However–after about a day or two, that crust gets darn hard. Like break-out-your-electric-knife hard. If you don’t love that, just pop it into a plastic bag after a day and it will soften up. I usually store the bread out on the counter covered in a tea towel the first day or so. If it gets a little stale after 2 or 3 days, just toast it a tad and it will be wonderful. (But let’s be honest–it probably won’t last that long!)

The second rise. Don’t worry if your dough ball doesn’t seem to rise too much before baking. That’s normal. If it doesn’t give at all, then you may have let the first rise go a little too long (like if it’s really warm in your house) and the yeast might be spent. The bread will still probably spring up a bit in the oven anyway, once it hits the high heat. So don’t fret!

The dutch oven. That dutch oven with the lid creates a wonderful little artisan oven, trapping the steam that gives the bread its signature crust and crumb. But if you don’t have one, it’s still possible to bake a loaf on your stone. Just heat the stone up as you preheat the oven along with an oven proof pan or dish placed on the lowest rack or the bottom. Place the risen dough ball on the hot stone and pour hot water into the dish to create that steam.

The shape of your finished loaf. My dutch oven is oval shaped and probably a little too big for this recipe. Consequently, my bread likes to spread a bit. So my loaves are usually oval and a little flatter. No biggie. I’m saying this so you don’t worry if your bread isn’t a perfect ball, or if it decides to spread more than it rises. IT WILL STILL TASTE AWESOME!

Want some other recipes to try?

Here’s some I’ve been playing with…

All the others I’ve been making, herb and cheesy crackers, English muffins, tortillas, cinnamon rolls, pancakes–they’re all from the Sourdough Ebook–so I can’t share them here. But I’d seriously recommend that book.

Ready to bake? Let me know how your adventure goes, and if you have any questions or problems, post them in the comments and I’ll try to help out if I can!


Maintaining a Happy Sourdough Starter

So hopefully, you’ve got your new, homemade sourdough starter well on it’s way and you’re eagerly anticipating all the goodies you’ll make with it. But before we get to all that yumminess, there’s some other thoughts you might be having…

What am I going to do with all this starter? Do I have to bake and feed and bake and feed every day of  my life?!!!!

starter 3

Some folks avoid the entire idea of sourdough baking for this reason. They envision themselves chained to the oven, covered in flour, for the rest of their days. Or with loads of goopy starter taking over their kitchen. But never fear, there is a solution.

If you want to make bread or pancakes or tortillas everyday, then have at it! But the majority of us have neither the time or desire to do so. Luckily, a healthy starter is really flexible and can work with your time and baking routines.

I tend to bake with my starter about 3 or so times a week right now. That might dwindle as we move towards summer and I won’t want to heat up the kitchen as much. But currently, I’ll do 2 to 3 loaves of no-knead bread a week, a batch of pizza dough and then probably some crackers or pancakes in there somewhere too. If that seems like a lot of baking please know that I’m not buying any breads or baked goods at the store right now, so the sourdough is definitely pulling it’s weight.

Still, with that said, I prefer to have a bulk baking day for those items that will store well, like crackers and English muffins. So on Friday night, I might mix up several different recipes to sour and rise overnight and then bake them up in the morning. On the days I’m not baking, the sourdough starter lives happily in the frig.

This is your sanity saver. When I’m done using my starter, I give it one last small feeding (like 1/4 cup flour/water), let it sit out a couple hours, and then when it’s good and happy I cover it (a quart jar with the lid is great for this) and pop it in the frig. It will keep well for several days. (I’ve heard some say they’ve gone as long as 2 weeks and still managed to have a healthy starter, but I’ve never gone more than a week or so.)

When I know I’m going to be baking again (like mixing up bread or pizza dough right before bed), I’ll get my starter out around noon-ish, put it into a clean glass bowl, and begin feeding it to wake it up. How much you feed depends on how much you’ll be needing. I like to build it up a few times that day, knowing that it’s good to have at least 1/2 cup left over when I’ve taken what’s needed for the recipes. It seems to do better with 2 or 3 smaller feedings than one giant one. Too much new flour and water can overwhelm what’s there.

For instance: I needed 2 cups of starter to mix up a loaf of bread and a batch of crackers before bed tonight. I had about a cup to start with. So over the course of the day, I’ll add a rounded 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup filtered water every few hours knowing that my last feeding needs to be about 3 hours before I want to use it–so it has a chance to get good and bubbly.

After tomorrow’s baking, I’ll be done for a few days, so the starter will go back in a jar and into the frig.

Things to remember…

  • I’ve read that you shouldn’t feed a starter more than twice it’s original volume. I tend to err on the side of caution and go for much less than that.
  • If you want to bake a loaf of bread, you need an especially active, domed starter. That means you’ll need to give it time after the feeding to achieve this state. Plan out your time accordingly.
  • You don’t have to keep your starter in the frig at all. If you know you’ll be using it every day or every other day, just keep it at room temperature and feed it twice a day, even if you’re not using it that day.
  • Just remember a well used starter is a happy starter. The more you get it out, the more you feed and bake with it, the more active and healthy it will be. It doesn’t like being ignored for too long.

Now that you’re starter is almost ready, you can mull over what baking routine will work best for you. And very soon we’ll be getting to the good stuff. Bread and pizza and more!

How’s your new starter going?


Caring for Dry Winter Skin and Eczema–Part One

image credit

I don’t know too many people who don’t struggle with dry skin in the winter. Couple that with chronic eczema, and you’re in for a few months of very unhappy skin.

My youngest and I both struggle with eczema. Right now, my daughter’s is much more chronic than mine. And while we do our best to eat clean, real food and avoid allergens, she’s been having some trouble in all the suspect spots. (Back of the knees, underarms, inside her elbows.)

For her, a little dryness can lead to irritation which leads to major itching, scratching, rashes and skin infections that are painful and difficult to heal. I’ve tried just about every OTC and prescription out there for her, and although there is a place for these, I’ve always hated relying on them. They don’t nourish the skin, they don’t bring any lasting healing or comfort, and she ends up with who-knows-what floating around in her blood stream.

This year, I feel like we’ve made a little more progress. It’s required some homemade projects on my part, but it’s been worth it.

Start with the inside

When I started this post, I fully intended to jump right into the soaps and lotions and such that are helping so much right now. But then I realized, we best start at the beginning. Or, more accurately, with the insides.

For folks with chronic dry skin and/or eczema, it’s important not to neglect what’s going on inside. Most with this condition have compromised immune systems or mild to major auto-immune disease. All those allergies and rashes and flare ups are a result of the immune system being over sensitive–reacting to otherwise benign substances (like rough wool that leads to itching and rashes) and sometimes attacking the body itself–in this case, the skin.

Eczema sufferers frequently have a very limited moisture barrier to their skin. That’s why a simple rinse in warm water can leave their hands completely dried out–even without soap. But we’ve had some success with different supplements to help give our bodies a little support in this department.

Cod liver oil. Never fear–it comes in capsule form. For my daughter and me, a daily dose of cod liver oil is crucial to keeping our skin from drying out and cracking. If I go more than a day or two without it, my fingertips crack and split like crazy–even in the summer. The best form is the fermented stuff from Green Pastures, but it’s a little too steep for my pocket book, so we usually go with Carlson’s at Vitacost. My daughter takes the lemon flavored liquid version and never has a problem with the taste.

Give the immune system a boost. If you want to help regulate a wacked immune system, then consider how you can feed and supplement your body well. Clean, homemade foods free of additives, artificial ingredients and preservatives can keep things calmer on the inside. I notice I have the most trouble when I eat any kinds of processed foods with hidden ingredients.

We also give my daughter a daily supplement designed to regulate histamine response. On good days, we can get by with just this stuff and no OTC anti-histamines. I’ve mentioned it beforeAller Ease which you can purchase at Amazon or Vitacost.

image credit

Get plenty of fluids. Be sure to drink lots of filtered water, especially this time of year. Most homes and offices are especially dry in the winter, and that dry air literally pull the moisture right out of you. I also like to drink one or more cups of herbal tea this time of year. It warms me up and gives me the health benefits of the herbs as well.

Next time, I promise to share our family’s favorite ways to soothe our winter skin. But in the meantime…

Share with us! How do you take care of what’s inside to keep your skin healthy?


Make Your Own Sourdough Starter–So Easy!

sourdough

(This post contains affiliate links. Small commission for me, same great value for you. Thanks!)

I’ve been a little obsessed lately. Maybe more than a little. You see, a few weeks ago, I decided to try to get another sourdough starter going. I’ve done it before, a few years back, and I really missed baking with it.

So I went through the very simple process of making a starter and I was pleasantly blessed with the best starter I’ve ever had. And we’ve been flying through the flour ever since.

Why Sourdough?

What’s the big deal about sourdough, you ask? A few things. First, we love the chewy crumb and slightly sour flavor that it lends to breads.

But mostly, I use it for the nutritional boost it gives. The process of souring does wonders for whole grain baked goods. In the case of wheat, it begins to break down the gluten, making it easier to digest for most. This long ferment also helps neutralize phytic acid that’s in most whole grains. This little booger likes to bind up all the helpful vitamins and minerals we’d like to get out of our baked goods. If we don’t do something about it, then all those nutrients pass through our system, unabsorbed, and we end up a little on the deficient side of things.

Plus, it’s super frugal. I eliminate the need to buy prepackaged yeast and can make a fabulous bread with just flour, water and salt. Sourdough breads also keep longer before mold or staleness sets in, meaning less waste.

Making Your Own Starter

starter 1

There are most certainly good places where you can pick up a dehydrated starter. Lots of folks have good luck with this site. And you may end up with a more vigorous starter that way. But I’ve had success with a homemade starter in the past, so that’s the route I go.

Ready for the ridiculously simple directions? Here you go.

1. Combine rounded 1/3 cup all purpose flour and 1/3 cup filtered water in a glass bowl or jar. Ideally you’d do this in the morning. Stir, stir, stir (with a wooden spoon)–trying to incorporate as much air as you can. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and cover with a cloth napkin, paper coffee filter or cheesecloth, secured with a rubber band (or canning ring if you’re using a jar). Place in a warm spot where it will be undisturbed. (Like the top of your frig or some other warm place.)

2. 12 hours later, do it again.

starter 2

3. The next morning–you got it–feed your starter another rounded 1/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup filtered water. Before bed, feed it again.

Getting the picture? For about a week, you want to feed your starter in the morning and again at night, being sure to stir in lots of air. Every other day or so, pour your starter into a clean bowl so the sides don’t get nasty. After only 2 days, I began to see bubbles. By the end of the week, my starter had a wonderfully yeasty, fermented smell.

It might take yours a little longer. Everything depends on several factors like humidity, temperature (I keep my house at about 67 in the winter, but we put the starter in the laundry room which is probably consistently over 70.), and what little critters you have floating around in your air.

You see, a sourdough starter captures the natural yeasts and bacteria present in the air. So when you feed the starter, you’re feeding those microorganisms. As they feed and multiply, they release the gasses that make the starter get bubbly and foamy.

One note–by the end of the week, you’ll have quite a bit of starter. About 4 days in, after mine was already showing plenty of signs of activity, I would pour off just a little every day. This is recommended by other instructions I’ve seen, but not all.

When is it ready?

starter 3

This is one happy, bubbly starter!

For most new starters, a week is about all the time you need. But it could be more for you. Especially if your house is cool. An active starter will smell sour or yeasty, be very bubbly–almost pillowy on top–and will expand a bit with each feeding as those bubbles increase the volume of the flour and water.

Next week, I’ll share how to maintain a healthy starter and then we’ll get into my new favorite no-knead artisan sourdough bread recipe (which is the easiest thing you’ll ever make), plus links to gobs of other sourdough favorites. Crackers, tortillas, pizza–the possibilities are mouth watering.

* A couple notes:

  • It is important to use filtered water, or at least non-chlorinated water. The chlorine and other additives are there to kill bacteria. And you’re trying to grow it. I’ve used exclusively filtered water this time around and have noticed a big difference (My bottled water is long gone and things are just fine with my pitcher filter).
  • I used unbleached all purpose flour. I know many of you would like to go all whole grain. The truth is, other than rye, most have the best results with AP flour. After you have a vigorous starter going for a while, you can begin to sub out some of the white flour with the whole grain flour of choice. But the starter is only a portion of the total flour in the recipe. I’ve used whole wheat flour in many recipes, along with my AP flour starter, with great results.
  • If you want to go whole hog on this sourdough thing, I’d really recommend the Sourdough E-Course at GNOWFGLINS. (Affiliate link) It’s full of expert videos, recipes and just about anything you can think of related to sourdough. (I’ve taken a few of their courses before and HIGHLY recommend them.) Here’s the link for their Sourdough Ebook (which I also LOVE)

Are you a sourdough lover? Ready to get started on your own?!


Being Comfortable With The Skin You’re In

This month, at Modern Alternative Mama, we’re covering everything related to being a healthy and beautiful you. Kate has put together a ton of posts and resources to start you on your way.

My contribution to this is today’s post, Being Truly Comfortable With the Skin You’re In. Because you can follow every healthy eating tip, every fitness fad and every fashion trend, but at the end of the day, how you see yourself has a whole lot more to do with what’s going on in your head, than what’s on the outside. And what’s more, how we think does go a long way to transforming the outside as well.

Click on over and let’s tackle this important discussion, together.


Freezer Cooking for a Friend in Need

I’d wager to say that most of us have been recipients of a helpful meal before. A new baby, illnesses, moving, losing a loved one–they’re all times when cooking dinner is about the last thing we can manage. And when someone shows up with much needed meal, it is a HUGE blessing.

Maybe you’ve been the one called upon before to prepare that meal for someone else. Maybe your church group or organization tries to set up a list to help people out. But there are times when it’s tough for us to be able to get that meal together–even though we really want to help out.

A dear friend of mine gave birth to her fourth child just before Christmas. And, you know, Christmas is crazy. I looked at her in November and said, “I love you dearly, but I won’t be cooking for anyone else right before Christmas if I can help it. Can I bring you some freezer meals before then?”

And she was delighted.

freezer meals

So Thanksgiving week, I got to work putting together a few meals, or meal parts that she could stash in her freezer and throw in the oven with minimal effort. I made an unbaked meatloaf, twice baked potatoes, unbaked popcorn chicken, unbaked biscuits and unbaked muffin batter cups (Frozen muffin cups are awesome! Here’s a post on the how to–super easy). All frozen and popped into freezer bags.

Here’s some other items I’ve thought of:

  • Frozen homemade pizza crusts, jar of sauce, shredded cheese
  • All manner of casseroles (lasagna, chicken pot pie, etc.)
  • BBQ shredded chicken or pork, sandwich buns
  • Chili, stew, other soups with cornbread or biscuits
  • Meatballs or spaghetti sauce
  • Quiche
  • homemade waffles and pancakes, precooked sausage patties (don’t forget breakfasts!)
  • Precooked taco meat, homemade soft tortillas, shredded cheese

Some of these are just pieces of a meal. But with the addition of a quick veggie, they’ll make an easy supper for someone you know.

I had advance notice, of course, but sometimes circumstances happen and people need a hand without much warning, like an unexpected emergency. This is when freezer cooking can come to the rescue again. If we can keep a few items on hand, ready to deliver, then we can help out even if our lives are hectic. I really want to keep just a meal or two in the freezer for times like that. I can rotate them out. If they’re still in there at the end of the month, then we’ll eat them and I can put something else in for another day.

I always tell people that food is kind of my love language. I want to be more intentional about being generous and helpful in that department. For this busy mom, freezer meals might be the answer.

Ever taken a load of freezer meals to a friend in need? What’s your favorite meal to give?


Saving For The Year’s Bulk Food Purchases

The beginning of a new year is the time when everyone looks at the finances, the anticipated expenses of the coming year. We all hope to plan well and sock away money for those larger purchases.

For the family trying to get the most out of seasonal, local food purchases, buying in bulk is often the way to go. After all, if I want to enjoy blueberries all year, and avoid that $4 package of berries in February, then I’d better get them while they’re $.99 in July. If I want plenty of chicken from a local farm, then I’ve got to buy them up while the farmer is doing the butchering.

But buying in bulk requires a little forethought and planning. Otherwise, those 4 gallons of honey I hope to get next summer are going to put a major strain on the monthly cash flow. (And yes, I do really want 4 gallons of honey. It should last me a year…maybe.)

bulk list

So this week, I sat down and made a list (a wishlist of sorts) of everything I’d like to get in season, in bulk this year. I also included in there any anticipated expenses for the garden. My numbers are just estimates and could honestly be way off. But it’s a place to start.

Here’s the wishlist:

  • 4 gallons honey (at about $32/gallon)
  • 2 gallons grade B maple syrup ($50/gallon)

maple syrup

  • 1/2 a locally raised beef (I really have no idea. Shooting for around $300-400)
  • Whole chickens from local farm (Usually around $15 a bird and I’d like to get 20+ this year. But that also depends on whether we purchase an extra freezer.)

IMG_2498

  • In season fruit (Berries, apples, peaches, pears–I’d like to can more of them this year and set aside $100+ for that. Last year’s apples were free and I got the berries at $.99/lb, but I don’t know if I’ll be so fortunate this year.)

squash

  • Garden set up. This year I’d like to till in a good amount of compost in late winter/early spring. We’re also going to set up our own little grow station for seedlings and I’ll need to buy some lights for that. Then there’s the few extra canning supplies, like lids, that we’ll pick up. Oh, yeah, and mulch. I’m thinking $200-300 will be a good start. (If that sounds crazy for a garden, consider that other than seeds and a very small amount of seedlings we might buy, this garden will, Lord willing, provide us with an entire season of produce and a couple hundred jars of preserved food to eat on throughout the year.)
  • Bulk grains and legumes.  I already buy my rice in bulk. I’m hoping to switch our family back over to sourdoughed spelt this year, which we have done in the past and seemed to work well for even my allergic little one. I’ll buy that in 50 lb. sacks and grind it as we need it. We might also look into a few other bulk purchases like millet (one of my favorite gf grains) and beans. Over the course of the year, I’d like to set aside $400 for that.

The Bottom Line

All of that brings me to around $1800. Which about made me choke. And perhaps it is a little excessive. But if I look at our total food expenses for an entire year, it’s not all that bad. Buying in bulk allows me to save a ton when I break down the per pound price. Plus, I can spend less on weekly trips (especially during the winter months, when there’s not much to stock up on) when we are well supplied on the essentials.

If I break it down by weeks, it works out to about $30/week. Of course, I’ll have to put aside a little more than that every week, if possible, since some of these purchases will be made about mid-year.

I’m not expecting it to go perfectly. But if I fail to plan at all, then we won’t be able to do much at all. Anything we can set aside will help out in the long run.

What about you?

Does your family buy food in bulk? How do you make that work for your budget?