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Meet Hydra

January 5, 2010

Hydra’s my rye sourdough starter.  E. thinks the name’s creepy–she named her now-dead  starter The Leslies (as in a gender neutral plurality).

Meet Hyrda, my rye sourdough starter

Meet Hydra

And now watch while this strange sour goo turns into a chewy sandwich bread.

  • 2 Cups rye sourdough starter 1:1 water:flour ratio
  • 1 ½ Cups water
  • 1 Cup rye flour
  • 1 Cup whole wheat flour (I like course ground for bread)
  • 5 ½ Cups all purpose flour (bread flour would work well, too)
  • 3 tsps course sea (or lake) salt

Add water to starter in a large bowl and mix well with a sturdy spoon (or your dough will eat your spoon later.  srsly).

Rye sourdough starter and water

Hydra + Hydration

Now add your flours.  I start with the whole grains and work my way through to the all purpose or bread flour.  And don’t forget your salt!

Adding flour to starter & water

Add flour & stir

I probably get about 4 cups into the all purpose before I need to flour my counter and knead the rest by hand.

Unkneaded dough mass awaiting flour & elbowgrease

Knead in remaining flour

Five and-a-half cups is an estimate, of course.  Once I’m at the hand-kneading stage, I add the flour a half cup at a time until the dough feels right.  What’s right?  Well, that’s pretty much a matter of opinion.  I like to be able to handle my dough so I aim for not too sticky.  But a wet dough (and often sticky) will typically have a more open crumb.  So if you’re comfortable kneading it wet ‘n sticky, go for it.

Once you’ve got the dough smooth and sproingy, it’s time to rest.  The dough as well as yourself.  Wash out your messy bowl, grease the bottom, plop in the dough baby, cover with a damp cloth, and wait until doubled.  Oh, and none of this preheated spot thing, either.  We don’t rush our sourdough.

Bread dough baby ready to rise

Bread dough baby

After rise one (which with sourdough and the temperature in my apartment in the winter takes about 6 or 7 hours) shape the dough into two loaves and place on cornmeal-dusted baking sheets or pizza peels.  Cover again with a damp cloth.

Shaped dough ready for second rise

Rise 2: The Arisen

The second rise shouldn’t be as long as the first, especially since I made some cheater baked beans while this was rising–hot oven=toasty kitchen.

Once it’s about doubled again, use a sharp knife to slash the top of the dough so it won’t crack when it bakes.  The gas needs some means of escape, after all.

Use a sharp knife to cut deep slits into the risen dough

Slash & Bake

Bake in a 400°F oven for 10-15 minutes; drop the temp to 350° until finished.  When is it finished?  Well, the top should be golden or lightly tanned and the bottom a bit darker and hollow when tapped.  If you’re not sure, turn of the oven and let the bread sit in it for another ten minutes (per Yoke Mardewi in Wild Sourdough), or turn off the oven and go to bed to the scent of freshly-baked bread.  Mmmm.

What are you having for breakfast?

Bread fresh from the oven

Ready for butter & jam

Recipe inspired by/loosely based on: Wild Sourdough by Yoke Mardewi.  Lovely book, save for the editing errors.  Try the fig & walnut loaf–absolutely the best!

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