22 May, 2013

Sourdough Bread Bowls

We are still getting snow at least once a week here and it makes me want to eat comfort foods.  Growing up in Minnesota this usually means meat, bread and beautiful root vegetables.  A perfect way to enjoy all of those things in ONE meal??  Venison Stew in Sourdough Bread Bowls!!

Now, everyone knows it takes a sourdough starter to make sourdough bread.  At the end of this post I will supply you with a couple options for a starter if you don't want to purchase one.  There are a number of reasons for making your own like I did.  For me, the most important reason is knowing EXACTLY what is in it; mainly...no preservatives of any kind.

Sourdough Bread Bowls
1 c. "fed" sourdough starter 
1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
2 1/4 tsp. quick rise/instant yeast
1 T. sugar or honey
2 1/2 tsp. salt
5 c. flour

Preheat oven to 200 F
(TURN THE OVEN OFF before you place the dough in the oven to riseI use this method in the winter or on cold days when I don't want my dough to chance coming in contact with a draft.  If the top of your stove is well away from a door or window, feel free to let it rise on top of your stove in a bowl covered by a cheesecloth or kitchen towel.)

Combine all of the ingredients, kneading to form a smooth dough.

Divide the dough into 4 or 5 equal parts.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, shape the balls into perfectly round balls, slash 3 lines into the top of each ball and allow the dough to rise in the warm oven or in a covered bowl until it's doubled in size; about 90-120 minutes.

When the balls have doubled in size, remove them from the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.  Spray the bowls with lukewarm water right before you put them in the heated oven.  Allow the bowls to bake for 5 minutes; spray the tops of the bowls again.  Allow bowls to bake 5 more minutes and spray the tops one more time.  (This should be 3 times being sprayed when you are done with the spraying.  This creates a nice deep color on the top and a beautifully crisp, crusty top to each of these bowls.)  Allow bowls to finish baking; 10-15 more minutes for a total of 25-30 minutes of baking time.

Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes OR allow to cool completely and store for up to 5 days in a air tight container or gallon sized ziploc bags.

*I made my bowls 1 day ahead of use.  If you want to freeze these for later use, cool for 20 minutes and place in a gallon sized freezer ziploc bag and freeze for up to 2 months.  NOT allowing them to cool completely will keep them moist once they are thawed again. 

To use as a bowl, take a very sharp knife and insert it at a 45 degree angle into the bowl, only pushing it into the bowl about halfway.  Carefully rotate the bowl until you have completely cut the whole circumference of the bowl.  Gently pull the center out of the bowl.  With your index finger, dig the amount of dough out of the bowl that you desire.  Some people like their meal to be more bread than soup/stew, some folks prefer plenty of food on the inside for more moments of dipping.

 Now...fill this beauty with your favorite soup, stew or chowder and you're ready to dig in!

Venison Stew with Sourdough Bread Bowl
Initially when I asked the Mister what he wanted in these bowls he said Chicken Corn Chowder when I gave him all of his choices.  But, with this pregnancy I am really feelin' the red meat; especially since I hit the third trimester.  So he caved and we went with venison stew.  I followed my easy Beef Stew recipe and replaced the chunks of beef with chunks of venison; I also skipped the peas in the hopes that the Sprout would dig in.  But, this meal was DOA with him as soon as he sat down to the table.  No problem, just more for me and the Mister!

These bowls are fabulously flavorful and SO hit the spot with the stew.  It was a beautiful, deep sour flavored dough and the texture of it once baked was PERFECT for a stew.  No leaks with these bowls!  Try these out the next time you have a soup/stew/chowder night.  I promise these are easy and quick to make and of course...worth every second you'll spend in the kitchen!!

Sourdough Starter #1
2 c. warm water
1 T. sugar or honey
1 T. active dry yeast
2 c. flour

Pour the water into a 3- to 4-quart glass or ceramic container or bowl, and add dissolve the sugar or honey and the yeast in that order. Stir in the flour gradually. Cover the jar or bowl with a clean dishcloth and place it somewhere warm. By using a dishcloth instead of plastic wrap, you'll allow any wild yeast in the area to infiltrate and begin to work with the domestic yeast which itself is beginning to develop "wild" characteristics and flavors.

The mixture will begin to bubble and brew almost immediately. Let it work anywhere from 2 to 5 days, stirring it about once a day as it will separate. When the bubbling has subsided and a yeasty, sour aroma has developed, stir your starter once more and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. The starter should have the consistency of pancake batter. 

*Yeast in sourdough starter is NOT authentic or traditional but the yeast can provide a more nervous baker with the insurance that the starter will bubble and be useable.

Sourdough Starter #2 (what I used)
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. filtered or spring water
a large container (at least 2-3 quarts) with a lid

Combine the flour and water in the container until all the flour has been absorbed and there are no more dry particles. It will look like a sticky, thick dough. Scrape down the sides and cover. Put the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.

By day 2 your starter should be fairly thick and soupy. You may see a few small bubbles here and there. This is good! The bubbles mean that wild yeast from the air and the flour itself have started making themselves at home in your starter. They will eat the sugars in the the flour and release carbon dioxide (the bubbles) and alcohol. They will also increase the acidity of the mixture, preventing other 'bad' microbes from growing.  Add the 1/2 c. of fresh water and 1/2 c. of flour again. Stir vigorously to combine everything and incorporate more oxygen into the mixture. Scrape down the sides, cover, and let it sit for 24 hours.

By day three, your starter should be getting nice and bubbly, be the consistency of pancake batter, and have roughly doubled in size. If you taste a little (Don't be scared, go ahead and try it!), the mixture should make your mouth pucker with sour and vinegar flavors. It will also smell musty and fermented, a bit like grain alcohol.  Go ahead and mix in the fresh ingredients just like Day 2, cover, and let sit for 24-hours.

On Day 4, repeat steps as previous days before, adding 1/2 c. flour and a 1/2 c. water again.  

By Day 5 the starter should be ready to use or you can cover and store it in the fridge for up to one week. After a week, you'll need to refresh the starter by taking out a cup or so of starter (to use or discard) and then "feeding" it with 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of filtered water. Likewise, after using some of your starter in a recipe, you can replenish what's left with equal parts flour and water. (If you used 2 c. of starter replenish with 1 c. of flour and 1 c. of filtered water...)

The starter will keep indefinitely as long as you feed it every week or so. Treat it like a house plant that needs to be watered and fertilized regularly. It's very hardy and will even perk back up with a few daily feedings if you've neglected it too long. If a clear liquid forms on the top, just stir it in (this is actually alcohol from the wild yeast). The only time you should throw away the starter completely is if that liquid has a pinkish hue, which indicates that the starter has spoiled.

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