Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Speed Round Recipe #1: Sourdough sandwich bread

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A few years ago, when the kids watched The Incredibles for the first time, our big boy (then, perhaps 6 years old) fell off the couch, convulsing with delighted laughter at that moment when Dash hits the water and finds he’s moving far too fast to sink, skimming across the water on his lightning feet.

Somehow, seems we’re doing our best Dash impersonation around here these days.

Literally. They are running and running and running. These kids inherited their father’s speed, which is fortunate for them.

I. do. not. run.

But I’m dashing in different ways, for reasons I don’t fully understand: All three kids go to school all day five days a week, and yet I seem busier than ever. Sure, I have a full-time job and a house to run (which means that I constantly pick up and stash away the flotsam and jetsam generated by three dashing children and a handy–but badly disorganized–husband), but what do I really have to show for myself at the end of each day?

A couple dozen graded English assignments. A few marginally well-maintained potted plants. Flooring that is mostly free of grit and stickiness. And a well-fed family.

Not a lot of long, meandering blog posts to accompany that well-fed family, though. (Try not to be too sad.) So here goes…A speed round with two recipes I use all the time, two recipes whose whereabouts and adjustments always require more cognitive dexterity than I really want to give them when I’m cooking at the end of a oddly dashing day. (Lately, I just google my own recipes when I’m cooking. Because I trust myself so much. What a world!)

Sourdough Sandwich Bread (adapted from thekitchn’s Beginner Sourdough Sandwich Loaf)


2 cups sourdough starter, moderately soupy

1 cup lukewarm water

1/4 cup vegetable oil (or melted butter)

2 tablespoons sugar

4-4 1/2 cups flour (less if using some whole wheat, which I often do)

1 tsp. yeast

1 tablespoon kosher salt

  1. Mix together the sourdough culture, water, and oil in stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  2. Add the 3 1/2 cups of flour, the sugar, yeast, and salt. Mix with the dough hook, adding more flour if necessary–it will need more flour if you’ve used some whole wheat or if your sourdough starter was thinner than mine–to form a fairly firm dough. It’s fine if it’s slightly sticky, but it should be a ball. Keep the mixer running for 5 minutes or so.
  3. Dump out the dough and coat the bowl with some butter or oil. (No need to wash it first.) Let the dough rise, loosely covered, on the countertop of your reasonably warm kitchen until doubled in bulk. This seems to take about 2 or 3 hours in my kitchen. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it again briefly to deflate it. Divide it in two balls and place the two balls into two buttered loaf pans. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  5. Allow it to rise in the pans, loosely covered, for another 60-90 minutes, until it nearly rises to meet the top of the pans.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slash the tops of the loaves with a super-sharp knife and place them into the preheated oven along with a pan containing about 1/2 cup of water. (This will turn into steam and help your oven give you lovely moist bread.)
  7. After 10 minutes of baking, reduce the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Bread is baked fully when the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees, so check it with a meat thermometer, if you have one sitting around.
  8. Serious bakers would tell you to allow the loaves to cool fully before you cut them, but, honestly, bread is so much better when it’s warm and steamy…why not cut it while it’s still able to melt your salted butter. You can cool it before you turn it into sandwiches for lunchboxes or toast for breakfast, but go ahead and eat some warm with melted butter for dinner.

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