Today is the final day for Cook the Books submissions and since I am the host I felt I should leave my submission until the very last minute!
When I read Kitchen Confidential a year and a half a go, I had never heard of Anthony Bourdain. In Greece we don’t get any of his shows and his book had just been translated into Greek (although it is a pity I think not to read it in English). However, as I started reading it, I understood that this guy is, or is going to be, very famous. I mean, what a laugh! His writing is witty and brass and sooo New York. Reading it made my day and I even enjoyed it the second time round.
My favourite part has to be the chapter called Adam last name unknown. It is actually so good that it also appeared in Ronald Giphart’s Boiling Point as a story (this Dutch book has actually not been translated into English. I read it in Greek). «Feed the bitch..or she will die» ! If you have ever made sourdough bread you will definitely sympathize with Adam. I actually think that sourdough starter is the closest thing to having a pet. It is a living organism and has to be fed constantly or…it dies.
Adam is a sketchy character, has no last name, works at night, drinks a lot and is a misfit, even in the weird world of professional kitchens. However, he does have a place in the world because he is a brilliant yet «psychotic bread baker» .» To see his bread bread coming out of the oven, to smell it, that deeply satisfying , spiritually comforting waft of yeasty goodness, to tear into it, breaking apart that floury, dusty crust and into the ethereally textured interior…to taste it is to experience real genius».
This, ladies and gentlemen, is an ode to bread. And I was glad to see that Tony believes in having good bread at his restaurants. Whenever I write a restaurant review for this blog, I always comment on the bread. It is the first impression one gets from the food and its shows that the owners value their customers. I have come to the conclusion that this is what good eateries, whether cheap or expensive, have in common: good bread. I would even go so far as to say that if the bread isn’t good, just pack your things and leave!
Anyway, my recipe for Cook the Books is going to be -what else?- sourdough bread. I am very proud of it as sourdough is a very time-consuming process. It takes about 8-10 days to make the starter and them about 6-7 hours to get a good rise for your bread. But it is also a rewarding experience since the bread is very fragrant, with good crust and a nice crumb. It is also not that sour, as I find that a problem with many sourdoughs.
Lovely Left over Queen, food blogger extraordinaire, will do us the honour and judge this month’s submissions! So, if you want to see all Cook the Books entries as well as this month’s winner, please visit the website next week!
(recipe by Dan Lepard from The Cooks Book)
- 4 tbsp unbleached white or whole-wheat high-gluten bread flour
- 2 tsp live plain yoghurt
- 3 1/2 tbsp water at 18- 10 oC
- unbleached white or whole-wheat high gluten bread flour or rye flour depending on the bread you are going to make.
Bread (1 loaf)
- 120g sourdough starter
- 200g water
- 7g sea salt
- 300g unbleached high-gluten bread flour
- olive oil for kneading
- For the sourdough starter: measure all the ingredients in a large 500ml jar or plastic container with lid, stir them well, close the lid and then leave for a day at room temperature.
- Next day you will see a layer of liquid over the solid matter, which is perfectly normal. Stir in 4tsp of your favourite flour and 3 1/2 tbsp of water, stir vigorously, replace the lid and leave it for a day.
- On day 3 tiny bubbles must have formed on the surface of the mixture. Repeat the process of Step 2.
- On day 4 the mixture will be more energetic. Stir the mixture then throw away 3/4 to 4/5 of it. Add 100ml water add 100g flour, stir and stir well. It has to look like thick batter.
- On day 5 repeat the process of day 4. Always put the lid on.
- From day 6 your leaven is ready to use, but if you want more complex flavours, repeat the process of day 4 for another 2-3 days.
- Between refreshments you can keep the leaven in room temperature. Once you have your final leaven and you want to bake bread daily you also need to refresh it daily. If you don’t want to bake every day you can keep the starter in the fridge. It will turn grey after a week, but it is just sleeping. To revive it it will take about three days. On day one take just 2 heaped tbsp of leaven and stir it in a clean jar with 1/4 cup water and 60g flour. On day 2 remove 3/4-4/5 and repeat process. Leave for a day a d refresh once more.
- To make the bread: start early in the morning and combine leaven and water. In a large bowl mix the flour with the salt. Add the leaven mixture into the flour and using your hands mix it well to make a soft and rather sticky dough. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.
- Spoon 1-2 tbsp of olive oil on top of the dough and rub it all over the surface. Scrape the dough onto an oiled surface, preferably wooden and knead the dough repeating after 10 and 20 minutes. Cover it and leave it for 30 minutes at room temperature (20 oC).
- Fold the dough by thirds and repeat this every hour for 3-4 hours. Each time return it to a bowl or tray seam-side down and cover. At the 3 hour mark cut a deep slash onto the surface of the dough to check the aeriation. If you can see many air bubbles your dough is ready to be shaped.
- Shape the loaf and place it seam down on a bowl lined with a dish cloth. Cover and let it rise for 2-3 hours.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220 oC. Dust your loaf with semolina flour and slash its surface. Lightly spray it with water and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 190 oC and continue baking until the loaf has turned a golden brown about 15-20 minutes longer. Let it cool on a wire rack and serve!