The great thing about having a sourdough starter in the fridge is that it inspires you to bake bread.
One day after a long meeting last week I stopped in at Willie Bird Turkey outlet mid-afternoon and who should I meet but Grandma L! She had gotten off work early and was very tired from catering a wedding over the weekend for 60 people. I immediately invited her for dinner and soon, while driving home, figured out that I had just enough time to bake a loaf of bread. She loves bread and so does Sweetie. He even has leftovers toasted the next morning for breakfast (with quince jam, a flavor combination that didn't sound so great to me, but he loved it.)
A nice loaf of her bread seemed just right It's perfect for a chilly night and we are finally getting true Fall weather. It would go well with baked chicken with onions and a nice salad.
This bread was based on the recipe for Fresh Herb Twist in Local Breads by Daniel Leader. I used it mostly for amount of herbs and for proportions because I didn't make a twist and, since my starter had already fermented and I had limited time, I only did one rise, having shaped the bread right after kneading it.
The fragrances of fresh bread and savory herbs, plus Italian cheeses was outstanding. We had a hard time letting the bread cool enough before we sliced it. The sourdough flavor was mild, probably due to the single rise and the fact that the sourdough starter was still a bit cool when I mixed everything together. The crust was not too thick, but was crisp and delightful. Grandma L was thrilled to pieces. Sweetie had to stop himself at three slices, so I know he enjoyed it, too.
Herbed Sourdough Bread
makes one loaf
1 cup sourdough starter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (I used RapidRise)
1/4 cup tepid water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano, thyme, and crumbled dried rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
about 3 cups all-purpose flour
Put the sourdough starter in a large mixing bowl. If using a stand mixer, attach the paddle.
In a small bowl, combine the yeast and the tepid water and sugar. Stir. Let sit for 5 minutes to make sure yeast is active. Active yeast will smell very yeasty and clumps of bubbly yeast will rise to the surface of the water.
After it has proofed, add the yeast mixture to the bowl containing the sourdough starter. Mix in the herbs, olive oil and salt. Add a cup of the flour and mix until combined.
Switch to the dough hook (or continue mixing with a wooden spoon), adding flour a 1/2 cup at a time and mixing until incorporated. If using a stand mixer, keep adding flour until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead using the dough hook another 6 - 8 minutes until dough is satiny. If stirring by hand, stir flour into dough until it is too hard to stir, then turn dough out onto a well-floured board or clean, well-floured counter and knead the rest of the flour into the dough. Amount of flour will vary. Keep kneading until dough is satiny and supple.
Once you have finished kneading dough, press down on it to shape into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches. (Optional: sprinkle dough with about 3/4 cup of mixed Italian shredded cheeses).
Roll up dough along the long side, fold the ends under, pinch to seal, and put into a greased loaf pan.
Cover with a damp kitchen tea towel and put in a warm place to rise.
When risen to double in bulk, place in preheated 400 degree F oven to bake for about 20 - 25 minutes. Finished loaf is golden and sounds hollow when bottom is tapped. Let cool on rack until barely warm. Slice and serve. Enjoy the aromas of herbs and fresh bread.