Monday, February 28, 2011

French Sourdough and the Greenthumb Girl

I'm fortunate in my friends. I bet you can say the same dear reader, if you think about it. There are all kinds of friends and if you are lucky, at least one of them will give you a great bread recipe.

One of my friends has a phenomenal green thumb. Her gardens are always beautiful. The plants are happy ones and the colors she uses and shapes go so well together that it is a joy to visit her home and see the gardens. Since I like to use nicknames on the blog instead of true names, she deserves the name Greenthumb Girl.

Greenthumb Girl is also a sweetie and she lent me a favorite recipe of hers for French Bread. Being almost always unable to stay to a recipe as written I don't think that she will mind that I used her recipe to make Sourdough French Bread.

The nice thing about French Bread is its simplicity. Yeast, water, salt and flour are the basic building blocks. This recipe adds a little bit of sugar because yeast really does like a little sugar almost as much as I do. There is also a tiny bit of oil. I ended up using olive oil because it was at hand. It's a mild one so it didn't add much flavor. In fact the sourdough flavor was pretty mild, too, but it still is a wonderful bread.

As you can see from the photos it has a nice combination of tight crumb and holes. It is moist and the crust is thin but crunchy. Grandma L got a small loaf while it was still warm and she had trouble stopping after a few slices it's so tasty. Makes great toast, too!

Our long loaf is gone but we still have the boule. I baked it longer so the crust is darker. All in all its a great bread and I'm so glad Greenthumb Girl let me have her recipe. I'm including her recipe first and my variation second so you can make either one.

Sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting event, the most wonderful weekly collection of yeasted recipes you can imagine. Hit the link HERE and check it out!

Greenthumb Girl's French Bread

1 pkg yeast
1 1/4 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon shortening oil
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon salt
4 or more cups flour

Punch down every 10 minutes...5 times. Let rise 10 minutes. Score before baking. Bake at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes.

Makes 2 loaves

Drawing on the recipe card shows two long loaves with scoring like done on baguettes.

Elle's Sourdough Version

Take 1 cup sourdough starter. To it add a mixture of 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon honey or sugar. Mix to combine and let sit on counter 2 hours, uncovered. Then add a mixture of 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup water. Mix to combine, cover loosely with plastic wrap and store in fridge overnight.

Warm the mixture by letting it sit on the counter for an hour. Place sourdough mixture in bowl of an electric stand mixer. Attach the dough hook.

To the starter in the bowl add 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil and 1/2 cup barely warm water. Mix to combine.

In another bowl combine 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 5 cups bread flour. Gradually add the flour mixture to the mixture in the bowl until a soft dough forms. Continue adding just enough flour (it may take 6 cups or more) so that dough can knead in the bowl and that it cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead for 10 minutes this way.

Turn kneaded dough into a very large bowl that has been lightly oiled, or into a raising bucket prepared the same way. Turn dough over to coat with oil. Place oiled plastic wrap loosely on top of the dough, cover with a tea towel and let rise for 1 hour. Pull dough over itself in the bowl or bucket, cover again and let rise another 30 minutes. Repeat the dough pulling and rising twice more. (I allowed much longer rising times because often my sourdough starter takes longer.)

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead a few minutes to release trapped gas. Divide dough and shape into loaves (I made two long loaves and one large (1/2 of the dough) round boule.

Cover shaped dough, which has been placed on parchment for baking, with oiled plastic wrap and tea towel(s) and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Once doubled, remove wraps, brush with a beaten egg, and score tops.

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven until golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom...about 30 minutes for the long loaves, 45 minutes for the boule. I added some ice cubes to a pie pan on the bottom of the oven after I put the loaves in...for some steam...and it did make for a nice crust.


  1. Truly beautiful bread! I'm so envious - I never get bubbles like that!

  2. Yum, yum, yum! That's gorgeous bread. I have some sourdough starter, so I'm good to go on this one. Mmmmm.

  3. How could you go wrong with a French sourdough - hands down my favourite breads. Amazingly, I have a close friend who is also an exceptional gardener and the cook extraordinaire. This is the best combination I can think of, don't you agree?

  4. David, I know you make gorgeous bread. The wet dough is the secret to the bubbles/large holes. I always want to add more flour but have learned to put less flour into bread dough if I want larger holes.

    Lynn, yours is lovely, too, especially if there is sourdough starter involved.

    Gosia, I do think that growing yeasties and growing plants both require a certain mindset...and patience, so it is a good combination :)