You ask "why almost sourdough?"
As a beginner baker I'll tell you: because I'm too chicken to go all the way! So I use a little store bought yeast. That cuts the amount of rise time by a few hours and guarantees (well, almost) that my bread will be ok.
I started baking about 3 months ago. When I googled "homemade bread" a picture of this Instructable showed up:
I was hooked! on breadmaking and this web site.
Begin with this Instructable on how to make a sourdough starter. Do this a week before you want to eat your bread:
It takes at least that long to grow a good crop of sourdough. I named mine Baby Sour, nickname The beast.
Once you have you culture growing happily, it is time to play with it. Set aside some time to make this. All of that bread goodness takes a while to grow. I started these loaves at 1pm. They were ready to bake by 8pm.
Ingredients for 2 loaves:
-6 cups of bread flour. Yes there is a difference between all purpose and bread flour.
-2 Tablespoons of sugar. The beast loves sugar!
-2 teaspoons of salt.
-1.5 cups of milk, room temp. The beast does not like cold things.
-2 Tablespoons of butter, room temp
-2 eggs, room temp
-1 teaspoon of dry active, store bought yeast. This is the almost part. Since I'm using dry yeast, this bread is not a "real" sourdough in my eyes.
In a glass or plastic bow,l put the milk, the sugar and the dry yeast. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and put it in a warm place for a good 10 minutes. I use the proof feature in my oven, it automatically heats the oven to about 98-100 degrees F, perfect growing temp!
Use those 10 minutes to measure out the other ingredients.
With everything ready, it is time to get down and dirty.
-Add the milk/yeast mix into your bowl with the rest of the ingredients. work it with your hands.
-Add the Sourdough starter, mix.
Now let's tweak the dough. Even if you are en expert bread maker sometimes your dough needs some adjustments.
Here is where the bread magic happens, there are 3 possible outcomes for your dough: Perfect, Sticky or crumbly. If it is just perfect, move on to the next step. Otherwise adjust it.
1- Is the dough too sticky? that means too much fluid was added.
Put a little flour to a counter top and your hands. Knead it a few times. Is it still too sticky? repeat this flour/knead step until your dough stops sticking to your fingers and the bowl. The key here is to go by feel and add the flour a little at the time. What is a little you ask? well, a few pinches, a teaspoon... whatever floats your boat.
2- Is your dough too crumbly? That means not enough fluid was added:
Have a little bowl with water in it. Wet the palm of your hands and knead the dough. Repeat this until the down is not so coarse and crumbly. Different doughs will require different amounts. Use your senses, does it feel smooth and elastic?
Then is time to roll it up and let it grow.
You've got your perfect dough ball, congratulations!
Moisten a towel and microwave it for 10 seconds to warm it up. The beast likes it warm and moist. If you make the beast happy you'll get great bread results.
-Put a few drops of olive oil in your hand.
-Pat the dough with the olive oil.
-Cover the oiled up dough with your warm towel.
-Put it in a warm corner or use your oven proof feature. Leave it alone for 2-3 hours depending on how warm it is. You'll know your dough is ready when it has grown and is soft to the touch.
Oil and flour 2 bread pans.
Separate your dough in 2 pieces. Now you have choices: how do you want to shape your bread? this is purely aesthetic.
Set each piece into one bread pan. Pat it down to fit, let it grow.
Set each piece into a round, oiled/floured pan, let it grow.
Cut each piece in 2 and braid it like she did on this instructable:
Put both pieces in a oiled/floured cookie sheet and let it grow fee style.
Cut 2 deep grooves into each loaf. I do it diagonally. You can be creative and make just one big slash in the middle, or a cross... anything goes.
Set it in your warm corner/oven proof for 3-4 additional hours, until it is all grown up.
Turn the oven on to 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Take your raw loaves out before turning the oven on.
Here are options for your crust style:
Option 1- Sprinkle some flour on it.
Options 2- Brush it with olive oil.
Option 3- Do nothing.
Option 4- Brush it with egg wash.
Option 5- Brush it with milk.
Option 6- Sprinkle salt, herbs on top.
What I mean t say is, the possibilities are endless!
Put your loaves in, lower your temp to 375 degrees F. Bake for 18 minutes.
Take them out of the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes in the bread pan.
Pop the loaves out and turn it on it's side, let it cool for at least 10-15 minutes before cuting into it.
Cool completely before you store it.
I store mine in little plastic bags. You can use Ziplocks too.
These loaves I made to give away as early Christmas gifts. I'm going to be very popular this year!
I hope you enjoyed this instrucable. Please look at all of the other amazing bread recipes and techniques on this web site. There is a huge wealth of knowledge to be gained. Thank you all who post, you have helped me become a bread and instructable fanatic.