The last challenge this week is to sculpt a showstopper out of bread. Well, dough…then you bake it into a magnificent loaf!
Contestants did a braid with “corn” (looked like wheat to me), a tear and share flower, a sweet peacock, yin and yang bread, 5-strand wreath, and a giant soccer-playing cephalopod (so if you’re looking for unique, that one’s taken).
Now, before I started this project, I used up the rest of the “sourdough” starter that I had in the jar from the day before. It was made with packaged yeast, not natural yeast from the air, but I don’t know if that made any difference. The directions for that said to use it within 12 hours…not sure if that was a hard-and-fast rule, or…? I didn’t have a recipe for the bread, the starter had lost all its volume from the day before, and I think I may have scalded the yeast when I added the melted butter…then I underworked it, and I may have over-proofed it. After baking, which wasn’t completely baked through, it lost a lot of its lift. I had to run to pick up the boy, and when I got back, I put it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. It tasted OK, but it certainly was amateur hour on this loaf.
But then again, I *am* an amateur!
So in order to make a more successful bread, I decided to make my own sourdough starter. The thing is, it takes 4 days to get that sucker to full maturity, but four days from now, I’ll be able to make some amazing bread! I mixed 4 oz water and 4 oz flour into the quart container (might be a bit more than a quart, actually) and set it on the counter to start doing its thing. Each day, you add another 4 oz water and 4 oz flour and give it a stir. Eventually, you have to start using or pitching the mix to keep the quantity at a normal level, so I expect in a couple days I’ll start making some sourdough loaves, even if it’s not fully mature. There’s some super simple directions for making your sourdough starter here.
Today’s other bake, the sculpture of bread, was made with a simple recipe that I found here. I give it lots of time to do its thing properly–heated the water and tested the temperature to make sure it was well under 120 degrees. 105-115 is the target. Then added the other ingredients as it required.
Warm water, yeast and sugar in the bowl and allow it to foam up–5-10 minutes.
Add the salt & oil, stir. Add the flour, a cup at a time. I like starting with a whisk to get it combined nicely, but you can use a wooden spoon or rubber scraper. Whatever you like. I’m sure Paul Hollywood would disagree…I’ll have to read up on it.
When you get all the flour you need, about 7 cups, give it a workout for 5 minutes or so on the counter. This is developing the gluten which will be needed for rise and structure in the bread.
I tried a couple different times, but this is the end result of a 7-strand braid. I’ve done a bit of bobbin lace, which is all about crossing and twisting multiple strands, so I just kept doing that until I ran out of dough. With the leftover dough, I made Celtic rounds. Simple yet elegant. We’ll see how it looks…
Well…not a bad first attempt. I think I’d like to try it again as a braided wreath.
The taste? Amazing. Delicious. The family ate a bunch of it.
The next project might be something heraldic… a Tudor Rose, the sun in its splendor,
or maybe a snail…