What great timing! This week Virtual Potluck has partnered with King Arthur Flour and Red Star Yeast and I am actually visiting the headquarters of King Arthur for a few days as part of their second Blog and Bake conference! You can follow along with some of my adventures on Facebook or Twitter for now and I'll be sharing some more on the blog as I go! For more of the Virtual Potluck activities this week, go check out the round-up from Donna at Cookistry.
My goal with this post is to start the discussion around baking bread and help you get more comfortable with it or even try it for the first time if you never have before! Why is baking bread so scary? I know that working with yeast can be a little tricky, but I think the perception is that it's just too hard and so people don't even try. Then they hear about feeding and caring for a sourdough starter and they run the other direction!
Well, we're going to use both yeast and a sourdough starter today and make it fun and easy, so stick around and then give this one a try!
Let's start with the Sourdough. This starter came to me via King Arthur Flour and is over 250 years old! While it's true that the sourdough starter takes some work, once you get it going it will just be a few minutes every week and you'll have something that can make so many different breads and treats even more amazing than you could imagine. I remember when I was younger not liking that tangy, sour taste of sourdough, but that's certainly changed and now, the stronger the better! The best part is that you can really adjust that sourness by how long you let the dough sit. If you like a more mild flavor, you knead and let it rise normally and bake. If you like it stronger, let it sit overnight in the fridge and then let it rise the final time. All up to you!
My favorite part about the sourdough is that I get to share! Each time you feed it, you can divide off a portion and share it with someone else. I now have starter "children" and "grandchildren" all over the twin cities area and love getting updates from people on what they've been making with their starter.
As for the yeast part of baking, just don't worry about it! As long as you have fresh yeast, either regular or instant, it's most likely going to work just fine. Use warm, but not scalding water and if you're proofing the yeast first, one trick I use is to sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in with the water and yeast to help it get going. Here's a cool link to some tips about yeast and what kinds to use if you're looking for more information!
Now this ciabatta bread is great because you get the sourdough flavor but it's healthier for you with the 100% whole wheat. Now you can technically convert your sourdough starter to whole wheat by feeding it whole wheat flour but I wasn't as concerned about that so I just used my regular starter.
Follow a few easy steps and you'll have some great sourdough ciabatta for you and your family!
~ Mix the ingredients together in the stand mixer for 5-7 minutes. If you've made bread before, it's going to be much looser than you're used to. Don't add more flour. It will all be good in the end.
~ Pull it from the bowl in two halves and form it loosely into rectangles on the pan. Make sure there is lot's of flour on the pan before placing the dough so that it doesn't stick!
~ Place the pan on a heated pizza stone and it with some steam in the oven, you quickly get a nice light beautiful loaf of bread! I love it fresh out of the oven, but it's also great toasted.
You can follow King Arthur Flour on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, and sign up for special offers through the e-newsletter.
Red Star Yeast also has recipes for you (including gluten-free), a yeast conversion chart, a baking steps guide, and how-to-bake videos including videos for bread machine, stand mixer and hand-kneading:.
I've also got some great products from both companies for a lucky person today!
Enter to win A Baker's Dream Giveaway! One lucky winner will receive from King Arthur Flour one (1) dough whisk, one (1) coupon for a bag of flour in the supermarket, one (1) sourdough starter, and one (1) bag of Vital Wheat Gluten. But that's not all! Red Star Yeast is adding three (3) strips of yeast, one (1) bread loaf pan, one (1) apron, and one (1) bread knife to this baking package!
Leave a comment below telling me an experience you've had with baking bread, or what it would take to get you to try if you haven't ever baked with yeast before!
Whole-Wheat Sourdough Ciabatta
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups King Arthur Premium 100% Whole Wheat Flour
2 cups fed Sourdough Starter
1/4 cup King Arthur Vital Wheat Gluten
2 teaspoons salt
Begin by combining the warm water, yeast and sugar in a larger mixer bowl. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes frothy.
Add in the flour, sourdough, wheat gluten and salt. Using the paddle blade of the mixer, mix for 5-7 minutes until the dough comes together, although it will be quite loose.
Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm spot for up to two hours or place it in the refrigerator overnight. If you place it in the refrigerator, take it out and let it come to room temperature for about 2 hours or so before proceeding.
With the dough still in the bowl, sprinkle a generous amount of flour over the top of the dough and using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half. Pull each half out and place it onto a floured sheet pan, forming it into a rough rectangle shape. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise for 90 minutes.
Place a pizza stone in the oven on one rack and an empty pan underneath it. Heat the oven to 400 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Place the sheet pan with the loaves directly on top of the pizza stone and pour 2 cups of hot water into the empty pan. Quickly shut the oven door and cook for 20-25 minutes or until it is lightly browned and sounds hollow when you tap on the top.
Post submitted to Yeast Spotting
You can also see some other great bread recipes here!