the loaf that dare not speak its name

March 17, 2010

In the past week we’ve had another wonderful visit from an old friend, doctor visits, and car troubles.  We’ve also had some delicious food, and a couple of opportunities to bake, both sweets and savory.  Before I get to the newer stuff, however, in my last post I promised that I’d share my sourdough rolls.  To be honest though, I don’t even know if that’s what they are, exactly.  Yes, I’m using sourdough starter, but I’m throwing it into a recipe that normally uses a very young (12-16 hours old) starter, and produces a more traditional Italian loaf.  The use of an older starter gives these a much more pronounced tang than they would normally have.  Plus, I’m shaping them as rolls instead of a loaf (although I’ve done that, too).   So what is it?  Sourdough?  Italian?  Soutalian?  Italerdough?  Rollitalisour?  I don’t know exactly what to call them, but they’re darn good.  I think I’ve decided to keep this highly mutated recipe for rolls, and continue working on a truer sourdough for loaves.

Truthfully, I can’t promise that this recipe will work for anyone else.  I think (in my very limited knowledge on the topic) that so much depends on your particular starter.  I had to do a lot of tweaking with volume and timing to figure out what worked consistently with my starter.  For me, the first key was feeding the starter about 10 hours before I planned on beginning.  In theory, this means that I’d feed it just before bedtime, and start actively working with it after breakfast.  What that really means is that frequently I would end up with no bread when I had hoped for bread, because I don’t have the kind of attention span that lets me plan that far in advance on a regular basis.  On the occasions that I did remember, though, after breakfast I’d pull out 12 ounces of starter from the bucket.  This seemed to be just the right amount to use  in order to get the rise and texture that I was looking for.  Your starter may vary.  I’d be surprised if it didn’t.  


12 ounces fed sourdough starter

4 ounces water, room temp

2 teaspoons yeast

10 ounces all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • Combine starter and water in large bowl and mix until smooth.  Add yeast and stir to combine.
  • Add flour (you may need a little more or less, depending on moisture levels and temperature in your kitchen), then salt.
  • Knead dough until it’s smooth and pulling away from the sides of the bowl, but not so much that it feels elastic.  Maybe three minutes in a stand mixer, 5 or 6 by hand.
  • Place dough in a lightly greased bowl.  Turn dough over so that top is greased as well.  Cover and let rise at room temp for 30 minutes.  It will not have grown much when you check it the first time, but don’t panic.  Lightly punch it down and turn it over.
  • Cover again, and let rise for another 30 minutes.  You should see more lift when you check it this time.  Lightly punch and turn again.
  • Let rise for another 30 minutes (after this round, will be 90 minutes total).  You should see some decent lift at this point.  DO NOT PUNCH THIS DOWN.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide into 16 even pieces (you can use a scale, or eyeball it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect).
  • Turn oven on to 425F.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a ball, while trying to deflate it as little as possible.  Set rolls onto a lightly greased baking sheet (or, line it with parchment).  Cover and let rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until slightly puffy.
  • Brush the tops of the rolls.  I’ve used eggwash (crustier) or olive oil (softer), both with good results.  Using a scalpel, razor blade, lame, or sharp kitchen knife, gently slash the surface of each roll.  Not too much pressure, or they’ll deflate.
  • Put the baking sheet in the oven, spritz a little water with a spray bottle, and let them bake for about 30 minutes, until they’re golden and delicious.
  • Cool on rack.  Resist all temptation to eat them before they are cooled.  If you try too soon, they’ll be gummy from the steam.  Not awful, but not nearly as delicious as if you’d let them be for an hour or two.  But really, who am I kidding?  We both know you’ll be serving 14 rolls with dinner.

One comment

  1. clearly i’m never going to attempt to make these myself. can you just make them for me?? they look SO good!

    random aside- i giggled at your DO NOT PUNCH THIS DOWN instruction…becuase it reminds me of the first time my sister and i were driving up to the lake for vacation together, separate from our parents. my mom had written out the directions…turn here, turn there, blah blah blah…and then, out of nowhere, in the middle of central minnesota, we get the instruction: DO NOT TAKE BUSINESS 71.

    you can bet we didn’t!
    and you can bet we still laugh about her life-threatening order to this day! 🙂

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