Ever since Christmas, I've been a bread-baking fiend. I found sourdough starter and The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook under the Christmas tree, and I haven't looked back since. Sourdough starter is essentially a form of yeast that lives in your refrigerator. When you bake with it, you "feed" the remaining starter with flour and water, and it bubbles with the yeast bacteria. The whole process is somewhere between baking and a science project.
The great thing about sourdough starter is that you can use it to make sourdough bread, but you can also use it in the place of yeast in other baked goods. After making a loaf of basic sourdough, I branched out and made sourdough anadama bread. I grew up eating anadama because it's the one thing my mom likes to bake--she would always make three or four loaves at a time, each one laden with nuts and dried fruit. I did the same thing with this batch of anadama--I love it when one slice of toast from a loaf of bread is basically a meal.
Sourdough Anadama (adapted from The Original King Arthur Flour Cookbook)
1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. cornmeal (I used Bob's Red Mill medium-ground)
1/2 c. non-fat dry milk (optional - I didn't have it on hand, so I left it out)
1/2 c. dark molasses
1 1/3 c. Sourdough Starter
1/4 c. butter or vegetable oil (I used butter)
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 c. King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (I used half unbleached all-purpose and half white whole-wheat)
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Optional: 1/4 c. pecans, 1/4 c. walnuts, 1/4 c. raisins, 1/4 c. chopped dried apricots
1. Make the Sponge: Pour the cup of boiling water over the cornmeal ina large glass or ceramic mixing bowl. Mix in the molasses, dry milk (if using) and butter. Let cook to lukewarm and blend in 2 c. flour. Blend in the sourdough starter. Cover with plastic wrap and let this work for several hours (I left it out overnight)
2. Make the dough: After the sponge has grown, add 2 more cups of flour into which you've blended the salt and the baking soda. Knead this dough and, if you have time, let it rise once more in the bowl.
3. Shape: Divide the dough into two halves. Pat each half into a flat disc, and sprinkle the nuts and dried fruit equally across the two discs. Roll up the discs and knead each a few times to distribute the nuts and fruit throughout the dough. Form each half of the dough into a loaf and place into a greased loaf pan. Let the dough rise in the loaf pan for 2 to 3 hours.
4. Bake: 15 minutes before you want to bake your bread, preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the bread for about 45 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in loaf pans, then remove loaves and let cool on wire rack.
I recommend slicing into the bread as soon as it's cool enough and enjoying it slathered in some butter or earth balance! Delicious!