Parmesan-Garlic Sourdough Bread

  • 4 or 5 cups of proofed sourdough starter*
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon, ginger, fenugreek**
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup soy milk or light soy milk***
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • lots of flour
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • cooking spray

Put the sourdough starter into a large bowl. Mix in the 1 cup parmesan, sugar, garlic powder, cinnamon, ginger, and fenugreek. Melt the butter on the stove; add the soy milk and heat until warm (but not hot!). Add the soy milk and butter to the starter and mix well. Add the salt just before you’re ready to add flour.

Stir in flour until you have a dough that’s stiff enough to turn out and knead. Wipe down and flour a table or cutting board and turn the dough out onto it. Knead in enough flour to make a smooth and elastic dough that’s still a little sticky. If you knead in all the flour the dough can hold, it’ll be stiff and dense and it won’t rise nearly as well. The dough should be elastic enough so that when you pull some of it gently away and release, it will pull back toward the dough.

Prepare some pans. You may divide this into several loaves and put them in greased loaf pans, or you may divide them into individual balls and put them on a cookie sheet or two dusted with cornmeal, depending on what size loaves you want. Since the number of loaves you’ll get out of this will partially depend on how active and thirsty your starter is, I can’t really give you an estimate (we find our number of loaves varies from week to week).

Cover the loaves and rest for 1 1/2 to 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Mix together the 1/3 cup parmesan, garlic powder, and salt. Lightly grease the tops of the loaves with the cooking spray, and sprinkle the parmesan mixture overtop.

Bake the loaves. This will probably take anywhere from 20 to 55 minutes, depending on the size of your loaves. Go until they’re nicely browned, and sound vaguely hollow when you thump them.

Notes

*See “World Sourdoughs from Antiquity” by Ed Wood for more information on handling sourdough bread and starter. In my experience, you should take your refrigerated starter out the night before and scrape it into a big bowl. Add three cups flour, maybe a tablespoon or two of sugar, and two cups warm (not hot!) filtered water; stir well. Cover and leave overnight. The next morning, revive your starter with one cup flour, 2/3 cup water, and one teaspoon table sugar; stir well. Cover again. Once it’s all bubbly again, scrape out enough to put back in the fridge, and then use the rest for your recipe.

If you don’t know where to find great sourdough starter, you can get it where we got ours: from King Arthur Flour’s online catalog.

**In small amounts, these ingredients promote yeast growth. You may also use some of Lara Brody’s “Dough Enhancer,” probably 2 tablespoons’ worth, available from King Arthur Flour’s online catalog, if you wish.

***Soy milk will give this recipe a particularly crunchy, fabulous crust. You can use regular milk or even water, but you won’t get the same crusty bread out of it.

Many of the little tips and tricks that make this bread so wonderful were adapted or derived from the book CookWise by Shirley O’Corriher. I urge everyone with an interest in cooking to buy her book, which goes into detail on the science of cooking. Few books will affect how you cook the way this one will.

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