Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bread - Number 38: Oh Yes, Now I Get the White Bread Thing

Bread - Number 38: It does not get better than this

Making a white bread is like becoming a drug addict; there's an easy equation between use of an ingredient and the results. (I have no personal experience with drug abuse and I mean no disrespect to those who suffer with this situation.) I have already made this bread four times. It is foolproof, easy (bears repeating), and rewards one's efforts way too well, as if drawing one into a secret cult. This is also a bread in which everything can be done in the evening, with the exception of taking out or putting the dough into the refridgerator. See? Perfection.

I got the dough recipe from a member of the freshloaf online forum. It is called Midweek sourdough, double retardation. Thank you to the author and if ever you are here in D.C., please let me know and I will have you over for bread and tea. I would even buy some fine coffee for you, though I don't keep any in the house. [Note that I probably could get the dough to rise a little better, as the photo demonstrates.]

Finally becoming 13
So why do I need such convenient dough? I am becoming a more engaged Jew - seriously. I am in the midst of an adult bat mitzvah class and learning to chant the prayers and to read from the Torah. We also learn about Jewish practice and philosophy, though I am familar with these already. Yes, this is an ancient rite of passage of sorts, although for 13-year-old boys. When girls were added, mainly in the sixties and seventies, my synagogue did not shift with the times. I was the only girl of my year to attend Hebrew school and I felt fortunate that I did not have to undergo the rigorous training for a bat mitzvah or be called upon to chant and lead services in public, as my own daughters did. I am filled with anxiety and using my nervous energy to practice each day.

So now , each night I am sitting in bed reading my Torah portion (the last one of Behar, for anyone who is interested) and listening online in the morning and evening to my rabbi's chanting of the part of the service I will lead. This is quite the challenge. I attend services regularly (since my father passed away) and attended regularly when I was a child. The synagogue Shabbat service is when I feel his presence. When I hear the congregation chant in Hebrew that the ways of the Torah are pleasent and a path to peace, he is beside me.

For any atheists or others whose eyebrows are raised, I was one of you. Maybe I still am as I my idea of God is more natural than all-powerful Santa Claus. Now I believe that the world would be a better place were everyone to pray for peace with friends at least once a week. I feel centered in that Sanctuary. What could possibly be wrong with that?

The ideal easy recipe - with a sponge

For the sponge:
100g starter
200g water
200g white bread flour

For the dough:
100g water
300g bread flour
10g salt

Day 1: Mix together the sponge ingredients. Cover. Put in the refridgerator.

Day 2: Take the sponge out of the fridge. Let sit on the counter for the entire work day. Come home to a beautiful sight, a most active, bubbly sponge. (See, that white bread is not yet a dough and it is already pulling you in. Notice the enthusiastic bubbles, practically emerging and popping before your eyes.)

When you return home in the early evening, admire that lovely, bubbly sponge, then mix it together with the other ingredients to make the dough. No kneading. Just four stretch and folds, about 15 minutes apart. This hour of a total of five minutes of work, if that. Put the dough - covered - in the fridge.

Day 3: Nothing to do in the morning. Upon returning home from work in the evening, preheat the oven to 445 degrees. I heat up the baking stone and the top of the la cloche. Keep the dough in the fridge.

See? Still easy.

A minute before baking, take the dough out of the fridge and shape. Take a moment to ooh and ah over the conspicuous, incredible rise before shaping. Put the shaped dough directly in the oven. Cover with the top of the la cloche or otherwise inject steam into the oven. Keep covered for 20 minutes.

At 20 minutes, remove top of la cloche. Gasp audibly when your eyes witness the fantastic oven spring that has taken place.

Bake for another 20 to 28 minutes.

Take out of the oven a beautiful bread that in the next few minutes will make such fine crackling sounds that you might squeal or yell out the way Beatles fans did at Shea Stadium when they played in New York.

White taste too fine
And so good. It's sinful how good a white bread can taste. I have made this bread another four times, each time with as wonderful results as the first try.

Please pull me back to the light and goodness of whole grain breads. Now I know the temptation of white bread. I have seen the dark side or the white side, as the case may be.


  1. Thank you for the recipe and the personal insight. I do have one question though. The sponge recipe calls for starter. What is that and where can I get it? Thanks very much. Randy

  2. The starter contains the natural yeasts to make the bread rise. It is used instead of shop bought yeast.
    Most people make their own starters by mixing flour and water over the course of a week or so - I made one recently using the following recipe:

  3. brilliant recipe! Thanks for sharing it.

  4. With a starter culture, no commercial yeast is necessary. It is naturally fermented and easy to maintain. I have a page with starter instructions at