When I was younger, baking bread was a struggle. I could never get the dough to rise. When I figured out that bakers use a proofing oven that keeps the dough hot and steamy, I realized what was wrong. My kitchen was too cold. Jay Francis uses his dishwasher as a proofing oven. He runs the dishwasher without soap until its hot and steamy, then sticks a bowl full of dough inside. I started baking bread again ten years ago when somebody gave me his old bread machine. My parents had one of these and I hated the bread it turned out. But if you set the machine on dough only, it makes a great proofing oven.
After experimenting with a book called Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine, I found out if you have a good recipe, and add some vital gluten to the regular bread flour, the machine can turn out a decent loaf on the regular cycle too. The current bible on the subject is The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger.
I made my first loaf of bread-machine sourdough with my new starter last weekend. The sourdough flavor and aroma were excellent. It came out a little too dense with three-quarters of a cup of water, so I increased the water to one cup, and I'm going to try it again. When I get the proportions right, I'll set the machine on dough-only and try baking loaves in the oven with all those pretty razorblade scorings.
A recipe for bread-machine sourdough, after the jump.
Bread Machine Sourdough
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This is a sourdough recipe for a Panasonic bread machine. Substituting vital gluten for some of the flour gives you a much better crust.
1 1/4 cups sourdough starter 1 cup warm water 14 ounces bread flour 1 ounce vital gluten 1 3/4 teaspoons salt 3 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 3/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast
Place the ingredients in the bread machine pan in the order specified by the manufacturer's instructions. Select the machine to the basic bread cycle and start it.
Makes one (2 pound) loaf.