Breaking Bad in Kathmandu

Sorry, the title was suppose to be “Baking Bread in Kathmandu,” but the typo is a lot more catchy.

Each Monday, my boss asks “Did you have a good weekend? What did you do?” Probably because we both came from jobs that occupied our weekend space, the novelty of weekends is still new to us.

My response is usually, “Went to the market, and baked bread.”

That leaves room for lots of other activities such as exploring Kathmandu, or binge watching “A Handmaid’s Tale”.

Bread making is not labor intensive. It does not require a bread machine, lots of kneading, or lots of time. From start to finish it only takes about 14 hours! Most of the time however is waiting around for the little sourdough beasties to do their job.

I’ve written before about making Sourdough bread in California. This is a little bit better guide from Kathmandu.

I use a sourdough starter that originally came from Breadtopia via Amazon.com. For a couple of years now it has been cultivated here, so it may have acquired some characteristics of the locale.

I store the starter in the fridge in a closed Rubbermaid container. Glass in not a good idea if you have the container sealed as it could crack the glass container. The microbes in the dough thrive in the cold. Here’s what it looks like when I open the container:

Hot mess of primordial bread gooeyness

After stirring the starter it looks more harmless:

Note the viscosity. Not that it is important… just note it.

My recipe calls for a quarter cup of starter. It is not a chemistry class, to paraphrase Jack Sparrow, a recipe is a “guideline, not a rule.”

I pour the starter into one and a half cups of water.

Today I am making two loaves, so I repeated the process for each cup of water and then stirred the water/sourdough mixture.

Now it is time to feed the starter. For each loaf I am making, I add back to the starter one fourth cup of water and one third cup of flour.

Then mix and seal it back up and store it in the fridge.

Now it is time to mix the bread ingredients.

3 cups of flour.

One half cup of whole wheat flour.

One and a half teaspoons of salt:

One third cup of cracked wheat (bulgar is a-ok):

Then I whisked it all together:

Then I added the starter-water mix to the dry ingredients:

I spooned it together and then got my hands dirty making sure it is all mixed together.

 

If I have some dry ingredients not joining the rest of the mess, I might add a few drops of water, which I did it this case:

 

Without too much effort it will look like this:

 

Then it time to throw them into the garbage (just kidding).

I put the bowls into garbage bags and stored them overnight.

The next morning the dough has doubled in size (It’s a live!) and I spread it out on a floured board:

 

I then folded the dough and let it rest (covered) for 15 minutes.

While the dough is resting, I got ready the “proofing” basket. This is where it will do a final rise before baking. I used a colander. I sprayed it with vegetable oil and added sesame seeds to it:

I rolled up the bread after it was done resting. I then added more sesame seeds to the outside of the dough:

Then I added it to the proofing basket:

Then covered:

I set a timer for 90 minutes and played a computer game with my brother.

After 90 minutes, I started up the oven and put in our Dutch oven. There is no temperature gauge on the oven, but if it went to 10, I would set it to eleven. It should be hot.

I set the timer for another 30 minutes.

At the end of that time, I dumped (literally) the dough into the Dutch oven. Covered the pot and put it back into the oven. The heat of the oven caused the dough to rise again.

After 30 minutes, it is time to remove the lid and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes, it was time to dump the bread onto the cooling rack:

Time to Eat!

Recipe:

1/4 cup of sourdough starter added to 1 and half cups of water
3 cups of unbleached bread flour
half a cup of whole wheat bread flour.
a third cup of cracked wheat
1 and half teaspoons of salt
Mix the water and starter together.
Then mix the dry ingredients
Then mix the wet and dry ingredients together. The mixture should be damp. Add water or flour as needed.

Baking sourdough bread in SoCal

Sourdough bread has been around for a long time. Both beer and sourdough bread appeared around the same time in ancient Egypt. Two great uses for grains! Sourdough fermentation also changes how people digest grains. See

I started making sourdough loaves using the instructions from Breadtopia.com. They sell the starter through Amazon. It takes a few days to grow the starter from the small package to make enough to continue growing and give you the 1/4 cup you need to make the bread. There is a great “no knead” recipe and video on Breadtopia. Breadtopia’s recipe is simple:

  • 1/4 cup of starter
  • 1 and half cups of water
  • Two and half cups of bread flour
  • 1 cup of whole wheat
  • 1 and half teaspoons of salt

For my SoCal recipe:

  • 3 and a third cups of unbleached bread flour with a third cup of cracked wheat and no whole wheat (it was not in my cupboard!)
  • Mix the water and starter together.
  • Then mix the dry ingredients
  • Then mix the wet and dry ingredients together. The mixture should be damp. Add water or flour as needed.

Covered the bowl with a plastic bag and let it sit from 8 to 12 hours. The longer you wait, the wetter the mixture gets. The mix will increase in size.

The mixture is dumped on to a floured surface and flattened and rolled (see video on Breadtopia.

The roll is allowed to rest for 15 minutes.

While it is resting for 15 minutes, prep the next surface. I use a colander. Oil it and add sesame seeds or wheat germ.
 Then take the roll of flour, ball it up and put it into the colander.
Leave it covered and turn on the timer to 60 minutes:
After 60 minutes, turn the oven up to 425F. My oven in SoCal burns very hot, so 425 is more like 500F. I set the timer for another 15 minutes. After lining the interior of the Dutch oven with parchment paper, it is put into the oven,  After another 15 minutes, the dough is ready to be dumped into the Dutch oven. The cover of the Dutch oven is removed after 30 minutes. 15 minutes later the bread is ready:
Now we have a loaf of bread to carry in our luggage to use in Kathmandu!
The last act for my sourdough starter is to preserve it for the next visit. The starter is spread-out on parchment paper and dried:
The flakes are stored in a baggie in the freezer, ready to be re-hydrated for our next visit.
5000 years after the first loaf, sourdough bread is still great to eat. Just don’t eat one that is that old!