I have just enough time to get this started so that we can have bread for Thanksgiving. Yes, the rolls are great, but this is the recipe that everyone looks forward to. I've been using this sourdough recipe for 25 years now. Even if I make rolls, I need to make this also. Someone saw the roll recipe here and said, "But you're bringing the loaves, too, aren't you?" And the granddaughers call this "Mimi bread." How can I not bake it?
It takes 5 days to make your starter. So I mixed it today and can bake by the weekend. On VERY rare occasions I had ended up with bad starter. It happens. And I have not allowed time for a redo this year. Good thing the roll recipe is good, too.
Make a note somewhere of the day you started and the day that you are to add the yeast. My memory is short these days.
I wrote the feeding recipe on the lid of my container to make things easier. (I have been known to buy a large Cool Whip just to get the plastic container. Yep. Threw out the Cool Whip and saved the bowl. But don't tell anybody I did that.)
To make starter: Double the feeding recipe. Put in a glass or plastic container, loosely covered. Let set out for 4 days. Then add one pack dry yeast. Let stand another 24 hours. Use 1 cup for the first batch or store in refrigerator for up to 7 days.
To feed starter:
Remove 1 cup for baking (or discard) and feed with:
1/3 cup sugar,
3 tbsp. instant potatoes
1 cup warm water
Mix well and let stand 8-12 hours. Then refrigerate. Store in plastic container with slits cut in lid. Feed every 3-7 days. (My favorite container for storage is a large Cool Whip container. Cut an "X" in the lid to let the starter breath.)
1 cup starter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 cups warm water (just beyond lukewarm)
6 or more cups bread flour (use the extra to flour the surface for kneading)
Mix bread ingredients. (I use a wire whisk to mix in the first 3 cups, and then use a spoon for the last three cups.) Place in large bowl sprayed with PAM. Lightly spray dough with PAM. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand and rise at least 8 hours.
Punch down dough and knead on floured board about 10 times. Divide into equal 3 parts. (I have started weighing my dough to get the loaves the same size. But I guessed for years and years and that works, too.)
Spray three 8-inch loaf pans with PAM. Shape dough and place in pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand and rise until pans are full, about 5 to 6 hours.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
Whole wheat bread variation: Use 2 cups whole wheat flour and 4 cups bread flour.
This bread freezes beautifully. It makes a great gift.
I have friends who have used this to make rolls also. And some have done cinnamon bread. One adventurous friend mixes all manner of herbs and cheeses into hers for a wide assortment of breads. I need to ask her one more time how she does that and if I can share her tricks.
And just so you know, this is not true sour dough. I've done that, too. True sour dough would not include instant potato flakes. But this is the recipe we like best. And it's nearly foolproof. Barely requires kneading. It's a good beginner recipe if you haven't tried yeast breads.
So what IS the hardest part? Making all of the wait times fit into your schedule. Once the starter is going, I often will mix the bread right at bedtime and let it rise overnight. Then in the morning it's ready to punch down, knead and put into pans for the second rising. I'll do that soon after I get up and it will be ready to bake around lunch time.
And I've used all sorts of other baking schedules. You'll have to figure out how to make it work in your house. But do think about it before you get started. There have been times when I set my alarm for 4:00 AM because that's when the bread was ready to go into the oven. That was not my best planning. But the bread was perfect. You'll figure it out.