Sauerkraut & Red Onion Sourdough

I managed to bake something nearly every day this week, but didn't bother updating any of it. I had hoped to update about twice a week, but I guess I get busy. And lazy. And uninspired. (I do have something interesting in the works now though.) Still, this week's baking was mostly sweets, and I want to get back to baking bread.

The first time I tried to make this bread, before I had started this blog, it came out light and airy, like a foccacia, but with no crust to speak of, and all the rolls melted into each other to make one big pan of bread that tasted sort of like onion bagel. Everyone who tried it, save myself, thought it was delicious.

But I'm happy with this one. I definitely used too much starter in my first attempt, which made it rise too much, I didn't knead it enough so the gluten wasn't delveloped enough for the rolls to keep their shape, I didn't know how to form rolls well, and I didn't add enough flour to compensate for the extra liquid the sauerkraut and onion would add, though I did try drying out the sauerkraut a bit, which lessened its flavour. So lots went wrong.

This one is almost exactly what I had hoped for. The crust is lovely and blistered and crackly and the inside is nice and chewy. It smells a bit like pizza when it's baking too, my sister said. The only thing I can think to improve upon is to make a stronger sour flavour. I think part of that is having a more mature starter than mine, which I obviously can't help much, besides letting it sit out to proof a few days before baking with it. I'd also like it if I could get more sauerkraut flavour, but that always seems to fade in cooking it. Recently though, I made a Korean kimchi fried rice that involved letting the kimchi sour at room temperature a few days before cooking with it. I think I'll have to try something like that next time to see if I can get a more sour sauerkraut.

I did like that I ended up using a sauerkraut with caraway seeds in it. I like it better for general eating purposes, so it was what we had in the house, but I probably would haven chosen plain sauerkraut for this bread. I think they make a nice addition though, and I would add caraway seeds to the dough next time if the sauerkraut didn't have any.

Sauerkraut & Red Onion Sourdough

Adapted from the recipe for San Francisco Sourdough in Crust & Crumb by Peter Reinhart
Makes about 12 dinner rolls

Firm starter:
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup bread flour
water, as needed

Firm starter from above
3 cups bread flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup cool water
1/2 cup sauerkraut
1/2 cup chopped red onion
caraway seeds (optional)

Measure out 1 cup of proofed sponge sourdough starter and mix with 1 cup bread flour to make a firm ball of dough. Knead for a few minutes, until smooth, but not too stiff or dry. Place dough in a clean bowl covered with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 6-8 hours, or until nearly doubled in size. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove the firm starter from the refrigerator and let it sit one hour before using it. This might be a good time to start chopping red onion and measuring out sauerkraut to let it warm up, if it was in the refrigerator too.

Divide the firm starter into about 6 pieces and put in a bowl with the bread flour, salt, sugar, and water. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together, then turn onto a floured surface and knead. When the dough is close to passing the windowpane test, begin to incorporate the sauerkraut and red onion. This will add a lot of moisture to the dough, so keep adding more flour until the dough has a consistency similar to what it was before you added the sauerkraut and onion. Knead until the dough is smooth and the onion and sauerkraut are evenly dispersed throughout.

Place the dough in a clean bowl covered with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for four hours. (According to the book, it will not rise very much, but will show some signs of swelling. It said in some cases it will rise more rapidly, but you should still let it ferment the full four hours. Mine went nuts and doubled very quickly, but I let it sit the whole time and it was fine. I wonder if the onions and sauerkraut give the yeast more sugar to feed on?)

Turn the dough out of the bowl to degas, and shape as desired. I did rolls, obviously, but boules or baguettes or batards would be just as nice. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment that has been dusted with semolina or corn flour. Mist the dough with oil, cover with plastic wrap and let proof at room temperature 3-4 hours, or until 1 1/2 times their original size. Place in the refrigerator overnight.

Let the loaves/rolls/what-have-you sit out at room temperature one hour before baking. Place a baking stone and steam pan in the oven and preheat it to 475* F. Score the loaves, then put them in the oven, adding a cup of boiling water to the steam pan. Spray the oven walls with water, close the oven door, wait two minutes, then spray again and lower the oven temperature to 450*.

One large loaf will bake about 30 minutes, my rolls baked about 10. Bake until the crust is golden brown, turn off the oven, open the door, and let sit another 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Let cool before eating.