Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's a Sponge Bread

The loaf in question in today's post is my modification of a recipe from the King Arthur Flour website titled "A Simple, Rustic Loaf". The formula calls for a sponge preferment, something I haven't used in a long time. In this formula, the sponge can be used after 3-4 hours or when desired, as many as 24 hours. The 3-4 hour instruction proved to be the better choice for me since the bowl I used wasn't big enough after only 3 hours when the room temperature was around 68-70F.
Sponges are usually used after a brief fermentation because of their higher than 100% hydration levels. The higher water content of the sponge enables the yeast spores to multiply or replicate much faster, utilizing the available food faster. The convenience of the faster preferment availability is somewhat tempered by the creation of fewer acids and other flavor compounds. Using the bowl that you plan to mix the dough in as your bowl for the sponge is something that I considered after doing otherwise yesterday. I would've let the sponge ferment a little longer with the larger bowl and there would've been one less bowl to wash.

This was about 67% hydration and not a slack dough at all to work with, probably due to my own deviations from the formula. Instead of using AP flour, I substituted bread flour and some white whole wheat. The WWW wasn't presoaked as I usually do. Whole rye flour was substituted for the pumpernickel called for. Finally, the formula instructed 8-10 minutes of kneading by hand whereas I used my mixer.

I hand kneaded the seeds into the dough before bulk ferment as directed. There are no stretch and folds called for during the bulk ferment and I don't think that adding the seeds during a stretch and fold would adequately distribute the seeds. There are quite a few sunflower seeds in 2 ounces and then there are the sesame seeds and poppy seeds to mix in as well.

Here's what I did differently for this loaf:

12 oz. water at 90F
1 tsp active dry yeast
6.25 oz. bread flour
2 oz. whole rye flour

2 tsp kosher salt
8 oz. bread flour
1.5 oz white whole wheat flour
2 oz sunflower seeds
1Tbs poppy seeds
0.2 oz sesame seeds

Flavor wise, this loaf is worth baking again. The purchase of pumpernickel flour as called for in the KAF formula should make a difference worth exploring as long as I find other formulas that call for the flour. A higher hydration level should help open up the crumb. I added a Tbs of water and feel that the predicted hydration of about 67% is low. I apologize for not converting the weights to grams. The KAF website used ounces and I was too casual about notes to do the conversions and percentages yesterday.

If you have a scale that measures in both grams and ounces, do take the time to write down your notes. I find most commercial yeast breads to be somewhat light in the taste department but this formula is worth a re-do. Please email me or add a comment about your results.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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