Thursday, February 16, 2012

Salt Creek Sourdough

The old Salt Creek school district is just about four miles north of my keyboard, past the Leavenworth Minimum Security Facility- part of the Leavenworth Federal Prison, the west gate of Ft Leavenworth, and over a hill that was once cut out for a narrow gauge railroad almost one hundred years ago. These days , it's mostly farm land with with low output oil wells and some natural gas wells too.

The old Route 7 that led into Atchison, KS through Salt Creek has been bypassed by a new and wider stretch of highway. It may be much more quiet these days, but history tells us that wasn't always the case. The location probably was chosen for its distance from town. Before the US Civil War 1861-1865, the Russell, Waddell, and Majors company sprawled out across the area with its almost 4,000 horses and mules used in their transportation operations that spread out across the prairie before Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado achieved statehood. The end of the Civil War brought the railroads. Buffalo Bill Cody was born before statehood in the Salt Creek area.

I decided to call this particular formula the Salt Creek Sourdough in a foolish effort to start organizing my loaves into families. This loaf would be in the "country loaf" family because it uses bread flour, whole wheat flour, and rye flour. Rye, enriched, and whole wheat would be included along with "white" breads as an indulgent afterthought.

Perhaps when I get cognizant that I'm baking essentially the same loaf, I'll try something new. I do feel an active dry yeast formula starting to surface for next week.

This particular loaf utilized the last 15g of the South African starter that Paul gave to me. I used Heartland Mill AP flour in a two stage build that took a little extra time but was quite vigorous when I started to mix it in. I saved about 30g and mixed in another 8g of AP the make the starter firm, like a low hydration dough, before refrigerating it. Using firm seed starters to build up levains is another one of my harebrained and unscientific pursuits for this time of year. If it works, great. As long as I don't lose my starter, and I do have some back up dried starter, I'm good to go.

There were other aspects of this loaf that forced me into improvising solutions for silly problems that I created for myself. My starter was somewhere around 70% hydration so I just did some crude and rude estimates for water to bring about the same hydration overall for the bread. Things were dandy until I added 25g of wheat germ. That addition caused me to add another 20g of water during the dough mix. I don't have an explanation as to why that happened or if I would've avoided that by soaking the wheat germ with the WWW. As I've said before, I'd never make it in the real world as a baker.

Here are the ingredients that I used to make this loaf happen

140g 70% white flour fed sourdough starter.
80g White Whole Wheat Flour
20g rye flour
70g water

All of starter
All of soaker
300g bread flour
196g water at 85F
9g kosher salt
25g wheat germ
Additional water to adjust dough consistency and flour for work surface.

I did do an overnight retarded proof in a refrigerator. The oven and baking stone were preheated to 450F along with a half sheet pan for ice for steam generation during the first 25 minutes of baking. The oven was lowered to 425F after the first 15 minutes of baking. At 25 minutes, I pulled the sheet pan and turned the loaf around. At the end of the next 20 minutes, the loaf looked good enough that I broke my rule and didn't check the internal temperature. While the loaf cooled on a wire rack, I could hear the loaf crackling away without putting my ear to the loaf.

When I finally sliced the loaf, my confidence was rewarded by a thoroughly baked interior and a moist, tasty crumb. With a little work on the appearance aspect, the formula is good to go for judging at the County Fair.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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