Sunday, September 09, 2012

A Vermont Sourdough Imitation and the Sponge Crust Pizza Saga Continues

 J Hamelman's recipe for a Vermont Sourdough with Whole Wheat  recipe has survived translation into Kansan. Besides being one of the most popular recipes from Hamelman's book, "Bread", the recipe has been repeated so often on the internet that if royalties were to be collected, Mr Hamelman could buy a large share of his employer, King Arthur Flour. 

My first attempt at the recipe was plagued by errors on my part but this second try has turned out a very nice and easy (for me, that is) to replicate loaf. As usual, I couldn't leave well enough alone and added my own variations to the formula's procedures.

When my levain build had achieved a nice bubbly personality, I scraped it into my mixer bowl, rinsed the levain container with the water for the dough, and added the whole wheat flour. I then used the mixer's whisk attachment for about a minute to aerate and mix those ingredients into a thin slurry. Next, I added the rest of my ingredients to the bowl and used the dough hook to mix at low speed for a minute to a shaggy mass of dough. After covering the bowl, I let the dough rest for 20 minutes in the expectation that the water would spread out and moisten the dough more evenly. It didn't seem to hurt anything.

From there, I went about my business in the usual manner and it worked out very well for me. There was some of the flavor of the hard red whole wheat in the bread but Mrs PG and I don't mind that. A hard white whole wheat flour could fit in this recipe very well.

Liquid Levain Build

70g bread flour
89g water
14g mature starter as seed


385g bread flour
53g hard red whole wheat flour
222g water at 85F
10g kosher salt
All of levain

I continue to play around at developing a pizza crust using a sponge preferment. This is a vanity/curiosity thing since there seems to be no call for this reinvention of the pizza dough wheel so that rules out the excuse that my exercise is an intellectual pursuit. BUT, its fun and so far, the resultant crust does taste good.

185g water at 85F
25g whole wheat flour
100g AP flour
1/4-1/2 tsp active dry yeast or instant dry yeast, depending on how pressed for time you might imagine yourself to be.

In a large mixing bowl, hydrate the yeast, mix well and cover. Let rest at room temperature for at least 4 and better yet, 6 hours. The sponge should be well covered with bubbles.

175g AP flour
6g kosher salt
1 Tbs olive oil

Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix to a shaggy mass. Let the dough rest, covered, for about 10-20 minutes and then form into a ball before placing in an oiled bowl or Cambro container and cover. I let my dough rest on the counter for about 45 minutes before placing it in the refrigerator for use later on. It rose slowly in the fridge and after I took it out into room temperature, it got up to doubled in size in about an hour. This crust at a 70% hydration is more suited to use in a sheet pan but I stretched it out to use in a perforated, round "pizza" pan of about 14".

That's where the sponge crust recipe stands so far. It is a work in progress and will probably be lower in hydration next Friday but I haven't given up yet.

The garden is fading fast out there. The summer really put the big hurt on my peppers and basil this year, two plantings that usually scoff at hot days. It is time to start ripping the under performing plants out and cleaning up so I have less to do later on when the weather is less conducive to working outdoors. The lawn is making a feeble comeback after an application of Milorganite fertilizer and rain on Friday afternoon. We still need a lot more rain to get out of the drought and to soften the ground to make weeding much easier.

Recent visitors to this blog's visitors list have come from S Korea, Egypt, and the Ukraine.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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  1. Just seeing this post today and I wanted to let you know - in fact, Jeffrey does own part of King Arthur Flour, as do all 250+ of us employee-owners! ;-) Happy baking!

    1. Allison, I am simultaneously pleased and flattered that someone from KAF happened upon my obscure corner of the internet. I admit that I should have known about the employee owned aspect of KAF since I've not only used your products, I also make a point of visiting your store in Norwich whenever I visit my parents in Massachusetts.

      My recent visit just before Christmas was great. My wife and I discovered the new and improved layout to be a lot of fun. As usual, I didn't leave without a couple of purchases. How was I to know that there was so much more stuff that I never knew I needed?

      It's a great place to visit with friendly and knowledgeable staff. We look forward to visiting again in October. Should your traveling classes ever pass near the Kansas City area, please give me a heads up before the class fills.