Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Hand Made Sourdough Loaf

Two loaves in a row can best be described as kind of "meh". It's not that they tasted bad but I was less than excited with the appearance.The first one was a lean sourdough with about 28 g of wheat bran added in a soaker format. I'm not sure whether an addition of active dry yeast in the final dough would have produced a better oven spring or not but I doubt it would've hurt.However, I ran out of wheat bran on that loaf so it may be a while before I experiment with that again.
This second loaf was a sourdough pan loaf with a bulgur soaker. I used 60 g, about 16% of the flour weight, 42 g of water, and a smidgeon of salt for the soaker. The hydration ended up at 68% and would have been a bit taller with some ADY thrown in. The bulgur left a soft sweetness in the crumb and added an interesting texture on the crust.I suspect that I'll revisit this bread in the next few months because I've got a lot of bulgur in one of my freezers.

Lately, I've been reading a lot about making bread with as few gadgets and tools as possible. The trend started after I bought "Baking by Hand" by A & J King. "In Search of the Perfect Loaf" by S Fromartz kept the ball rolling. I really enjoyed that one even though it's not a bread baking book per se. Mr Fromartz does include some recipes which look promising but it was the details and descriptions of how he made bread that were fun to read. Once upon a time, he too was a raggedy home baker.

The books got my enthusiasm up so when I dug out my starter stock from the fridge to bake a sourdough crust pizza, I built a little extra to feed a starter for this loaf and to continue the supply.

By the time I was ready to pre-shape the dough for this loaf, I noticed that it was cooler the room temperature. I have no explanation for that and no reason to suspect that my using a wooden mixing bowl would be the cause. In any case, I shaped and put the dough in my oval banneton for five hours in the fridge. My curiosity got to me at about 5AM so I put the loaf on the counter to warm up and finish proofing. That still took six hours.

My confidence in using this hand made loaf method has been restored because this loaf is one of the best I've done for a while. We agonized through seven hours of waiting before slicing and were richly rewarded. The crust was firm but not shattering and left a great taste in our mouths after chewing. The crumb was really moist even though my hydration estimates have it around 70%, maybe a little less. I have the starter for another loaf using the same procedures building up presently. This will take some time to master for consistent results and though it seems easy to me right now, I suspect that proper technique is paramount. If I can learn this well, I should be able to teach the technique in a casual classroom situation.

150 g at 100% hydration,
75% organic AP/25% WWW

Main Dough
288 g bread flour
72 g home milled white whole wheat
220 g water at 85F
All of starter
8 g kosher salt
1 Tbsp organic honey

As the days grow shorter, the plants in the yard are fading fast, and the nights are getting cooler. That last aspect has become a problem for the neighborhood. The local red squirrels have taken to warming themselves during the nighttime on the top of power transformers, including the one in my front yard. The unfortunate result of this is that some of them are making themselves into electrical conductors as they climb around the transformers. Their careers as conductors are spectacularly short in that they end up electrocuting themselves. The local electrical utility, Westar, has tried to put shields in place to stop the death wish gestures of our furry friends, but they persist. Fortunately, the local feline population have been removing the singed remains of the victims.  

The last picture in today's post includes my 5 liter colander full of chile de arbol peppers from this year's overachieving plant. I only picked the peppers that were at 2 1/2" long and even then, I estimate I had well over 200 in the colander.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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