I find that after a few months away from something, I come back to it with a greater clarity of thought. I had gotten burned out with the labor intensiveness of sourdough bread, so I hadn’t touched it in 6 months or so. After I spent a week bringing it back to life, several things were now obvious to me:
1) Spending all day waiting on sourdough to rise is absurd; most often, I couldn’t and ended up stopping at various points in the preparation and slamming the dough in the refrigerator until the next day. Hard to produce a consistent product that way.
2) Trying to mix the dough for one loaf in the mixer is silly; the hook just won’t grab it.
3) Rather than trying to fiddle with the dough to make it conform to the expectations of the recipe, I should make the dough like I want it and adjust my expectations.
So I spiked the dough with a small amount of commercial yeast, just 1/2 %, but that was enough to get a two hour first rise and two hour proof. Although I was able to get a two-hour first rise, I did 3 folds every 30 minutes before I started the clock on the two hours, so it was really 3 1/2 hours. I also did the initial mixing of the dough in the food processor, which took, at most, 10 seconds.
I’ve posted the pics below, and I’m generally pleased with the results. The crumb looks nice, with pretty big holes (maybe too big), not bad for only 67% hydration. The process now happens fast enough that I think I can generate this result every time. No doubt the sourness isn’t as strong with the faster rise, but I prefer a mild taste anyway. If I wanted it stronger, I’m sure I could increase the amount of starter.
Charles, I was just thinking the other day that I hoped you would post some bread photos, and here they are! Your batard looks great and I agree, the crumb is gorgeous and open, especially for a bread with 67% hydration. Sounds like you have achieved a formula and process that suits your tastes, no small feat with sourdough. I appreciate the process of stepping back from something and then returning, all the details and small issues fade and one sees a process with fresh ideas and streamlined priorities.
Have you taken a look at Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish? Perhaps you have already seen it. His book has a number of hybrid (sourdough with IDY) breads in it, and also does a great job of fitting breadmaking to a work schedule, with main steps happening about 12 hours apart.
Have you taken a look at Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish?
Thanks Julie. I just took a look at it on Amazon and it’s a tempting purchase. I refrained only because I can’t decide between a Kindle version or the hardback. The Kindle is very convenient, but I really like having the physical object, too, because they’re so attractive. In at least one bread book, the table of ingredients is very hard to read because it’s an image with small fonts, and zooming only makes it blurry.
One thing I don’t like about my bread results is the lack of contrasting color between the crust and the slashes. I think it’s due to my method of steaming, which requires an inverted hotel pan over the bread for the first 5-10 minutes. While this provides the bread with steam, it also shields it from the radiant heat, so that the crust doesn’t get a head start over the openings during that time frame. When I remove the hotel pan, the slashes are already open, so that everything starts browning at once. I’m wondering if painting the hotel pan black would help, or maybe preheating it along with the pizza stone.
re: FWSY, I did what I do with many cookbooks, request it from our interlibrary loan system and bake from it before deciding whether to buy. I loved the 12 hour schedules, his hand mix/fold technique, the way he formats his ingredient/baker’s percentage tables, and the bacon sourdough recipe, which was my best loaf baked from that book. I am not a huge bacon eater, but that bread was amazing.
I didn’t end up buying the book because it asks the baker to maintain huge quantities of culture/levain and then throw most of it away, and because his sourdough starter is maintained in a way that encourages a stinky, leuconostoc stage in every feed cycle (at least in my kitchen, with my culture, at my ambient temps). I never noticed a problem with that smell carrying over into the finished bread, but I just didn’t enjoy the process when stink was involved :( Finally, all my naturally leavened breads progressed faster than his timetables, which I thought might have been due to the long ferments at 65-68F, temps which I found hard to replicate (below proofer settings, warmer than my house in winter).
re: your loaf with uniform color, I’ve had a few loaves come out this way, but I don’t remember the exact conditions. I’ll try to keep track and see if it is limited to the ones with an aluminum cover (which is how I bake batards and long loaves) versus the boules, which I bake in a dutch oven. I feel like it might be related to water- a lot of steam/water? I’ll keep an eye out an post back.
it asks the baker to maintain huge quantities of culture/levain and then throw most of it away,
I’m probably more attracted to understanding his methodology than trying any of the recipes; I’ve got more recipes than I can ever try right now. I think my time is better spent getting really good at the handful that are most useful to me. The loaf that I just made will last me for a couple of weeks, having frozen it in slices. I just don’t know what I would do with more bread or how I would find the time to bake it. :-(
Although I love bacon, I’m not sure that I could get the motivation to try a bacon bread any more than I could try bacon ice cream. That’s just wrong.
I feel like it might be related to water- a lot of steam/water? I?ll keep an eye out an post back.
Please do. I use a hand steamer to inject quite a bit of steam into the inverted hotel pan, so maybe it’s excessive. I might post the photo on TheFreshLoaf and see what they say.
Malts vary a good bit. This Bob’s brand recommends a lot less than I use but I like strong flavors. http://www.bobsredmill.com/malted-barley-flour.html
The theory of using diastatic malt is that enzymes in the malt convert starch in the flour to simple sugar that the yeast metabolize easier. I haven’t done any studies but I would guess you could expect about a 10-20% speedup.
I made a batch of off the cuff whole wheat sandwich bread recently. I used 100% whole wheat with just malt and one egg yolk for additives. It produced a very pleasant soft loaf and bowl to bake was only about 3 hours.
Gene, I’m with you on adding a source of sugar to breads, whether it’s from diastatic malt, from an overnight autolyse, or just adding a sweetener (sugar, honey, barley malt syrup, etc.), it makes a huge difference in flavor to me. When adding sweeteners, I keep them around 1-2% of flour so that the bread doesn’t come across as sweet. For rye bread in particular, adding a little sugar takes the bread from something I don’t particularly like to one I can’t wait to eat.
I reviewed the three Reinhart books that I have and I don’t see a suggestion that malt would damage the dough. His recipes use tsps and he recommends .5% of flour weight as a general rule. His malt usage seems aimed at the role of minor enhancement. Thems would have to be some mighty powerful enzymes to achieve major effects with those amounts. I like the results I get with tbls but like I said it depends on how strongly flavored the malt product. He does claim malt promotes a darker crust by the way which might give you better slash contrast.
From ‘The Science of Bakery Products’
“An overdose of malt flour will introduce too much enzyme activity in the dough, potentially reducing the product to a sticky syrup. Fungal a-amylase is now much more commonly used than malt flour. However, some malt flour is still used, particularly in wholemeal bread.”
I found some other references that warn of too much a-amylase but no reference that says how much is too much.
Bob’s Red mill recommends 1tsp for every 3 cups of flour for their product. Reinhart say not to exceed 1%. As a guess your recipe uses about 4 cups of flour? That would be a max of @5/8 tbl. Similar to the Bob’s recommendation. I think at these measures a tbl would not ruin your loaf but start with half and let us know if it does anything.
These cautionary discussions only apply to diastatic malt by the way. The maltose in non diastatic malts may have more stimulative effect on your sourdough than the enzymes. In ‘Flour and Breads and their Fortification in Health and Disease Prevention’ I found a discussion that says the LAB in sourdough feed readily on maltose.