First try using the sponge method
Too wet, but promising. Will need second try.
Dedicated to all those who say that if you are not failing, you are not trying hard enough. Also keeping in mind those who counsel to trust your instincts. Instincts trump recipe measurements every time.
The lesson of this bread is that when you suspect a dough is too wet or dry or too something, it is. Every batch of flour is different, the temperature and humidity vary throughout the year, your starter, no matter how healthy, is never quite the same as the last time it was used. Freeing oneself from the confines of ingredient measurements, times, and all manner of instructions is wise; indeed it is a necessity.
The tragedy, okay way too hyperbolic here, the downfall of this dough was not its failure to rise. It rose beautifully. First try at the sponge method went well. However, the dough was too wet. Should have added more flour, either initially upon mixing the dough, or later, when preparing for the second rise.
Also doubled the vital wheat gluten amount from the last bread because the taste was good.
[Jars of starters after graduating from the counter to the fridge.]
What kind of sponge does not clean?
The sponge method basically splits the dough preparation into two phases. The sponge is prepared and set aside either for a few hours or overnight. Most of the ingredients are mixed together - except for the salt and half of the flour. After the sponge is allowed to rise, the salt and remainder of the flour is mixed in.
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 3/8 cups rye flour
1/4 tsp yeast (and/or 1/4 cup starter)
2 tsp vital wheat gluten
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp caraway seeds
Instructions and the unfortunate results on the first try
1. Mix all of the flour and the vital wheat gluten. Set aside in a bowl. Have on hand a kitchen or paper towel.
2. In a separate bowl, take approximately half of the flour mix and add all of the yeast. No need for a precise measure. These will be the dry ingredients for the sponge.
3. In the bowl with the remainder of the flour mix, add and mix the salt. This way, there will be less work when making the dough.
3. Leave the remainder flour/salt mix aside in a bowl and cover with a towel.
Note: If using starter, yeast is optional. Some bakers will make breads with both starter and a little yeast. If using starter, in yet another bowl, mix the starter well with all of the water. An immersion blender would be helpful here.
4. Mix well together the dry and wet ingredients.
5. Cover loosely with plastic or a plastic bag the bowl with the mixture. Let stand for 2 hours to overnight, depending on the temperature of the kitchen. A warmer kitchen will require less time. At this point, for the sponge method, do not at all have the experience to say quite how much time for a cool versus a warm kitchen.
6. At seven hours, I am lazy and want to read in bed without needing to recall that the sponge must at some point be mixed with the rest of the ingredients to make the dough. Decide to mix - adding to the sponge the flour/salt mix and the caraway seeds. Left out overnight, covered loosely with plastic.
7. At 11 hours, this dough has risen very well, but seems like it might rise more. Put in fridge at 11 1/2 hours. Left the dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
8. The trouble begins. Sprinkle the dough with flour. Flour my hands and a cutting board. Notice that while taking the dough out, it is very, very wet. Yet hesitated to add too much flour. Did the stretch and fold and left covered loosely with plastic for 15 minutes. [Stretch and fold: Stretch dough on board in as much of a rectangle as possible (think 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper) and then do a tri-partite envelope fold. After, fold in the other direction in half. Cover loosely with plastic. Let sit for 15 minutes.]
9. Place dough in well-floured bowl for 60 to 90 minutes. Place top of la cloche on baking stone in the oven. Heat oven to 500 degrees.
10. On the first try of this recipe, during this pre-baking ruse, mine does not rise; rather it spreads. It spreads so much that I am distracted and forget to add caraway seeds for the crust. Panic sets in.
11. As the dough was wet, placed parchment paper on the baking peel. Dumped the wet dough onto the parchment paper. Not looking good.
12. Forget to put on the kitchen timer. At what seemed like 30 minutes, bread is almost done. Afraid to keep the oven too hot. Reduced to 420 degrees. Removed parchment paper from bottom of bread, and left it in the oven for only another four minutes as the crust appeared done.
Also forgot to add the caraway seeds to the top of the dough or to slash it. Those starters I was concentrating on were quite distracting.
Do not even need to taste to know that this wet, fallen dough did not turn into a beautiful, delicious bread. Will taste anyway.
P.S. Actually, though the bread did fall and was nowhere near light and airy, the interior crumb was promising and it was quite tasty. Not bad for a disaster.
[Photo of previous bread. I remembered to add the caraway seeds.]
P.P.S. Now that the starters are healthy and growing, it is possible that will not repeat this recipe with commercial yeast, but will proceed with a starter. Very exciting, at least to anyone with a keen interest in bread making.