Puffy and pretty
Excited to have a beautiful, bubbly, puffy starter again, I made a bread out of a dough that was seconds away from being thrown into the compost as a mistake. Instead, following those bread instincts, I helped create a nice whole wheat bread, adjusted in pretty major respects from the 75 percent whole wheat recipe in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. Enjoyed a few slices for breakfast the next morning. Recipe below. I have to admit I followed the recipe - commercial yeast included - the first time I made it, before the starter was back to its old self. I decided not to count this as another bread in the 108 bread series because I have made many whole wheat breads. I changed my mind because it was a departure in terms of how it was made.
This recipe was adjusted for sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast, adjusted for timing so that I could make it during the week, and adjusted for a barely risen dough that after 22 hours in the fridge looked like it was not going to turn into a lovely bread. I did do the three stretch and folds recommended. This venture turned into a three-day bread.
Tried the recipe three times and the improved taste from earlier lackluster whole wheats, I believe, is the better quality flour, though it is more expensive and comes in small packages. Funny how that works. First time, not good, but promising. Second time, described below, pulled a good bread out of disaster. Third time, baked longer and produced a nice bread. A solid, tasty bread, but recipe is no star.
375g whole wheat flour
50g bread flour
Turns out to be 80 percent hydration, figuring a 100 percent hydration starter. I admit that's a guess; I do not actually weigh the flour and water when I feed my starter.
Made this bread three times, each ever so slighty differently in terms of whether refrigerated or not and in terms of rising times. [Photo of another random mosaic. I like mosaics. I am superstitious lately about photographing any pre-ferments or doughs, as if the bread will actually be affected by something as totally unrelated as using my camera.]
Mixed the flours and water for an autolyse phase (see Glossary). Covered and let sit for 20 minutes.
Mixed in the starter and the salt. Mix thoroughly. The starter was supposed to be 150 grams, but a few more grams fell in.
Over the course of the first hour, I did three stretch and folds. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before first stretch and fold. Do them over the course of an hour or hour and a half. I waited 20 minutes between each stretch and fold. The dough is somewhat sticky, but not bad. It should not stick more than a little to your hands and less as you get to the last stretch and fold.
After the last stretch and fold, I put the dough back in the bowl, covered the bowl and put the dough in the refrigerator. That's the mistake right there. The recipe called for at least a few hours for the dough to rise on the counter and that is what this dough needed. I kept weighing in my mind whether overnight would be too much time and whether I would end up losing the dough. Why does that always seem like such a terrible outcome? In the fridge, the dough spread, but did not rise.
On the evening of the second day (not meaning to echo the rhythm of Genesis), at 21.5 hours of dough fridge time, I took out the dough, did a stretch and fold, with the expectation of baking that night, and left the dough covered for 15 minutes. I shaped and left the dough covered for another 90 minutes. Not even the semblance of rising.
I was ready to throw out the dough. Instead, since this seemed like a completely lost cause anyway, I left the dough covered out on the counter all night.
By morning, the dough rose some and had a good number of respectable bubbles. As a regular working person who cannot drop everything to tend to doughs, much as I would like to whenever a dough needs assistance, I put the nicer looking dough in the refrigerator until I walked in the door after work. That turned out to be after dinner, a total of 11 hours.
I preheated the oven to 500 degrees and put the top of the la cloche in the oven as well, right on the baking peel, which generally just stays in the oven. I shaped the dough, covered it and left it on a cutting board for an hour. Truth be told, I needed flour on my hands, the cutting board and a little on the dough itself as it was on the stickier side. One hour later: The dough had spread more out than up. Expectations were very low.
The only sign of hope was the result of the dent test. Denting the dough with a clean finger, it only partially sprang back. Sprang is way too active a word for movement of the tiny area of dough referred to. I then did a bit of a reshape to the now spread-out dough (not quite as spread out as a pancake, but with little structural integrity for something one expects to soon turn into a lovely bread).
Concession to bit of hope
I guess there was a glimmer, a spark, if you will, of hope conceded because I used the lame to make the cross-shaped slit on top (okay, yes, I think of this as the Jesus slit) and quickly put the dough in and the top of the la cloche on it. I used parchment paper on the bottom of the dough because I can be a wuss about the fear of sticky dough being ruined just as I am ready to slide it into the oven.
Right away, I reduced the oven temperature to 475 degrees. Total oven time at 475 degrees was 39 minutes. (Read below: Changed this the next time around.)
And what happened?
I opened the oven door after a half hour to remove the top of the la cloche and the parchment paper. Whoa, nice oven spring, I exclaimed to myself. Nine minutes later, the bread was ready (thank you oven thermometer for your precision) and not only was it beautiful, thanks to my resuscitated starter, but it made wonderful crackling noises for anyone willing to listen carefully in a quiet room. That would be me.
And this bread had a lovely slightly sour taste the next morning when I ate some slices for breakfast. Delicious. Much pride and a smile.
Third time around
Again, three days in the making, but allowed the dough to rise this time before putting it in the fridge for 36 hours. Forgot to do the autolyse, so I did an extra stretch and fold. Really, a prize baker I could never be; not inclined for the detailed organization one would need on an instinctive level. Breath. Accept myself.
Shaped and baked right out of the refrigerator without a final rise. I think the bread would have risen a little more with an hour and a half of resting time before baking. Baked this time at 500 degrees for 44 minutes and improved from the last time. Nice oven spring, a beautiful appearance and a tasty bread. A bit squishy in the middle because it needed that final rise. Really kicking myself for that one. There could be a fourth try of this recipe to get the best out of it. IF I do that, I will change the post completely so that it is not a rambling, and-then-I-did-this-and-then-I-did-that bore.
Bread #58 finally came together when I cut out the refrigeration from the equation and remembered to start with an autolyse phase. I still felt (1) my final rise was too long at an hour and 15 minutes, and (2) perhaps did not need that extra stretch and fold before shaping, but the dough was beautiful and strong - at 75 percent whole wheat. An accomplishment. The disadvantage of this bread is that it really needs a whole day. I could adjust with a much smaller amount of starter for an overnight rise, but I would have to run around like a crazy person in the morning for a final rise, heating the oven, and baking before leaving for work. Not going to happen. Or I can adjust for an overnight rise, shaping, fridge storage, and final rise after work. Doable.