Tried not to buy more stuff
I don't want more kitchen stuff, whether appliances or cookware. I don't even have anything larger than a tiny hand mixer I received as a holiday gift about 15 years ago. No bannetons, no proofing boxes. Not a saint, though. I cannot exist in the kitchen without my pretty dough bowl and Danish whisk. Yes, and two la cloches, round and oblong. And a baking stone. Those are necessities.
I finally broke down and purchased a dutch oven. I kept hearing about how wonderful dutch oven breads are and I had to find out for myself. Plus, I rationalized, a dutch oven is a versatile tool and useful beyond baking. I bought the Emile Henry from breadtopia because it is lighter than cast iron and it was on sale, with a bonus of a cyber Monday deal.
Dutch oven delivers on first try with farmers market whole wheat
The dutch oven was magical right out of the box. I am sure it helped to use good, freshly milled flour that I froze recently right after purchase at a farmers market. I'm sure I benefited from tweaking an already good recipe. I am sure the decision to leave the bread baking uncovered for the last 11 minutes - which produced a divine crust that would tempt any immortal to come to earth just for a bite - made a big contribution to the overall taste.
Still, this 80 percent whole wheat bread is so good I am actually daydreaming about returning home right now to eat more. How good? OMG amazing.
This is my best bread in a while. I suspected that I had become so accustomed to good breads that nothing could taste exciting anymore. A nice byproduct of the 108 quest is that I am forcing myself to try new methods, flours, equipment and ingredients. I am thankful for making the choice to bake so many new breads and for the mouth-watering surprises along the way. Even thankful for the mistakes. (The blue cornbread rolls come immediately to mind.)
84g starter at 65 percent hydration
440g whole wheat flour freshly milled, bought the next day at the farmers market and frozen for the past two weeks
68g bread flour
200g whole wheat flour described above
Mixed the sponge ingredients well and covered. Put in fridge overnight.
Odd amount of starter was due to the fact that I was getting so low that I was starting to scrape the bottom of the starter jar. I made due with less starter and added a bit more flour and water to the final dough. I did not really have to add more time to the sponge stage - on day 2 - because the kitchen warmth made up for the slightly less than 100 grams of starter I would normally have put in.
240g whole wheat flour described above
68g bread flour
Day 2 morning - Go to the refrigerator. Take out the sponge and leave out all day on the kitchen counter. I have done this in all seasons. Just make sure the kitchen is not cold all day. In the summer, I put the sponge in the basement so it will not be in a hot, humid kitchen for hours.
Day 2 evening - Mix the sponge and the final dough ingredients. Cover and let rest on the kitchen counter. Do four stretch and folds over the next hour to hour and a half. I usually do one about every 15 minutes. Afterward, shape the dough, cover, and put in the fridge for the next 18 to 30 hours. Generally, I am in the 22 to 24 hour range.
I did end up adding some extra water right after mixing the dough, which is reflected in the amounts listed above, but nowhere near where I thought this dough would need considering that it was 80 percent whole wheat. Not sure if this was a weird batch of whole wheat flour or particular to the local wheat that was grown.
This time around I was very happy with the dough strength. Much better than bread #61.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees because the dutch oven instructions said it was good up to 480 degrees. Let the dutch oven and the oven itself heat up for an hour prior to baking.
Open hot oven. Use oven mitts and pot holders to remove amazingly hot dutch oven cover. Dump dough into the hot dutch oven and quickly do a nice slash (or design) on the lid of the dough. Remember to put back on the mitts and use those pot holders to replace the still burning hot lid. Close the oven and pray. I prayed hard because my aim was not perfect and the dough was plopped against one side of the dutch oven.
I put the timer on for a half hour.
Tick tock, tick tock.
Remove the lid of the dutch oven. Be careful; it's very hot. Leave in for 10 to 15 minutes more. Mine took 11 minutes and I used my thermometer to get the internal temperature to make sure the bread was ready. It fell right out of the dutch oven when I turned it over. As I let the bread cool, I could hear those little crinkly sounds coming from it.
Total baking time: 41 minutes. What a beautiful bread.
Ate slices of the bread the next morning for breakfast. OMG amazing! Possibly the best - or near to it - bread I have ever made. What a great decision to remove the lid. I have not done this enough lately. The crust developed so nicely. Incredible taste. Really magnificent, especially considering how this is an 80 percent whole wheat bread.
Later in the week
I have eaten the bread for breakfast ever since baking it.
This bread is the reason for homemade anything: to make something wonderful from scratch, to watch the raw ingredients transform and to taste the incredible results. To think that my starter, some local grain, water, and a bit of salt came together for this luscious treat. I feel proud that I had a hand in it and that I get to be one of the lucky few to eat it.