Monday, February 23, 2015

Spelt favorite: hot vs. cold kitchen

Kvetching in the cold
I have been sleeping with socks, undershirt, thick fleece pajamas, and even, last night, a scarf. Our old house is good to about 25 degrees, okay at 20, but not fit for single digits and zero-degree temperatures. Not at night with the heat turned down. Not with 1928 windows. Yesterday, I put the rising dough next to the warm oven just to give it a few extra degrees of warmth. Maybe I just wanted to keep checking it so I could stand in the  warmest spot in the house.

I made my favorite spelt bread - bread #34 - with adjustments for the cold winter in which we find ourselves - luckily not in the six feet of snow of Boston or in the relentless freezing tundra of Chicago, but in Washington, DC (one block away), where the weather reporter tells you to bundle up at 30 degrees. The last time I made this bread it was 80 degrees in the still of the night and 95 or 100 during the day, a whole different experience. [Photo should say cold vs. hot kitchen, but wishful thinking took over.]

Temperature down, starter amount up
I quintupled the amount of the starter from 10 grams to 50. This time, the dough took longer to rise in a kitchen that was probably 65 to 70 degrees (next to that warm oven), but not much longer - 12.5 hours in the summer kitchen with 10 grams of starter vs. 13.25 hours in the winter kitchen with 50 grams of starter. I adjusted the flour and water accordingly.

Snowing again, but changing to sleet. Looks like North Dakota out my window. 

Temperature up, motivation up
Yeah! 24 hours later, we are up to the freezing mark. The house feels warmer. Layers are shed. I wake and remove the dough from the fridge to begin baking preparation with a stretch and fold. Yes, only a one day respite before normal winter set in again, but we had hours of 56 degrees and sunshine. Shoveled snow in a t-shirt.
275g water
51g starter
425g spelt flour
10g salt
optional sesame seeds

Kind of autolyse
Mixed the starter, flour and water. Covered. Left for half hour, really due to my own timing needs rather than any reason of dough development. I say "kind of autolyse" because an autolyse should only be flour and water. But with sourdough starter that is only flour, water, and the friendly bacteria that reside in the jar, I figured this was not too much heresy.

Add salt to the dough and mix throughly. Do two stretch and folds, the first at 15 minutes and the second fifteen minutes after that. Cover and leave dough on counter for the first rise, or, as others call it, bulk fermentation.

The kitchen was somewhat cool throughout the day, so even with a few hours of a warmer kitchen in the late afternoon (while baking another bread),this dough took a long time to rise. I left it out for 13.45 hours. At that point, I was tired; it was very late. 10:30 p.m. - the 20-year-old me would be judging. I did not have any interest in staying awake for another couple of hours, so in the fridge went the dough. 

Due to errands, shoveling of a new few inches of snow, and having some friends over, I kept that dough in the fridge for more than a day, for 34 hours to be exact. By now it was Sunday morning. 

Baking preparation
Same as before. A stretch and fold, though I had to be quite gentle because the dough ripped pretty easily and did not want to have that. Used plenty of flour on the cutting board so the dough would not stick. Covered and left for 15 minutes. Shaped into a oval-ish boule and left covered on the cutting board for 75 minutes. I checked at one hour, but the dough did not respond at all to the dent test. Did not pop back at all.

Nervous because dough spread. Will there be oven spring?

At an expected one hour prior to expected baking time, turned out to be 75 minutes out, I preheated the oven to 455 degrees with the top of the la cloche and the baking stone. 

Prior to placing, okay plopping, the dough onto the baking stone, I did a cross slash on top, sprinkled with water and then sprinkled generously with sesame seeds. I quickly plopped the dough and covered it with the top of the la cloche. Total oven time of 36 minutes, covered the whole time.

Yummmmm .... mmmy  
Lovely oven spring and oh so delicious. Love spelt and love the sesame seed taste in the crunch of the crust. So, so good. Could not stop eating it. Still in love with this bread and happy it was easy to adjust from summer to winter by playing with starter amount and timing.

P.S. For the first time, our local Whole Foods had einkorn flour. Though it is just five or six weeks before Passover, when I should be thinking of finishing bags of flour, and though I already have plenty of flour in the house, I wanted to express my support for the store carrying this flour, and bought it.

P.P.S. Next up is a beer bread, though at this moment its integrity depends on my sleepy daughter calling me from home before she trots off to work, texting a photo of the dough (insufficiently risen when I left for work this morning), and my making the decision of whether to go for the fridge or leave the dough out for several more hours, until early evening. Do not want to waste a bottle of Brooklyn lager or a good dough, but you never know what surprise awaits when you take a risk.

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