Since my baking got serious lately, meaning that I bake minimum once a week, most of the times two or three times, I thought it might be useful and nice to open a blog here and share with you my successes and especially my problems regarding bread.
Two months ago I've managed to grow a sourdough culture and since then I just cannot stop baking anymore. I was baking bread (with commercial yeast ) before too, since many years, but I was always improvising with it, I was never counting quantities and the bread was never allowed to rise for more than one hour. They were good these breads, but nothing special compared to the breads I am baking now.
Then one year ago, I discovered Peter Reinhart and I started baking breads that require a long time from mixing the preferment and till the actual baking. I began finding out about shaping and cold fermentation and I also began working with wetter doughs, sticky doughs, which were so unusual for me at the beginning. Since then I tried more times to grow a sourdough culture, but till this May I didn't manage. Maybe the cold, wet weather in Berlin, where I live at the moment, was a hindrance. This last time, I had also discovered Codruta's Romanian blog, so I decided to follow her (very thorough) explanations for building a culture, and thus I was finally succesful.
Anyway, here I am now, madly in love with sourdough breads, wanting to try everything, to learn everything, impatient to become very good at baking bread.
Yesterday I baked two breads. The first one was an olive levain, using Codruta's recipe, who adapted Pip's one. I didn't change or adapt anything, because I wasn't at all used to making breads which have things (other than seeds) inside, so I didn't know what to expect. I just added dried oregano instead of the mix of dried herbs and I increased the quantity of olives from 250 g to 275 g. The bread came out very good, it's smell while in the oven was absolutely intoxicating and I am pretty sure I am gonna want to make this bread over and over again from now on.
The only thing I could object to it was the fact that here and there it was bitter, and that was because the olives were probably not quite right. I am not used to Kalamata olives, I almost never ate them raw, so I don't know exactly know how bitter they should be. I will keep trying brands of Kalamata olives and I hope that I will manage to soon find the ones that are perfect for me. Anyway, all in all, even this occasional bitterness doesn't make this less than a great bread to me.
The other bread that I tried was Hamelman Dried Prune and Hazelnut Bread (P. 185). Since I love dried prunes, I decided to give it a try. I followed the recipe, the only thing that I changed was eliminating the commercial yeast from the formula. Consequently I fermented it longer. (2 hours bulk fermentation at around 25 degrees; 20 minutes shape/preshape; 8 hours in the fridge at around 10-12 degrees; and another 45 minutes at room temperature before baking).
I cut each prune in 5-6 smaller pieces, nonetheless I encountered the same problem as Codruta, the fruits were not evenly distributed, there were many slices without any prune at all in them. I think that with this quantity of prunes there is no way that they appear in every slice. I am gonna try next time to increase the quantity of prunes and decrease the hazelnuts one and see if it gets better.
Also many hazelnuts fell out from the bread while I was slicing it. I don't know if I did something wrong, if the nuts were not the proper ones or if it's normal that this happens.
I liked this bread too, I ate a couple of slices just like that, trying to get acquainted with this new combination flavors. When you bite from the parts that have also the chunks of prunes inside, you might get tricked and expect it to be a sweet rich bread, but then you go biting again and you realize that this is really a bread, not a sweet. The next thing that came into my mind was the image of some nice cheese accompanying it and a glass of good dry red wine next to it.
I wish you all a lot of joy with your baking!