The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

bwraith's blog

  • Pin It
bwraith's picture
bwraith

Essential's Columbia 

Essential Columbia Loaves

Essential Columbia Crust and Crumb

Essential Columbia Crumb

I've been prodded by a certain TFL friend (username starts with "Z") to do this recipe, and I finally got around to it. I have to say it's too bad this didn't happen sooner. The recipe is just excellent. I've included some photos of the process and a spreadsheet of the recipe I used.

The recipe I followed is almost exactly as specified in Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer on pages 82-83 except I doubled the recipe and made 4 loaves. I used Wheat Montana AP in place of the bread flour and KA Organic AP in place of the AP flour in the recipe. I made the firm levain using 36g of my 90% hydration starter in 321g of Wheat Montana AP and  197g of water. The inoculation is slightly lower, and I'm starting with a somewhat higher hydration storage starter, since that's what I had on hand. I made the inoculation lower than what is specified to gain a few hours in my overnight levain fermentation, since I knew the dough would not be mixed for about a full 12 hours after the levain was mixed.

I kneaded the dough by hand using the suggested Glezer technique of working up and down the dough squeezing it and extruding it through my fingers. I also did some of her folding motions The slashing was easy, since this bread is only at about 65% hydration or so. I had to add a little more water because the Wheat Montana AP seems to absorb a little more water, but it is a firm, fairly dry dough. The flavor with the toasted wheat germ, whole wheat (I used Wheat Montana Bronze Chief), and whole rye was outstanding. The firm levain was just peaked when I used it, and the smells coming out of it were very pleasant when I added it to the dough.

I had a little trouble with the shaping stage. The dough was very gassy, even though I stopped the bulk fermentation after 3 hours, before it had doubled, as specified. As I shaped the first one, it just seemed like the dough needed to be deflated or I would have gigantic holes in it, so I did aggressively pat down the loaves, form them into rough ovals and let them relax a few minutes before forming batards.

I've been experimenting with my newly installed outdoor brick oven, which has been a bit tricky to figure out. I scorched the bottoms of these loaves a little, so a couple of extra moppings of the oven floor may help to cool down the hearth just enough. The temperature of the dome and air seemed good, as all but the bottoms seemed to come out nicely baked with the firing I gave it this time, which gets the hearth up to about 530F, the air temperature to about 450F, and the dome up around 600F. Those are just the temperatures right after firing. Then, I turn off the fire, let the oven cool with the metal door in place, and mop the hearth floor before starting to bake. I have been especially pleased with the ability to steam the oven with a garden spray mister and seal it with a wet, towel covered wooden door. The crusts are coming out great this way, and the freedom to do larger amounts all at once adds some fun to the whole process. Being outdoors while baking is pleasant too, but I'm not sure what will happen in the winter.

The other bonus of the brick oven has been that the retained heat can be used to cook an entire very delicious roasted dinner. For example, after baking I've done lobsters, corn-on-the-cob, and asparagus, and roast leg-of-lamb, candied yams, and roast cabbage, and roast chickens, roasted halved potatoes, and garlic heads. So, you can enjoy a whole afternoon of baking and cooking from firing the oven one time before baking.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Many thanks to Susanfnp for posting a great sourdough bagel recipe based on Nancy Silverton's bagel recipe. She also provided a number of key tips as I made these. I posted photos of the first time I did these, and now I have some photos of my second attempt, as well as a spreadsheet with more details such as bakers percentages and preferment percentages.

Sourdough Bagel Recipe (revisited version)

Ingredients:

  • 335 grams (12 oz) 90% hydration white flour starter
  • 20 grams (0.6 oz) sugar
  • 12 grams (0.4 oz) malt syrup
  • 14 grams (0.6 oz) salt (I made salt bagels, so the salt in the dough is reduced to avoid too much salty flavor. Use 17 grams salt normally)
  • 2.8 grams (0.1 oz) instant yeast
  • 359 grams (12.5 oz) water
  • 186 grams (6.5 oz) first clear flour (I used KA First Clear Flour. Substitute a high ash or whole grain flour - maybe rye, whole wheat, Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo, or just use white flour)
  • 587 grams (20.5 oz) high gluten flour (I used KA Sir Lancelot High Gluten Flour. Substitute bread flour or other high protein white flour.) This time I corrected an error in the previous version and made the hydration lower, probably around 56%, which unexpectedly made the bagel dough stiff enough that it was a bit more difficult to shape the bagels. However, I used Susanfnp's suggestion to spray the surface of each 3 oz piece with a fine mist before shaping. This makes a world of difference.

Mix Dough - Day Before Baking

I had to mix and knead these by hand, since I have no mixer in this house. While reading the Nancy Silverton recipe, the idea seems to be to get a very stiff dough. I mixed all the dry ingredients in one bowl. I mixed the water, levain, and malt syrup in another bowl and then poured the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Using a dough scraper I worked around the bowl a few times to get the ingredients initially mixed. I then vigorously kneaded the dough, using a traditional squeeze and fold kneading technique. This was not so easy with the stiff dough, but after about 5 minutes, the dough started to become elastic and fairly smooth, even if very stiff. After a few more minutes, the dough seemed fairly similar to what I had with the mixer in my first attempt at this recipe, documented in a previous blog entry. Since the dough is so dry, there is no need for dusting the counter with flour. In fact, you should avoid any extra flour, as the dusting can interfere with the smooth sheen of a proper bagel.

Shaping

Divide the dough into about 18 3 ounce pieces. Since the dough is so dry, it may develop a dry skin fairly quickly, so proceed smartly to the shaping stage. Don't dilly dally at this point, as the dough pieces will become too puffy quickly if they are allowed to sit at room temperature for very long. However, the pieces need to rest a short time, maybe 5 to 10 minutes, so that the gluten will be relaxed enough to shape the bagels.

I was more experienced and faster at shaping this time. The first batch of nine was placed on a jelly roll sheet, and immediately refrigerated. I discovered the next day that the first batch needed to rest on the counter for about 1/2 hour to ferment enough to come to the surface while boiling. The second batch, which had risen a while longer, was ready for boiling immediately out of the refrigerator the next morning.

If you have a fine mist spray (I have an atomizer meant for olive oil that I use for water), you can make shaping easier and avoid the dry skin, particularly on the pieces you shape last, by spraying a tiny amount of water on the pieces before you shape them.

To form the bagels, roll out an 8 inch rope shape with your palms. If the dough is too stiff or you make a mistake and want to start over, let that piece rest a few more minutes, and move to the next piece. Take the 8 inch rope and hold it between your palm and your thumb. Wrap the rope around your hand and bring the other end together with the end you are holding between your palm and thumb. You now have a "rope bracelet" wrapped around your hand. Rub the seams together on the counter to seal them, then take off the bracelet, which should look a lot like a bagel, hopefully. Stretch it out so you have a large 2.5 inch hole. It looks big, but it will shrink or even disappear as the dough rises during boiling and baking. The hole needs to be big looking compared to a normal bagel.

Place the bagels on parchment dusted with semolina flour on a sheet.

This time I used coarse corn meal, as I had no semolina available. This worked fine and seemed to make no difference to my results.

Cover with saran or foil or place the whole sheet in an extra large food storage bag (XL Ziploc is what I'm thinking here). The idea is to lock in moisture to avoid any dry skin forming yet allow room for some slight expansion as they puff up. Place the sheets in the refrigerator to retard overnight.

Boiling

Bring 5 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda in a good sized stock pot to a boil. Place a bagel in the pot and make sure it floats to the top. If so, you can do 4-6 bagels at one time. They should only be in the water for about 20 seconds. Push them under periodically with a wooden spoon, so the tops are submerged for a few seconds. In my case, I never managed to get the bagels out before about 30 seconds were up, but they came out fine. If the test bagel won't float, lift it out with a slotted spoon, and gently place on a rack to dry and allow the bagels you have removed from the refrigerator (I did 6 of them at a time) to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes and try again.

In fact, the batch I had shaped first the night before did sink to the bottom when I tested one. So, I left the first batch out for about 1/2 hour before it was ready. I then put them back in the refrigerator, since the baking and boiling process for the other batch was extending beyond 1/2 hour. I could tell the first batch was beginning to be ready, since I could detect a very slight puffiness in them after 1/2 hour.

The first batch floated immediately out of the refrigerator, probably because my second batch were formed and shaped after a rest of about 20 minutes while I was working on the first nine the previous night. Except for letting the first batch rise on the counter for 1/2 hour, I kept the bagels waiting to be boiled in the refrigerator to avoid any excessive rising. If you let them rise very much, they will puff excessively and become more like a bun than a bagel.

Dip in Seeds

Make plates of seed beds. I made three seed beds. One was 2 parts caraway seed, 1 part anise seed, and a pinch of salt. Another was 2 parts dill seed, 1 part fennel seed, and a pinch of salt. The last was poppy seed and a pinch of salt. I also made salt bagels, but those were done by just sprinkling a little kosher salt on some of them with my fingers.

Right after the bagels are removed from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, place them on a rack to cool for a few seconds. After they have cooled of slightly and dried enough not to ruin the seed bed with too much wetness, pick one up and place it round side down (the tops down), and gently press them into the seed bed. Pick them up and place them right side up on a sheet lined with parchment paper and dusted lightly with semolina flour or coarse corn meal.

This time I made only salt bagels. It wasn't convenient to get seeds, and my kids and I both love the salt bagels anyway. I just sprinkled a very, very light layer of kosher salt on them with my fingers while they were sitting on a rack just after they were boiled. The salt sticks to the wet surface, so you don't need to do anything but just sprinkle the salt on them. Careful, you can definitely put too much salt on them, even if you use a somewhat smaller amount of salt in the dough, as I did in this case.

Baking

Preheat the oven to about 400F. No preheat may work, but I'm not sure. It seems easy, from my limited experience, for them to rise too much. The result will be an open bread-like crumb, instead of the very chewy, more dense crumb expected in a bagel. So, I didn't risk a no-preheat strategy in this case.

If you have a stone, you can transfer the parchment paper on a peel to the stone and bake directly on the stone. I baked them for about 20 minutes at 400F. You can also bake them on the sheet.

Cool

Allow the bagels to cool.

Results

The bagels were chewy and delicious, as they were last time. However, I think the lower hydration was a definite improvement. I succeeded in getting a stiffer, drier dough this time. They had less tendency to rise excessively, even though I let them sit on the counter a little longer than last time. The resulting crumb was a little more dense and seemed just like the real thing this time. Last time, the slightly higher hydration gave me a slightly more open crumb, which seemed just a hair too soft and open like ordinary bread. This time, the crumb was dense and chewy and just right for a bagel.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Whole Grain Sourdough Sandwich Bread Loaves


This bread is an attempt to improve on the results from a previous blog entry. This one also has a spelt levain, but it was designed to rise overnight with only a small quantity of 90% hydration white flour starter added. The levain was added to the dough when it was not very ripe, before it had peaked and dipped. The percentage of fermented flour is about 32%, but the less ripe starter results in flavor and dough handling more like what you would expect if you used a lower percentage of fermented flour. The whole spelt flour contributes a characteristic nutty, slightly sweet flavor to the bread. I was very happy with the flavor resulting from this combination of flours and plan to use it more often for this bread and for my favorite mixed grain miche recipe. The hydration is about 83%, which for a whole grain bread is not enough to make it very wet or difficult to handle. However, it is a slightly slack and sticky dough. It should spread out only a little bit after sitting on the counter, not like a very wet ciabatta dough that might spread out more quickly and more or less pour out of the bowl until it has been folded more.


Whole Grain Sourdough Sandwich Bread Crumb


I have posted some photos, videos of my version of doing a "French Fold" and of periodic "Folding" during bulk fermentation, and also a spreadsheet with some further information such as baker's percentages, fermented flour percentages, and hydration.


Ingredients:


Firm Levain:



  • 90% hydration storage starter 11g (0.4 oz) (use any healthy active sourdough starter here, ideally contributing the same amount of fermented flour, e.g. use more like 9 grams of 60% hydration firm starter)

  • whole spelt flour 298g (10.5 oz)

  • water 184g (6.5 oz)


Overnight Soak Ingredients:



  • malt syrup 40g (1.4 oz)

  • diastatic malt powder 5g (.16 oz)

  • whole red wheat flour 397g (14 oz)

  • whole white wheat flour 170g (6 oz)

  • KA rye blend 57g (2 oz)

  • water 581g (20.5 oz)


Final Dough Ingredients:



  • overnight soak from above

  • firm levain from above

  • salt 17g (.6 oz)

  • olive oil 28g (1 oz)


Levain


Mix levain ingredients the night before you plan to bake. The levain is designed to rise by about double in 10 hours at a temperature of 75F. Adjust accordingly if you have different temperatures. It is not a problem if the levain rises by more than double or peaks and dips. However, if it is allowed to ripen too much, you may experience a sluggish rise or other symptoms similar to overproofing sourdough, since the amount of fermented flour contributed by this recipe is fairly high. I added this levain when it had a little more than doubled, but it was clearly not at its peak yet.


Overnight Soak


Mix all the flour and other dry ingredients for the overnight soak together well, so they are fully integrated and uniformly distributed. Mix the malt syrup and water so that the malt syrup is fully dissolved and well distributed in the water. Pour the water into the bowl and use a dough scraper to work around the bowl and mix the flour and water well enough to fully and uniformly hydrate the flour. This should be very easy and take only a couple of minutes of mixing. You can also use a mixer, but use very slow settings and do not overdo it. The idea is to just mix the ingredients. Cover and put in the refrigerator.


Mix Final Dough (next morning)


Chop up the levain into small pieces about the size of marshmallows. Wet your hands and rub the counter with water. Pour the dough from the overnight soak out onto the counter and spread it out like a pizza. Distribute the pieces of levain evenly across the dough. Press them in with the heel of you hand. Roll up the dough in one direction, then the other. Allow it to rest for a few minutes. Again wet your hands and the counter if it needs it. Spread out the dough again like a pizza. Evenly spread the salt and the oil over the surface of the dough and press it into the dough again with the heel of your hand. Roll up the dough in one direction, then the other. Let it rest a few minutes. Spread it out one more time like a pizza. Work across the dough pressing the heels of your hands deep into the dough to integrate any oil and salt that may not have already been well integrated into the dough. Roll up the dough in one direction, then the other.


Let rest for 15 minutes.


Do two or three "French Folds", as shown in the video. Note that this is a good technique for developing the gluten in a wet dough that may not respond well to conventional kneading. Also, note, when I say two or three, I mean literally about 10 seconds, like two repetitions of the motion, as shown in the video. That is all the "kneading" that was done to make this bread. Place the dough in a covered bucket or bowl to rise.


Bulk Fermentation and Periodic Folding


The dough should rise by double in about 4 hours at 75F, but the folding will degas the dough somewhat, so lean toward less than double, depending on how much you are degassing the dough while folding. Also, adjust accordingly if your temperature is different or your starter is faster or slower. Try not to let this dough ferment too long. The high percentage of fermented flour in the dough and the spelt flour will conspire against you if you allow the dough to rise for too long. If in doubt, stop the bulk fermentation and go on to shaping, even if the dough doesn't rise by double.


Fold the dough about three times approximately on the hour, as shown in the "Folding" video. If the dough appears to be wet enough to relax significantly before one hour, then fold sooner. If the dough appears to be fairly stiff and holding its shape or is hard to stretch when you fold it, then fold less often or fewer times.


Shaping


Create sandwich loaves using a typical batard technique or whatever method you prefer. Place loaves in typical loaf pans that are about 9 inches long by 4.5 inches wide. I sprayed the pans lightly with oil beforehand to avoid any sticking.


Final Proof


Allow loaves to rise by roughly double in about 2.5 hours at 75F. Again, adjust your proofing time as necessary for different temperatures or different starter. Once again, avoid overproofing, which is easier to do inadvertently with less tolerant spelt flour and the higher percentage of fermented flour in this recipe.


Bake


I slashed the loaves and baked them from a cold start for 1 hour and 5 minutes at 400F after proofing for 2 hours and 15 minutes. Although the dough is not as wet as some, it still should be thoroughly baked. Otherwise the crumb will be overly moist and the crust will become soggy.


Cool


When the loaves are done, remove them from the pans and allow them to cool on a rack. Do not cut into them, if you can resist, at least until they are no longer warm to the touch.


Results


I was very pleased with the flavor of this bread. The sourdough flavor from the spelt starter is delicious, there is no bitter flavor of whole wheat that I can detect, and the spelt adds a unique and mild flavor. The bread toasts very well and carries any type of topping, since the crumb is open and light but not so irregular that honey or other wet ingredients fall right through it.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sourdough Bagels

Many thanks to Susanfnp for posting a great sourdough bagel recipe based on Nancy Silverton's bagel recipe. She also provided a number of key tips as I made these. I posted some photos process, as well as a spreadsheet with more details such as bakers percentages and preferment percentages.

Sourdough Bagel Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 335 grams (12 oz) 100% hydration white flour starter
  • 17 grams (0.6 oz) sugar
  • 12 grams (0.4 oz) malt syrup
  • 17 grams (0.6 oz) salt
  • 2.8 grams (0.1 oz) instant yeast
  • 359 grams (12.5 oz) water
  • 186 grams (6.5 oz) first clear flour (I used KA First Clear Flour. Substitute a high ash or whole grain flour - maybe rye, whole wheat, Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo, or just use white flour)
  • 578 grams (20.5 oz) high gluten flour (I used KA Sir Lancelot High Gluten Flour. Substitute bread flour or other high protein white flour.

Mix Dough - Day Before Baking

I used a mixer. While reading the Nancy Silverton recipe, the idea seems to be to get a very stiff dough. I decided the mixer might save some effort. Nancy Silverton specifies 8 minutes at a medium speed.

Add starter to mixer bowl, then mix water, yeast, sugar, and malt syrup and add to the mixing bowl. Mix ingredients well with a spoon or whisk. Mix flours and salt so they are well integrated, then add them all to the mixing bowl and stir with a spoon or whisk to get most of the flour wet.

Mix at low speed until ingredients form a mass, then mix at medium. Total mix time should be about 8 minutes. The result should be a supple but not at all tacky dough. You should be able to work with this dough easily with dry hands on a dry counter. If it is at all sticky, you probably have too much water in it. The objective is to end up with no flour dust, since you want the bagels to come out smooth and have a sheen. That won't happen if you get flour dust on them.

Remove dough from mixer and knead on the counter a few times to verify the consistency of the dough is correct. It should become a satin, supple, somewhat stiff, not tacky dough that is easy to work with.

Shaping

Divide the dough into about 18 3 ounce pieces. Since the dough is so dry, it may develop a dry skin fairly quickly, so proceed smartly to the shaping stage. Don't dilly dally at this point, as the dough pieces will become too puffy quickly if they are allowed to sit at room temperature for very long. However, the pieces need to rest a short time, maybe 5 to 10 minutes, so that the gluten will be relaxed enough to shape the bagels.

If you have a fine mist spray (I have an atomizer meant for olive oil that I use for water), you can make shaping easier and avoid the dry skin, particularly on the pieces you shape last, by spraying a tiny amount of water on the pieces before you shape them.

To form the bagels, roll out an 8 inch rope shape with your palms. If the dough is too stiff or you make a mistake and want to start over, let that piece rest a few more minutes, and move to the next piece. Take the 8 inch rope and hold it between your palm and your thumb. Wrap the rope around your hand and bring the other end together with the end you are holding between your palm and thumb. You now have a "rope bracelet" wrapped around your hand. Rub the seams together on the counter to seal them, then take off the bracelet, which should look a lot like a bagel, hopefully. Stretch it out so you have a large 2.5 inch hole. It looks big, but it will shrink or even disappear as the dough rises during boiling and baking. The hole needs to be big looking compared to a normal bagel.

Place the bagels on parchment dusted with semolina flour on a sheet. Cover with saran or foil or place the whole sheet in an extra large food storage bag (XL Ziploc is what I'm thinking here). The idea is to lock in moisture to avoid any dry skin forming yet allow room for some slight expansion as they puff up. Place the sheets in the refrigerator to retard overnight.

Boiling

Bring 5 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda in a good sized stock pot to a boil.  Place a bagel in the pot and make sure it floats to the top. If so, you can do 4-6 bagels at one time. They should only be in the water for about 20 seconds. Push them under periodically with a wooden spoon, so the tops are submerged for a few seconds. In my case, I never managed to get the bagels out before about 30 seconds were up, but they came out fine. If the test bagel won't float, lift it out with a slotted spoon, and gently pat it dry and allow the bagels you have removed from the refrigerator (I did 6 of them at a time) to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes and try again. In my case, they floated immediately out of the refrigerator, probably because I was a little slow getting the dough formed and shaped the previous night. I took the sheets out one at a time, so I could keep the bagels from getting too warm, since I was only doing 6 at a time.

Dip in Seeds

Make plates of seed beds. I made three seed beds. One was 2 parts caraway seed, 1 part anise seed, and a pinch of salt. Another was 2 parts dill seed, 1 part fennel seed, and a pinch of salt. The last was poppy seed and a pinch of salt. I also made salt bagels, but those were done by just sprinkling a little kosher salt on some of them with my fingers.

Right after the bagels are removed from the boiling water with a slotted spoon, place them on a rack to cool for a few seconds. After they have cooled of slightly and dried enough not to ruin the seed bed with too much wetness, pick one up and place it round side down (the tops down), and gently press them into the seed bed. Pick them up and place them right side up on a sheet lined with parchment paper and dusted lightly with semolina flour or coarse corn meal.

Baking

Preheat the oven to about 400F. No preheat may work, but I'm not sure. It seems easy, from my limited experience, for them to rise too much. The result will be an open bread-like crumb, instead of the very chewy, more dense crumb expected in a bagel. So, I didn't risk a no-preheat strategy in this case.

If you have a stone, you can transfer the parchment paper on a peel to the stone and bake directly on the stone. I baked them for about 20 minutes at 400F. You can also bake them on the sheet.

Cool

Allow the bagels to cool.

Results

The bagels were chewy and delicious. The crumb was more open than I wanted. The reasons for the open crumb were probably two things: 1) I delayed too long in the mixing, shaping, and covering stage the night before. 2) I made a mental error during the mixing and left out about 78 grams of flour from the recipe. The higher hydration contributed to a slightly less dense crumb, I believe. The recipe amounts are adjusted to reflect what I think are the correct amounts for the flour choices above. The important thing is to get a very firm dough and not to let the dough or the bagels rise too much during the various stages leading up to baking.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I would like to compare notes on starter maintenance routines. Hopefully others would find this interesting as well.

To best understand each starter, please include the following if you post your starter information.

  • Hydration (water as a percent of total flour in the starter)
  • Feeding ratios used, fermentation times, temperatures used (please specify how the feeding ratio is measured, e.g. by weight or volume)
    • When storing
    • When refreshing in anticipation of a baking session
  • Type of flour used
  • Refrigeration or other storage methods
  • Any other interesting aspects of the starter

It doesn't matter what kind of starter you have. I'm just interested in collecting as many examples as possible in as much detail as possible. Anyone who has done this for a little while discovers a routine that works, so please share it if you have a moment. I'm guessing that the range of hydrations, feeding ratios, flour types, temperatures, and other aspects of these routines vary over a huge range.

I'm doing this as a blog entry, so we don't clutter the front page with too much detailed starter discussion.

Bill

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Seawater Sourdough Wheat Bread

Xma commented about trying seawater in bread on a diving trip. I decided to give this a try.

Please note: I have not researched health hazards that may result from using raw seawater directly in bread dough.

Based on some discussion on the internet, it seems that seawater has a salinity of approximately 32 to 35 parts per thousand. However, not all of the ions are Na+ or Cl-. In fact, seawater is a complex combination of various salts. However, as a naive assumption, I used 3.2% grams of salt per grams of water to approximate the saltiness of the seawater. One of the web sites indicated that the salinity in the Gulf of Maine, where I baked this bread aboard my sailboat, was 32 parts per thousand.

One of our crew members was able to obtain some KA White Whole Wheat Flour at a store in Portland on the way down to the docks, so we decided to make a whole wheat pan loaf. Just in case, a jar of percolating Glezer firm starter, fed the night before, was hidden in my duffel bag waiting for the grand seawater bread baking experiment.

We arrived at the docks and boarded "Chaos" a 40 foot sloop, and set off from Portland after having quickly fed the culture 1:2:2, expecting it rise again and then ripen a bit in time for an evening of a firm "recipe starter" preparation. We collected our seawater by using a seawater foot pump to draw seawater into bowls in the galley sink when we were at the eastern end of Casco Bay, about 1/4 mile southeast of White Bull Island, not too far from Cape Small. The winds were light, so we ghosted along, hardly spilling a drop of seawater. We therefore had plenty of our valuable test sample to use in the dough when we arrived in The Basin, a beautiful completely enclosed harbor on the eastern side of Casco Bay.

Seawater Sourdough Whole Wheat Recipe

Ingredients

Please see a spreadsheet with quantities in grams and ounces and baker's percentages.

Recipe Starter:

  • 114 grams (4 oz) of fully active, ripe 100% Hydration Starter (In my case I took my Glezer firm starter and fed it 1:2:2 with KA White Whole Flour and water such that I would have approximately equal weight flour and water, and allowed this to ferment for about 8 hours)
  • 283 grams (10 oz) whole wheat flour (I used KA White Whole Wheat flour, which is what was available)
  • 198 grams (7 oz) water

Dough:

  • 652 grams (23 oz) seawater drawn from the coast of Maine at the east end of Casco Bay off of White Bull Island near Cape Small (if you draw the water from another location, you may need to consider the variation in salinity in different parts of the ocean in your calculations, or mix 32 grams per liter of fresh water and use as a seawater substitute).
  • 99 grams (3.5 oz) fresh water. (I used water from the freshwater tanks, of dubious origin - the dock supply in Portland - laced with a touch of bleach to keep the tanks "sweet").
  • 850 grams (30 oz) whole wheat flour (I used KA White Whole Wheat Flour)

Starter Preparation

I brought along a small amount of my new Glezer firm starter, thanks to consulting extensively with Zolablue, who has a thriving Glezer style firm starter and lots of great sourdough bread to prove it. I fed this starter with KA White Whole Wheat flour using the following: 32g Glezer starter:88g fresh water:80g KA WW. The mixture was stirred and allowed to rise while we sailed from Portland to The Basin in Casco Bay. Fortunately, it was a warm day, so the starter did rise just fine and was reasonably ripe later on in the afternoon when we made the recipe starter.

Recipe Starter

Around 6 P.M. the recipe starter was mixed. First add the recipe starter water to the 100% hydration starter and stir to fully mix the starter in the water, then mix in the flour. Knead into a dough, which should take about 3 minutes of kneading or less. Cover and allow to ferment until at least doubled. In this case, the temperatures were around 65F, and dropped down to about 55F over the course of the night, so we just allowed the starter to ferment all night. At room temperature, it would have taken about 5-7 hours to double this dough with my starter - your mileage will vary greatly of course.

Hydrate Flour

According to advice from whole grain experts, and realizing that seawater might impede the proper hydration and gluten formation in my KA White Whole Wheat Flour, I decided to give it a good long overnight soak in the seawater.

Mix seawater and freshwater together into a mass, cover, and allow to rest overnight in the refrigerator, or in our case, on the salon table where the temperature dropped down to about 50F overnight.

Mix Dough

In the morning, we mixed the dough. Take the mass of flour and water and lay it on a slightly wet counter and spread it into a large round disk like a pizza. Cut up the recipe starter into small pieces and push them into the larger flour mass, like toppings on a pizza. Roll up the dough and fold it a few times to begin mixing the starter with the dough. Since the hydration of this dough is fairly high, the starter and dough should mix together quickly and easily. I started the gluten formation and continued the mixing by spending about 30 seconds doing the following. Wet your hands and pick up one end of the dough, allow it to stretch with gravity, toss the other end on the table and pull it toward you, then flip the end you are holding over the dough in a folding action and pull your hands out and rewet them if necessary. Repeat this action a few times, rotating the dough each time.

Once the dough is well mixed and folded a few times, let it rest covered for an hour.

Fold Dough Periodically

To develop the gluten, fold it about once per hour for the first 3-4 hours. Some of my other blog entries (miche recipes) describe the folding technique, and there are even some photos of the steps. Hamelman describes the technique in "Bread", as well. This dough should rise in about 4.5 hours at room temperature with my starter. Again, your mileage will vary. However, it was cold on the boat. The dough started at a temperature of 55F. Luckily the sun managed to come out for a while and it warmed up, so the boat warmed up to about 70F for a few hours later on in the day. While we were sailing to Christmas Cove in Muscongus Bay, Maine, the dough rose nicely by a little more than double. The extra unexpected warmth probably resulted in a slightly overfermented dough, but not by much.

Shape Loaves and Final Proof

Two loaves were shaped approximately into batards, with the ends folded under, using JMonkey's video instructions. However, the dough was very wet and was a little too fermented, so it wasn't quite as easy as it looks in the video. Good luck - stay calm and don't overhandle the dough. Place the loaves in greased pans and cover. We placed the loaves in plastic bags and folded the opening to create a balloon for them to rise in.

Slash and Bake

Normally these loaves would proof in about 2.5 hours at room temperature. The boat was luckily at about room temperature, but we were also having too good a time cooking dinner and enjoying an after sailing happy hour. The boat warmed up inside, we had dinner, and before we knew it, the loaves had proofed for about 3 hours in the mid-70s. They seemed overproofed, but I tried slashing them anyway. At least they didn't collapse.

We baked in our anemic boat oven from a cold start for 1.5 hours at "400F", which means that it may have reached 400F at the very end of the bake, if that. Someone reflexively turned off the gas safety valve at that point, so although the loaves were just beginning to brown, we didn't realize the bake was over and the oven was off. These high hydration loaves do benefit from a good long bake, so our crumb turned out a little moist and the crust a little light. Still, the bread was good.

Results

The flavor was very good - not overly sour at all, but definitely a sourdough loaf. I am not a big fan of white whole wheat, but that's what happened to be available in the store. I don't know if the flour itself contributed a slight bitter flavor, or if this was a side effect of the seawater. While reading about how salt is made from salt water, I discovered that the process is more elaborate than just evaporating seawater and keeping what remains. Usually a series of evaporator ponds are used which allow some of the less desireable salts to precipitate out before and after the desired sodium chloride we know as ordinary salt is extracted. Some of the less desireable salts were said to have bitter flavors. So, it may be that I have effectively used "low quality" salt that has contributed a bitter flavor to the bread by using seawater. The bread was calculated to have 1.8% salt in baker's percentages, based on a salinity of 32 parts per thousand for Gulf of Maine seawater, yet it tasted less salty than that to me. There are seasonal variations I didn't try to take into account. Also, it seems salt in seawater is about 85% sodium chloride, if I read some of the discussions correctly, and maybe the salty flavor is only imparted by the sodium chloride and not by any other salts. If so, then I needed to increase the seawater or add a little more salt to make up for that.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

The following is a description of how I maintain my 100% hydration (1:1 flour:water by weight) starter. The term 100% hydration refers to the baker's percentage of water in the starter, i.e. the water in the starter is 100% of the weight of the flour in the starter.

This maintenance regime assumes that your starter is already healthy, fresh, and active. This is not what I would do to "start a starter", but rather it is the maintenance regime I follow to store, revive, and use my starter over time.

The following characteristics are for a 100% hydration starter. The characteristics, signs of health, problems, and readiness for use are different for starters maintained at different hydration levels.

Characteristics of my 100% hydration white flour starter:

  • The weight of flour and water in the starter are equal.
  • The flour is either bread or AP flour with protein content around 11-13%.
  • The water is bottled (Poland Spring).
  • Normally fed at room temperature.
  • Stored in the refrigerator when not being fed.
  • The consistency can be described as a thick, stirrable paste after it is fed.

Characteristics of a recently fed, fresh, active 100% hydration starter:

  • It rises by double in about 4-5 hours at room temperature after a feeding of 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water by weight)
  • It maintains a reasonably thick, elastic consistency after rising by double.
  • It smells very pleasant. The smell could be described as flowery, tangy, and slightly sweet.
  • No liquid layers develop on top or in the middle even hours after rising by double.
  • Hooch (an alcoholic layer of liquid on top) forms eventually when it is stored in the refrigerator for a week or more or left out for a long time at room temperature after doubling.

Characteristics of a 100% hydration starter that is not yet ready or is possibly unhealthy:

  • Unpleasant odors a few hours after feeding.
  • Separated layers of liquid form a few hours after feeding.
  • Takes longer than 4-6 hours to rise by double at room temperature after a 1:2:2 feeding (starter:flour:water by weight).
  • Develops a runny consistency a few hours after feeding.

An Important Note on the Large Effect of Temperature on Rise Times

Before launching into the information below on maintaining starters, it is worthwhile to point out one of the largest points of confusion in sourdough starter maintenance. Temperature has a big effect on the speed of reproduction and the activity of the organisms in a sourdough culture. For example my kitchen may average 76F in the summer and only 69F in the winter. At 76F, my starter may rise by double after a 1:2:2 feeding in 4.2 hours, whereas at 69F it will double in 6.4 hours. At 64F, it would take 9.4 hours. It is not a problem to follow the procedures below in a kitchen with a temperature averaging 64F; but clearly, you need to allow for rise times of roughly double in the various discussions below. So, adjust your expectations and timing accordingly, if your temperatures don't hover fairly close to 74F or so, which is the temperature assumed for the discussions below.

Assuming a healthy, active starter, here is the maintenance regime I follow to feed, store, revive, and use my starter.

Feeding

I almost always feed my starter 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water by weight) and then allow it to rise by double at room temperature, which should take about 4.5 hours when it is fully active and recently fed. Once it has risen by double, it is placed in the refrigerator. The starter can then be used directly from the refrigerator in a recipe for the next 3 days. On the first day, it is almost the same as it was right after it rose by double. On the second day, it has a little more flavor and may be ever so slightly weaker, but it is still at an excellent point to use in a recipe. After 3 days, it can still be used, but it will have stronger, more sour flavors, and it will be noticeably weaker in terms of rising power. If you have a recipe that uses a very small percentage of starter in the dough, it won't matter much if you use old starter. I've used week old starter in recipes where the flour contributed to the dough was only 5% of the total flour weight. If you are using the starter in a recipe that has a high percentage of starter, it may be better to use the starter after 2 days or less in the refrigerator.

Although it may not make much difference, I actually maintain my starter with a 1:2:2.2 feeding ratio, i.e. at a 90% hydration. With the bread flour I use (KA Bread Flour) that results in a consistency of a thick paste that is a little difficult to stir once you mix it up well. The amounts you work with don't matter much, either, other than the amount of flour being thrown out. I typically work with a total culture size of about 80 grams. My scale will measure down to 1 gram of precision. A typical 1:2:2.2 feeding would be (16g:30g:34g) of (old starter:water:flour). Below I am doing 1:10:11 feedings, which are done by feeding (4g:40g:44g) of (old starter:water:flour).

The above method works great, but see in the variation section below for an update on how I am feeding most recently to better accomodate a 12 hour feeding cycle. Also, I now use an even thicker consistency, around 80% hydration. It seems to keep longer this way on the counter or in the refrigerator.

Storage

Once the starter has been in the refrigerator for more than three days, I consider it to be in storage. It can't be used directly in a recipe, but instead will have to be revived. If I plan to store my starter for a period of time longer than 2 weeks, I usually will thicken it up, as it keeps better at a thicker consistency. However, even at 100% hydration, I've had no problems reviving my starter after 2 months. At thicker consistencies, the starter can last for many months in the refrigerator. I believe Glezer says it can last more than a year in a very stiff consistency, like 50% hydration. However, the longest I've gone with my starter is 2 months. I use glass canisters for both feeding and storage. I usually pour the ready to refrigerate starter into a fresh container, so that the sides are clean and the starter is stirred down to take up less volume. The containers have a rubber gasket that seals them from the air in the refrigerator but allows some gas to escape if pressure and gasses build up in the container.

Revival

When the starter has been in the refrigerator for more than a few days, it must be revived first before it can be used in a recipe. I do this by simply feeding it once or twice in the manner described under "Feeding". After being stored for a week or two or more, rising by double after a 1:2:2 feeding may take something like 6-8 hours at room temperature. If it only takes 6 hours, one feeding works fine. However, if it takes more than 6 hours to rise by double at room temperature, I generally feed it one more time. The second feeding usually takes much closer to 4.5 hours, which is an indication it is fully revived. On the occasion where it had been stored for 2 months, it took a third feeding at room temperature before the starter would rise by double in 4.5 hours at room temperature after a 1:2:2 feeding.

One subtle aspect of all this is the question of how long after the starter has doubled should you wait to feed it again. The starter needs to ripen enough to bring the cell counts up to their maximum level. In the period after you feed the starter, the cell counts of yeast and lactobacillus will double every couple of hours or so. Once the starter is ripe enough, the yeast and lactobacillus cell counts will stop increasing. The pH and acid levels get to a point where they attenuate the cell activity, and they can no longer multiply in numbers. So, you want to let the starter mature enough to reach that maximum cell count, and then feed it again or store it. Just based on experience, it seems like my starter does well as long as I let it sit for an hour or two beyond the point it doubles. I usually "stir it down" at the point it doubles, and then let it rise some more. However, I refrigerate it right when it doubles, since it will continue to ripen in the refrigerator. Recently, I was rushing my feeding schedule and slowed my starter down by trying to feed too early, just before it had completely doubled, in fact. The result was that it was taking longer than usual to rise. The solution was to let it sit a while longer for a few feedings in a row. It didn't take long at all for it to bounce back to doubling in 4.5 hours from a 1:2:2 feeding at room temperature.

Variations

You can feed at a lower or higher ratio than 1:2:2 in order to adjust the amount of starter you want to build to match a recipe or to better match the times when you can feed the starter conveniently. However, I never feed at a lower ratio than 1:1:1 to avoid any problems with acid building up or the starter becoming too ripe or underfed. Higher ratios can be used to lengthen out the rise time if you know you will not be back within 4-6 hours to store the starter in the refrigerator before it becomes too ripe. At warmer temperatures, the starter will rise by double much more quickly after a 1:2:2 feeding, taking something like 2.5 hours at about 85F, for example. At 85F the timing for rising by double will be very roughly half as long as at room temperature, and at 65F the timing will be very roughly twice as long (very, very roughly).

Recently, I've been experimenting with feeding ratios for a 12 hour room temperature maintenance schedule. I have found that feeding 1:10:11 (for a slightly thicker consistency I'm using 90% hydration), results in a 12 hour cycle. The starter will double 8 hours after the 1:10:11 feeding, and then I stir it down and let it ripen some more. If I feed every 12 hours on this cycle, the starter is at full strength from about 8 to 12 hours after being fed (all this at room temperature). When you feed a starter routinely at higher ratios, like 1:10:11, it will ferment for longer periods of time at higher pH. The result should be that the starter will have relatively more lactobacillus in it compared to a starter maintained with a 1:2:2 feeding ratio, since the lactobacillus thrive in a slightly higher pH environment (around 5 pH).  I can't say what the effect on flavor would be, but it makes sense that the aromatic compounds and acids produced by the lactobacillus would be more evident in the one maintained with the high feeding ratio. Although this is not at all scientific, I do think that the starter I've maintained with a 1:10:11 feeding ratio has a more intense aroma than the one fed with a 1:2:2 ratio.

Even more recently (added 12/14/2007), I've settled on feeding every 12-17 hours using a feeding of 1:4:5 (starter:water:flour by weight). Using this procedure, the starter doubles in volume in about 4.75 hours at 76F or about 7.25 hours at 69F. Even at 69F, the starter has peaked in 12 hours, so it can be fed again. At 76F, it will peak and fall after 12 hours, but it is still at full strength and will rise vigorously when fed. It seems like a good compromise that can be used year-round for a 12 hour cycle. The starter can be maintained on the counter at room temperature indefinitely using this procedure. If I know I won't be baking bread for a while, I thicken up the starter by feeding it 1:4:7 to thicken it up when I feed it next, and put it in the refrigerator immediately after feeding. Then, I take it out a day or two in advance of the next bread-making session and revive by letting it rise by double and feeding 1:4:5 every 12 hours. Although I generally go through the revival procedure, I've found that the starter is at close to full strength even after 7 days in the refrigerator when stored this way. So, it's possible to take the starter out of the refrigerator, let it rise by double, and use most of it in a bread recipe, and take a tiny portion of it to revive for a couple of feeding cycles before returning it again to the refrigerator using the 1:4:7 feeding and refrigerating immediately.

When to Refrigerate

I like flavors to be less sour and more mild in sourdough breads I make. I've found that the right flavors and lower amounts of sour flavor seem to be there when I don't let the starter become overly ripe before using it in a recipe. That's why I tend to refrigerate when the starter has just doubled. You can experiment with feeding schedules that allow the starter to become more ripe before refrigerating. It will change the balance of organisms in the culture and therefore the flavor. Also, when you use a large percentage of starter, the larger amount of accumulated byproducts of fermentation in a more ripe starter will contribute directly to the flavor and texture of the dough, in addition to the contribution made by the subsequent fermentation.

An Additional Tip on Refrigerated Starter Storage

If you are using your starter fairly frequently, like once a week, then just refrigerating it when it doubles will work very well. You can use the starter directly out of the refrigerator for a period of time if stored that way. For storage it works well, as I've had no problem reviving my starter after 2 months when stored just after doubling. However, as Mike Avery commented below, and I've verified as well, feeding a well revived and healthy starter in such a way as to thicken it to a firm consistency and then refrigerating it immediately allows the starter to keep very well for longer periods of time. It can be removed from the refrigerator and allowed to rise by double or a little more and used directly in a recipe, even after a week, I've found. If you use this procedure, the starter should still be "revived" with enough feedings, usually one or two more, at room temperature to verify that the starter is rising at full strength again before it is again stored in the refrigerator.

Converting Starters

I sometimes make a recipe starter for a whole grain bread by feeding some of my starter with spelt or whole wheat. I have never fed a starter with whole grain repeatedly to completely convert it, so I have to accept the flavor as is and a small amount of white flour in my whole grain recipes. I'm sure there are many subtle flavor differences if you feed repeatedly and fully convert a starter from being fed exclusively with white flour to being fed exclusively with a whole grain flour. I've found the feeding and rising process works about the same way with whole grains for a recipe starter, except that the rise times seem a little bit faster with the whole grain flours.

Mistakes

It's pretty hard to kill a healthy starter, but here are a few ways to possibly send yours over the edge.

  • Heat the starter to over 95F and kill the organisms - easier than you might think, for example...
    • Use actual oven heat and get up over 100F very quickly.
    • Place the starter in an oven with the light on - check carefully first - it can be much hotter than you think in there with just the oven light on and the door closed.
    • Use hot water to feed your starter
  • Put acids in the culture
    • The culture doesn't need acid if it's healthy. It generates all the acid it needs on its own.
    • Sometimes a small shot of vinegar or other acid, such as pineapple juice, may help fix a sluggish culture, but if you feed acid repeatedly, you can put too much in and kill the starter.
  • Not feeding the culture for too long at warm temperatures or repeatedly underfeeding over long periods.
    • When out of the refrigerator, the culture will be very active and must be fed to stay healthy.
    • It is especially easy to underfeed a culture when temperatures are warmer.
  • Overfeeding the culture
    • If you feed before the culture has ripened enough repeatedly you can dilute the culture and eventually kill it.
    • More likely to happen at colder temperatures, stiffer consistencies, or higher feeding ratios. Let the culture rise by double, then let it ripen for a number of hours beyond that. A dip should form in the middle when the culture is at its peak. You can let it go for a number of hours beyond the point it dips, but it should be ready to feed at the point it is dipping or collapsing on itself.
    • If you refrigerate the culture for storage, you can let it just rise by double and then refrigerate it. It will continue to ripen in the refrigerator. However, allow it to come to full ripeness at room temperature over a couple of feedings once in a while, normally done when reviving the culture for baking, to avoid any decline similar to overfeeding caused by repeatedly refrigerating when it has just doubled.

Given the above, it makes a lot of sense to keep back a small amount of old starter in the refrigerator, even if just the scrapings from the inside of the container that came out of the refrigerator, until you're sure the feeding went well. It's also not a bad idea to make a small amount of stiff starter and keep as a backup. Some dry their starter and freeze or store it for backup.

Tips on Quantities Used, Mixing Technique, and Volumes (a scale is highly recommended, but to use measuring spoons...)

As I've gained experience, the amounts of starter I work with have dropped. I haven't found any disadvantages to using smaller quantities. For example, my most recent feeding routine (mentioned in the variations section above) is 1:4:5 (starter:water:flour by weight) is done by taking a clean jar, putting it on the scale and adding 5 grams of starter and 20 grams of water. I stir vigorously with a tiny whisk to aerate and thoroughly mix the starter into the water. Then, I add 25g of flour and use a fork to thoroughly mix the flour into water, forming a fairly thick paste - not quite a dough, but very thick. I then take a small spatula and scrape down the sides, put the lid on the jar, and place the jar in a nice unobtrusive spot on my counter where hopefully no one will disturb it.

If you don't have a scale, my first advice is to get one. It makes baking much more reliable, especially when you are trying to reproduce another baker's recipe. A good digital scale costs about $25 and is very much worth the trouble. Still, the procedure in the previous paragraph is easy to do by taking 1 teaspoon of starter, adding 2 tablespoons of water, and stirring vigorously to aerate and completely mix the starter into the water. Then, add 3 tablespoons and possibly another teaspoon or so of flour, and mix thoroughly with a fork. Scrape down the sides of the jar, cover, and place on the counter.

If you are planning to store the starter for a long time in the refrigerator, it helps to carefully drop the recently fed and thickened starter into a clean jar, so that there is no film of flour or paste stuck to the sides at all. Over a longer period, it is possible for mold to grow on a residue of flour paste left on the sides of the jar.

Comments

What I describe above is just one way to do it. I'm sure there are many other ways, but I find this method convenient and robust. It's hard to kill a healthy freshly fed and risen starter that is stored in the refrigerator. It is convenient that the starter remains in a good usable state for several days. Very small amounts can be used when storing it for long periods to avoid large amounts of flour waste. I store something like 100 grams when I'm planning to store the starter for more than a few days, so my revival can be used in a recipe without wasting much if any flour. Maintaining only one starter and converting it for recipes each time is easy and convenient, although by not fully converting the starter to a whole grain flour some flavor or other characteristics may be missed with this approach.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sourdough Whole Grain Sandwich Loaves

Sourdough Whole Grain Sandwich Loaf

Sourdough Whole Grain Sandwich Loaf

I finally decided to give a try at an (almost) whole grain sandwich loaf. Admittedly I didn't switch my starter over, but I only have a few percent of the flour contributed from the white flour starter. Many thanks to all the contributors to thefreshloaf.com, including at least JMonkey, ehanner, mountaindog, browndog5, Srishti, zolablue, sourdough-guy, sourdolady, tomsbread, and breadnerd for the very useful pointers on handling of whole grain breads. I didn't quite do justice to the good information, as you can see, but the crumb is certainly open enough, light enough, and soft enough, as well as having a nice flavor. I was happy with these results for a first try. I definitely overproofed them, partly because the cooler with warm water technique for the final proof was very effective.

I've included a few additional photos, although I didn't photograph the whole process this time. I also included a spreadsheet with weights of ingredients in ounces, grams, and baker's percentages.

Ingredients

Recipe Starter

  • 142 grams 100% hydration starter (I used a white flour starter)
  • 227 grams whole spelt flour
  • 113 grams water

Dough

  • 40 grams malt syrup
  • 4g diastatic malt powder
  • 581 grams water
  • 397 grams red whole wheat (I used KA organic WW Flour)
  • 57 grams rye (I used KA rye blend, but substitue with WW flour if you want)
  • 170 grams white whole wheat (I used KA Organic White WW Flour)
  • 17 grams salt
  • 28 grams olive oil

Mix

The night before you plan to bake, mix the starter ingredients, and knead them for about 2 minutes to make a dough out of them. Let rise in a covered container for about 4 hours at room temperature until doubled and refrigerate overnight.

Also the night before you plan to bake, mix the malt syrup, diastatic malt powder, water, and all the flours and place in a covered container. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, cut the starter into small cubes. Spread the refrigerated mass of flours, water, and other ingredients out on the counter and press the cubes into the mass. Sprinkle the salt and oil over the mass. Press the heels of your hand into the mass to force the ingredients to mix well. Roll up the mass and knead a few times to further mix the ingredients. You can then spread the mass out again and press it flat and then roll it up. After 2 or 3 repetitions of spreading out, pressing flat, and rolling up the mass, the ingredients will be well incorporated and the mass will seem more like a dough. It will be very sticky, but if you keep the counter surface, the dough surface, and your hands wet, it is not difficult to handle.

Bulk Fermentation

Place the dough in a rising bucket. Every 30-60 minutes for the first couple of hours, turn the dough out on the counter and fold it. After a few folds, just let it rise until it has doubled. The dough should double in volume in a total of about 4 hours at room temperature. The idea is to do enough folds to get the dough feeling elastic and resilient, but not so many that it begins to feel very stiff and loses its elasticity.

Shaping and Final Proof

I shaped according to JMonkeys video. The dough should be split in two, formed more or less into batards, and placed in two loaf pans approximately 9 inches long. To form the batards, just lay one of the two halves of the dough out in a long rectangle and roll it from the short end, stretching the outside surface as you roll it. You may want to tuck some of the end of the roll in toward the center a little as you roll it up. Seal it and tuck the ends under, and place into the pans with the nice, stretched surface up. You can put a little oil on the surface of the loaf to protect it from drying out. Place the pans in a warm humid place to rise. I put them in a cooler with a bowl of warm water next to them. Allow them to rise by approximately double or a little less.

Unfortunately, the temperature was very warm in my garage, where the cooler was, probably around 85F. I let them go for 4 hours and then realized they were way overproofed. The result was no oven spring. I shouldn't have slashed them and just put them in the oven. You can see what happened in the photos. I think if I had stopped the final proof at about 2 hours at 85F, I would have had a better slash with oven spring and so on. I know I'm getting close to figuring this out, as the loaves still had a flavorful, open crumb.

Bake

I baked these starting in a cold oven for about 45 minutes at 425F.

Cool

Once the loaves have cooled for a minute or two, remove them from the pans and allow them to cool on a rack. 

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sourdough Pagnotta

Sourdough Pagnotta (1)Sourdough Pagnotta (1)

Sourdough Pagnotta (2)Sourdough Pagnotta (2)

Sourdough Pagnotta (3)Sourdough Pagnotta (3)

Sourdough Pagnotta

This recipe is a very slight variation of Sourdough-guy's blog entry on Pagnotta and Ciabatta. Many thanks for Sourdough-guy for the recipe, which he says is his variation of and Il Fornaio recipe. I've posted pictures of my process and a spreadsheet with the amounts in ounces, grams, and baker's percentages.

Ingredients

  • 240 grams fresh 100% hydration starter 
  • 709 grams water
  • 574 grams KA Organic AP (you can substitute any white AP or bread flour)
  • 206 grams KA Bread flour (you can substitute any white AP or bread flour)
  • 50 grams KA rye blend (optional - substitute white flour, whole wheat, or other)
  • 50 grams Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo flour (optional - substitute white flour, whole wheat, or other)
  • 18 grams salt

Mix

Mix ingredients until well integrated and there is some resistance to stirring. Start by mixing the starter and water together, then add the flours and salt. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes fold it gently in the bowl a couple of times, then pour it out on the counter, let rest for 10 minutes and fold the dough into a ball from the 4 corners. Turn it over so it is seams down, and place it back in the bowl.

Then, every 30-60 minutes pour the dough out onto the counter, let it spread a little, and fold it up into a ball. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover and let rest 30-60. Repeat this process every 30-60 minutes a few times (roughly 3 times, but could be less or more) until the dough has elasticity and resilience.

Bulk Fermentation

Place the dough in a well oiled rising bucket or bowl to rise. It should rise to a volume that is about double the volume of the dough when you first started folding it. If you use the quantities above, that will be when the dough has risen to a volume of about 3 liters.

Shaping

Pour the dough out on the table on a bed of clour and cut into three pieces. Work with each loaf separately. Form a ball by carefully and gently pulling the sides toward the center repeatedly to get some surface tension on the smooth side underneath. Do not overhandle.

Use thumbs and fingers of one hand to pinch and hold the gathered sides over the center, holding the gathered edges up a little to help the sides stretch and the shape to become more round and taking a bit of weight off the loaf. Use the other thumb and a couple of fingers to pinch a bit of the side, pull the bit out and up and over to the center, stretching the side as you do. Gather that bit in with the first hand along with others as you work your way around the loaf. Try to make it round by gathering a bit from the place that sticks out the most.

Turn the dough over onto a thick bed of flour with the rough side down.

Final Proof

Allow the loaves to increase in size by double.

For me, this took about 3-4 hours (I baked the loaves one at a time).

Bake

Bake at 425F for roughtly 20-30 minutes until the crust darkens to a pleasing color. The internal temperature should be over 205F.

Cool

Allow the loaf to fully cool.

Results

The flavor was as good as any bread I've made. The crumb open. The crust was thin but crisp and delicious. It was a huge hit with the kids, so I know I did something right.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives

Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives (1)Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives (1)

Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives (2)Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives (2)

Sourdough Pagnotta With Olives Recipe

This recipe is a slight variation of Sourdough-guy's blog entry on Pagnotta and Ciabatta. Many thanks to Sourdough-guy for the recipe, which he says is his variation of an Il Fornaio recipe. I've posted pictures of my process and a spreadsheet with the amounts in ounces, grams, and baker's percentages.

Ingredients

  • 400 grams fresh 100% hydration starter (my starter was taken out of the refrigerator after having been refreshed 3 days earlier. I probably should have used more recently refreshed and vigorous starter)
  • 650 grams water
  • 700 grams KA Organic AP
  • 50 grams KA rye blend (optional - substitute white flour, whole wheat, or other)
  • 50 grams Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo flour (optional - substitute white flour, whole wheat, or other)
  • 18 grams salt
  • 300 grams pitted halved olives (I used calamata olives)

Mix 

Mix ingredients until well integrated and there is some resistance to stirring. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

I think there was slightly too much water for my choice of flours and maybe because of the olives, which made the dough harder to handle. This was very slack dough. I would use a little less water next time, but I'm reporting this as I actually did it.

Fold and Rest, Repeat

Every 30-60 minutes pour the dough out onto the counter, let it spread a little, and fold it up into a ball. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover and let rest 30-60. Repeat this process every 30-60 minutes 3-4 times.

I may not have repeated this enough, given the very wet dough I ended up with. The dough was still too slack later when I tried to shape the loaves.

Bulk Fermentation

Place the dough in an oiled rising bucket or bowl. Allow it to rise by double at room temperature.

Actually, I wanted to bake by midnight, so I let it get a little warmer, about 80F, which may have been a little bit of a problem. I think it made the slack dough even a little more slack to also be warm.

Shaping

Pour the dough out on the table on a bed of flour and cut in two. Work with each loaf separately. Form a ball by carefully and gently pulling the sides toward the center repeatedly to get some surface tension on the smooth side underneath. Do not overhandle.

Here I was a disastrous dough handler. I way overhandled it because it was too slack and would not form a ball. It just kept spreading out quickly. Well, I just decided after way too many times pulling at the sides to stop trying and went for flat bread. So, I can't emphasize enough, don't overhandle. Just make that shape and be done with it.

I am doing a second version, and I think I've discovered how to do this. Use thumbs and fingers of one hand to pinch and hold the gathered sides over the center, holding the gathered edges up a little to help the sides stretch and the shape to become more round and taking a bit of weight off the loaf. Use the other thumb and a couple of fingers to pinch a bit of the side, pull the bit out and up and over to the center, stretching the side as you do. Gather that bit in with the first hand along with others as you work your way around the loaf. Try to make it round by gathering a bit from the place that sticks out the most.

Turn the dough over onto a thick bed of flour with the rough side down.

Final Proof

Allow the loaves to increase in size by double.

For me, this took about 3 hours. I'm still having a hard time figuring out when these higher hydration loaves have finished proofing. As I said there was too much water, and I never got these loaves to stiffen up very much. They mostly spread out on the counter.

Bake

Bake at 425F.

This took about 25 minutes, and the internal temperature went quickly to 210F, which I've experienced with these flat high hydration loaves. I didn't get much oven spring. I think the overhandling was a serious problem

Cool

Allow the loaf to fully cool.

Results

The flavor was as good as any bread I've made. The crumb was much less open than I had hoped but was soft and flavorful. I think the flatness was because of the overhandling and maybe adding too much water to the dough. Maybe another fold or two would have helped. The gluten never really stiffened up enough. Still, this was a great tasting bread. My bad for the handling, but I'm already trying a second one. I also think the olives made the dough wetter, heavier, and harder to handle. The next try will be without olives.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - bwraith's blog