I had a bit of levain left from my experiment with a Forkish loaf and I hate to throw it away. I kept it on the counter feeding it a bit each day until Thursday when I said "that's it". I followed gsnyde's San Francisco country loaf (found at this link http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/25402/sf-country-sourdough-%E2%80%93-my-best-ever%E2%80%A6not-sure-why), adjusting the formula to accommodate my 143 g of levain because you can't throw it out darn it. Anyway thank you gsnyde. It is one of my best loaves ever. It has a nice crisp crust, a tangy and nutty full flavor, and is one of the lightest sd's I have produced to date. I proved seamside down in the banneton and then baked seamside up and let the loaf make it's own path in the spring. I even stuck the proved loaf in the banneton in to the freezer for 7-8 minutes before placing it in my Lodge cast iron DO. I am quite happy with how my "spent fuel" regenerated itself.
I have a couple of things I'm concentrating on - shaping and less flour in my banneton. "Work in progress" would be the operative term. Critiques would be most welcome. I baked the loaf earlier than I might have other times (on purpose). I felt I had the appropriate poke with this even though I often wait for more volume (a mistake oftentimes). I also think I handle the dough too much when shaping and maybe force too much gas out of it. Of course by the time I realize I'm doing that it's too late. As stated I'd appreciate thoughts on that. I think the bake times are good usually. This one in particular has a lovely gelatin-like crumb. The flour combo helps that I think - 83% AP, 11% WW and 6% rye. The bottom crust is good - not thick or hard to chew and not too dark.
I had a piece for toast this morning. And as I was contemplating the various aspects - flavor, crumb etc. I thought " oh I should have put some fennel or anise or caraway or all three". Needless to say I have already taken another 10 g of starter out of my stock and have started building another levain. I'm telling you it's a disease! This natural levain baking is a sickness. I'm not that interested in yeast although from time to time it's what is called for. It's the satisfaction of knowing that you really really did this from scratch I think with sd. How much more basic does it get - flour, water, salt?
Finally, I would like to tell you that I started to post this at 6:00 am this morning. I have done a few other chores. However in my wonderfully simplified life with all my electronic gadgets and all my different email addresses, I found that posting to the blog to be not quite as easy as I had anticipated today. Once I had worked my way through the fact that my iPhone was kind of full (it's ONLY 16GB!), I found I had at some point backed up my iPhone to iTunes on a Windows laptop and wouldn't you know it - I needed the password to back it up all over again. After some searching in my standard locations, I found that old password. Who knew you needed the same password to back up again. I mean I could see you would need it for restoring but can't I have a new password for backing up? Please? I then found I had rotated photos. The good news was that I still had photos - somewhere. That was next - rotate the photos. And then the post...
For Christmas I received a copy of Forkish's "Flour Water Salt Yeast". This weekend I baked a loaf of the Field Grain #2. I followed formula and timings pretty much right on. I haven't cut the loaf yet so no crumb shot. However despite being a fairly high hydration loaf, it was not too bad to work with. I am very satisfied with the baked product.
What leaves me scratching my head is why he recommends making that huge bucket of levain and telling one to dump the "spent fuel". I find it hard to believe that someone whose business is FWS would toss a large quantity of the same. I almost feel insulted at the suggestion that that's what I should do. Needless to say I worked with my own starter and built the levain in an amount that did not require a huge sacrifice of flour and water.
This weekend I baked Jeffrey Hamelman's Five Grain Sourdough with Rye Sourdough. I followed the instruction carefully. It is a very slack dough but handles very nicely. It has a very pleasing taste, but not as pronounced as I would have liked. Next time I make it I will investigate how to make the starter more tangy.
I have been curious about different baking methods so I tried a little experiment. I made each loaf 725 grams. Two I baked at the same time and one I allowed to prove at a slightly lower temperature than the 80 degrees called for in the recipe. Much as I love my convection oven I begrudge the loss of space that the convection fan takes up. Therefore two loaves at a time. The loaf in the upper left was baked in a Lodge Dutch Oven. The loaf in the upper right was baked in a Sassafras Bread Dome. The foremost loaf was baked freestanding on a stone with what little steam I was able to muster up. It was a last minute call to put that one on the stone so I didn't do justice to the steaming portion of the bake. I did spray the oven walls with water (I hope my husband never reads this!) a couple of times in the first 5 - 10 minutes. I was hoping that would augment the weak steam that was being produced in a miserly fashion from my less than adequate steam pan - without much success.
If this was a contest "So you think you can bake" I would definitely give the #1 place to the Lodge bake. The color of the loaf, the rise and the overall appearance of the loaf seems to me to be far more pleasing than either of the other two. The Bread Dome does not brown as well although the loaf itself promises to be fine. I could have left it open a few minutes longer than the Lodge bake. Next time. As for the poor neglected stone bake, there is not much to say. While it will be fine to eat it doesn't stand up at all to the others.