The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

JeremyCherfas's blog

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I thought I would introduce myself here, having been lurking, occasionally commenting and learning more than I thought was possible. (Most notably, sourdough pancakes. Wow!)

I've been baking bread almost since I can remember -- my mother used to make an amazingly sloppy wholemeal loaf that received no kneading and generally ended up brick like; I forget what it was called. Most of my baking was based on Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery and Bernard Clayton Jr's The Complete Book of Breads (with a hatred for volume measures every time I used it).

Sourdough called to me about 20 years ago, maybe less, when the food writer of the Independent newspaper, Jeremy Round, published a sourdough recipe that contained a mistake. Several people wrote to complain and the paper published a correction. I thought, if it is that important, I ought to try it. And I did. Round, who is tragically under-represented on the internet, died in 1991, and he was still alive when I made my sourdough, so it is at least 19 years old. The same one. We've been through some ups and downs, my sourdough and me, including a relocation from Somerset, England to Rome in Italy.

Round's approach was very simple. You made a starter, made some bread with it (as I recall 18 oz flour to 12 oz water) removing 8 oz of the dough after the first rise and kept it in the fridge to use as next time's starter. No feeding in between. And that suited me fine until this past summer, when my dough became horribly, horribly sticky.

That's when I came here first, and discovered that the problem was almost certainly a combination of too high a temperature, too weak a flour and too long a fermentation.

Since then I've gradually worked on each of the variables, feeding the starter, working with percentages, and am now once again making reasonable bread.

A recent sourdough loaf

But the dough is still impossibly sticky, even at 60%. I've read about stretch and fold, and French folds, and watched the videos, but I still cannot handle the dough without it sticking to my hands, the steel work surface, everything. I've got a batch rising now, but I really think this is going to be the last time I try to do without kneading, and enough flour to stop things sticking. I cannot believe that people go out to 65% and 70% dough. Mine wouold be a sticky, structureless, freeform mess.

Is there any way I can manage this sticky dough?

At the moment I stretch it and fold it with the help of a scraper, but it is impossible to shape and I end up just plopping it into tins to prove. I shudder what to think would happen if I tried a loaf in a banneton.

I already have a blog, where my I chronicle my baking;, and I see no point in duplicating all that here. So my second question is:

Is it acceptable to just post links here to my personal blog?

Thanks for listening.



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