So here’s my first blog entry here at TFL. After lurking and secretly stealing and borrowing brilliant recipes and ideas from wonderful TFLers for a few years, only contributing very occasionally to the community with odd comments here and there, I decided (nudged by my fellow Essex TFLer, maxwellion) it’s ‘bout time I should pay back my long-overdue debt with some humble offerings of my recipes and what I’ve learned from not-always-perfect bread making experiences.
Yesterday, I baked my regular WW sourdough loaves, one for my friend and the other for ourselves. This is a favourite of another friend of mine who’s kind enough to buy my breads every week, so I’ve baked this many, many times before and it always turns out quite nice. Very reliable recipe…..except for yesterday. I contemplated for a long time whether this should be my first blog entry or should I wait until I get more satisfactory (=less embarrassing) result. But, heck, if I start from a bottom, the only way is UP!
(Excuse my English. It’s not my first language….Been using this excuse for about a million years now….)
Here’s the basic recipe and method for this bread.
Ingredients (for one loaf )
200g Wholemeal flour
90g White strong flour
10g Rye flour
1 tbls toasted wheat germ
125g active sourdough (75% hydration) *see the note below
1/8 tsp or less instant dried yeast (optional)
6g Sea salt
2 tsp-1 tbls good quality olive oil (optional, for slightly improved keeping quality)
*Note - Apologies for unusual hydration level. Most of my bread I make are 70-75% hydration, so this is how I’ve been keeping the hydration of my sourdough to make adaptation of new recipes easy for me. I believe Shiao-ping used to keep hers at this level, too. I always feed SD twice before I use it to make sure it’s active.
Feed the sourdough twice in 10-14 hrs before you use it.
Mix all the flour and instant dried yeast (if using) in a large bowl.
In a separate small bowl, put water and sourdough (cut in to small pieces) and mix a little to loosen the sourdough.
Pour the sourdough water mix into the bowl with flour and yeast, mix into shaggy mess until there’s no dry flour. Autolyse for 40 minutes.
After autolyse, sprinkle sea salt and S&F in a bowl (8-10 strokes, turning the bowl gradually as you S&F). Cover and rest for 40-45 minutes.
Do another 2-3 sets of S&F every 40-45 minutes, adding olive oil before the second S&F, if using.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cold retard in a fridge for 12-16 hrs.
When cold retard is done (I’ve been using a few, large air-bubbles on the surface of dough as the sign when it’s done), leave it at room temperature for 30 minute-1hr and pre-shape and shape into whatever shape you desire, put it in a banneton and final-proof at room temperature for how-long-it-may-need-to-take.
Pre-heat oven to 240C with a lidded pot (Dutch oven/cast iron pot/Pyrex casserole/whatever you have) in it.
When the dough is ready (finger-poke test!), turn it out to a sheet of baking parchment (cut to a slightly larger size than your baking pot), slash the top and transfer it to the heated pot with the parchment.
Bake 20 minutes, covered, remove the lid/cover, lower the temperature to 210-220C and bake another 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat but leaving the bread inside the oven for 10 minutes with a door open ajar.
Easy enough. It works fine everytime without any drama.....except for this time. I noticed the dough was fermenting a bit quicker than usual while the S&F sessions, the dough feeling weirdly softer and more extensible. It almost felt as if I were playing with a ball made out of old and weak elastic bands, only stickier. I attributed it to slightly warmer and murkier weather last few days (though it wasn’t that warm yesterday) and completed S&F sessions quicker than usual and put the dough in the fridge as soon as it's done. But…..when I checked the dough in the morning, there’re so many huge bubbles on the surface of dough, much more than usual and could see the top of the dough was starting to sag in the middle a bit. Sure sign of over-fermentaion! (usually I can leave it in a fridge until around mid-day with no problem) I quickly pre-shaped and shaped without waiting for the dough to come to room temperature, let it finish the final proof in a shoter time than usual while warming up the oven + my trusted Pyrex casserole, slashed and baked as usual. While I was pre-shaping and shaping, I noticed the dough was much, much stickier (even more than previous evening) than usual (hence the overly-white surfaces on the finished breads from tons of rice flour I sprinkled in the bannetons) , felt much weaker and it was very difficult (almost impossible) to achieve good enough surface tension. So I feared for the worst, half expecting the dough would collapse while baking, but fortunately it had good enough oven spring, got reasonable ears and volume, smelled alright. I was really relieved that I din’t have to make another (better) one for the friend, froze one of them to keep until I see this friend on Friday. (Have to make 3 more loaves of different variety for her, so making a loaf or two at a time. Not enough space in my fridge to cold ferment 4 loaves!)
This is how it came out…(Sorry I just realized how bad I’m at taking close-up photos)
A reasonably respectable ear….
An obligatory crumb shot, of course…
(the white streaks are the trace of tons of flour I had to use during pre-shaping and final shaping because of extreme stickyness of the dough)
This morning I sliced the other one to have it at breakfast and….. understood the reason for all those weird and unusual behaviour by the dough. I forgot to double the amount of salt though I was baking two loaves…… Nothing to do with ‘slightly warmer' (which was not) weather after all. Just my usual carelessness.
I’ve just fed my sourdough to make another loaf for my friend tomorrow.…