The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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So, as I started proofing today's batch of 50% whole wheat sourdough, the wife asked whether I was going to bake in the solar cooker that the boys and I made up a couple weeks ago.  Hmmm... So, had to go with it.  Maximum temperatures I have seen with it so far are 150C, and as it starts out at ambient temperature and takes about 1/2 hour or so to get up to cooking temperature, did some quite guesstimating as to how long I should allow the dough to proof.  Decided that about 1/2 hour was probably plenty, as my primary ferment was a few hours longer than initially planned, and taking into account the increased final rates of fermentation before the dough temperature was high enough to kill the yeast.  Dough was my 'standard' ~70% or so hydration, flour, ~2% salt and ~25% starter, all approximate.

solar cooker

This is the setup I used.  About 44% more surface area than that described at: I used two pyrex bowls with a seal for my greenhouse, and a simple enameled black pot as my heater.

Today's max cooking temperature.  I had temperatures ranging between 120C and 150C, and baked for almost 3 hours, with final bread internal temperature of about 85C.

I was initially going to make 2 loaves, and ended up putting them together to fit into my solar cooker pot. Forgot to slash them before baking.

And my crumb shot.  This loaf has been my sourest yet, since moving to Taiwan, probably due to the longer primary ferment, as well as not needing to keep the dough in the fridge during said ferment, seeing as it finally has cooled down a bit for the 'winter'.  The long, slow bake has made quite a soft loaf, which my kids like, though my younger son has complained that it is still not sour enough for his tastes.  Oh well, at least the intra-family variation in preferred bread flavours ensures that someone will like the bread no matter how it turns out!  The flavour is quite unique, but my vocabulary is limited enough in this regards that I am not sure how to describe it.  Am also trying out some new organic whole  wheat flour which works differently from anything I've tried before, so too many variables have changed with this for me to know what is causing what effects in the flavour.  Definitely will try this again, though probably a batch of buns that will cook faster! 

If anyone out there has experimented with slower, cooler bakes such as this, please let me know!



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Made a couple of loaves today that went over well with the Taiwanese in-laws, and that I am pretty happy with.  My usual whole wheat sourdough base, with ~30% added high gluten white flour, and about 1 1/2 cups of rye kernels (soaked overnight, then brought to a boil and then left to soak another few hours) and about 1 cup of flax seeds (soaked overnight), and ~1+% salt.  Probably about 9 cups flour total, plus the extra seeds, making a couple of large loaves.  My sourdough, which I have been keeping in the fridge 100% of the time since coming to Taiwan, hasn't yet developed much of a sour flavour (which is fine with everyone but me), but is working well to leaven my doughs. 

This time, I started with ~3 cups of starter, adding 3 cups of flour the night before and putting in the fridge.  After letting that warm up in the morning, I added the final 3 cups of flour, along with the rye and flax.  Bulk ferment for another 2 1/2 hours, split, stretch, fold, shape, and proof for about another 2 hours.  As you can see, precise measurements and replicability are not too high yet on my priority list.  Will likely try this one again and actually keep track of masses...


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So , I finally have one I want to share in my first post!  I have only been baking steadily for a couple of months now, and since I successfully captured some wild yeasties, have been using them exclusively.  I have also tried to simplify things as much as possible, hence have tended to keep my sourdough starter roughly the same hydration as my final dough.  As I have a regular day job, but don't want to limit my baking to weekends, I have been working on a means of fitting my baking into a regular day's schedule, and have come up with a technique that seems to work for me (made specific for this loaf):

The night before baking, I take the ~1 cup of starter that I have in my fridge out, and add 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup water and ~1/3 tsp salt.  I typically use rye or whole wheat, but this time I used organic spelt (the existing starter was ~80% spelt, 20% AP).  Mixed alltogether and left on the counter overnight.

Morning, 5:45am before going to work, added 3 cups organic AP flour, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 and a bit tsp salt.  Mixed together, and put down in the basement where it is a bit cooler.

Went to work.  Returned ~5:00pm.

Had roughly doubled.  The challenge has been to find a spot in the house that is the right temperature to leave the dough all day.  This has been a cool spring, so some days the basement is too cold, and I get almost no rise. Recently it has been a lot hotter, and I can get over-fermentation.  This still to be refined.  Nevertheless, today things worked out perfectly!

Cut ~1/2 cup of dough off to save as my next starter, stretched/folded/rested/formed a boule and let it sit in the colander for a couple hours to proof.  Next used the handy cast-iron dutch oven method, and results were most satisfactory.  The starter got fed (tripled) and immediately put in the fridge.

I have varied quantities of starter from batch to batch, and this quantity (~1 cup doubled the night before and then more than doubled the next morning) has given me the best flavour yet!  Not so sour that the wife won't eat it, but not as lightly-flavoured as I have been getting with half the quantity of starter.  Mmmmm.

semi-demi-spelt sourdough

Bit of an explosion on the crust, despite a cramped (as it was in the dutch oven) slashing with my handy straight razor.


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