The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Postal Grunt's blog

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I've found that the new year means I'm still going up the learning curve on my sourdough loaves. The continued low temperatures here in Kansas combined with above average barometric pressures gave me an opportunity to observe first hand some of the effects of weather on my starter and in the behavior of flours.

My starter exhibited the behavior that I should have expected with cooler room temperatures between 68-70F. Loaves rose more slowly, especially the loaf that had been retarded overnight. After refreshing my starter to a 1:2:2 ratio, activity was diminished, taking about 6 hours to double rather than the expected 3 1/2-4 hours.

I haven't lost my taste for loaves with whole wheat flour. I was surprised when my standby wheatMontana Bronze Chief turned my hydration estimates upside down. I usually aim for around 65-67%  in loaves that have 500g total flour but the loaves turned out to appear much drier than 65% after kneading.


The crumb on this first enriched loaf wasn't as open as I'd like but the flavor was more than acceptable

My most recent loaf is a boule of Bauernbrot based on Salome's excellent formula where I used up the last 60g or so of rye from a bag, added more of the Bronze Chief, some AP and finished off with some bread flour. The dough was again on the dry side when kneading. Either my estimate of hydration was low or the rye and WW absorbed more than usual amounts of water. The outside temp was around 1F, barometric pressure was a very high 30.56. I did an overnight retarding after shaping and the loaf needed almost 4 hours to warm up for baking.

The crumb doesn't show up well in this picture either. The flavor is fine enough that my wife wants to take what's left up to Omaha for her parents to sample. Now I have a reason to look back through my recipes for a formula for a bread I haven't tried before.

I've got a plan for the next four weeks. First off, I'm going to build up my starters in two steps rather than one or just taking out 100g from the container I keep refrigerated and letting it warm up. Instead of 100g, I can use 150g because I have the time to experiment with the process. Hydration level is something to work on because this is the first winter I've used a starter. Dough hydration will be moving up to the high 60s or low 70s. I know I'll have to learn new techniques because plain kneading won't be enough to get the results I'm aiming for. It's back to the bench for me, there's work to be done in the flour patch.

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I baked three loaves for a Thanksgiving day dinner at my sister-in-law's house in Omaha, Nebraska.It was a case of I'd either be the smart son-in-law or the brother-in-law from Hell depending on how they turned out. I baked my rye Wednesday with the Bauernbrot recipe that Salome posted recently and despite my shortcomings on shaping the loaf, it came out very tasty. It didn't hurt that my mother-in-law got one of the first samples.

The sourdough sandwich loaf that I thought would be the most popular turned out to be the least noticed, I suspect that was because it wasn't the most visually interesting and people do eat with their eyes first. My grandmother's Polish egg bread with raisins turned out well, not like my memories of it from my childhood, but I got compliments for its soft crumb and the sweet flavor. The egg bread was a straight dough in an effort to come as close to the method that Babci used when she baked for her large family. I admit, I don't have the resource of a wood burning stove that she used well into her 50s. I retarded both of these loaves overnight so my wife and I could smell the cooling loaves on the three hour drive north to Omaha. I enjoyed the ride but I suspect my wife felt like I was tormenting her.

Despite coming down with a nasty cold during the day, I've survived and expect to be volunteered to do the baking next year.

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

Saturday night, my wife and i were invited by our friends across the river in Farley MO to help celebrate the 89th birthday of Rob's mother. We used the opportunity to present a copy of the BBA to their daughter Ryoko as a late birthday/early Christmas gift. She's a junior in high school and really very good in the kitchen. I brought a loaf of a sourdough potato bread that I'm working on as a recipe.

After the meal, Rob asked how I went about the making and baking of the loaf. I couldn't get very far because I was using weights in my description rather than volumes. I thought that I was explaining the practicality of weight in a formula or recipe for the consistency and quality of results but Rob wanted cups rather grams. I guess that was where I should've remembered Samuel Clemens' statement that "it's better to stay quiet and let people think you're a fool than to open your mouth and confirm their suspicions".

How many other people here have run into that barrier?



Subscribe to RSS - Postal Grunt's blog