I swear, it's just about impossible to kill a starter. I'd left my poor rye starter unfed in the fridge for at least three months, and when I opened it a couple of days ago, the top was a slimy grey with some sort of fuzzy stuff starting to take hold. But, as I often find is the case, underneath this disgusting, repulsive crust, though the starter looked tired, it also looked undamaged.
I fed a dab of this under-crust starter a few times and it soon looked ready to make a loaf of bread. So I did -- a loaf of 40% Rye with Caraway.
Such a tasty loaf. And it paired well with Carol Lessor's Chicken with Ginger & Dill Soup from Souped Up!. I'd been admiring the recipe for some time, but it called for boiling a whole chicken, which I usually don't have handy. At the Winter Farmer's Market this weekend, however, a woman was selling stew hens for cheap, so I picked one up for about $6. For those who have the book, it seemed like overkill to me to boil the chicken and vegetables in chicken stock, so I just used water.
It's a good soup.
The bread was good, too. Here's how I made it (It's the same recipe that I put in the handbook. I adapted it from Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread so that it would work with my 100% hydration starter. I also bumped up the water in the loaf and omitted the commercial yeast. I figure the sourdough is strong enough to do the job so long as I've got the time to wait.
Whole rye flour: 40%
White flour: 60%
Caraway seeds: 1.8%
40% of the flour (all the rye) is in the starter at 100% hydration
White flour: 300 grams or about 2 generous cups
Rye starter (at 100% hydration): 400 grams or 1.25 cups
Water: 175 grams or ¾ cup
Salt: 9 grams or 1.25 tsp
Caraway seeds: 9 grams or 1 Tbs + 1 tsp
Dissolve the starter into the water, and then add the salt and caraway seeds. Add the flour and mix until everything is hydrated.
Dough development and the first rise
You’ll want to do either the stretch and fold or traditional kneading. Either way, it’ll be a little tricky because the rye will make the dough sticky. Keep at it – the dough will come together, though it will be more clay-like than a 100% wheat dough.
Be gentle. You want to retain as many of those air bubbles as possible. Rounds and batards are the traditional shapes.
You can let it rise for another 2 hours at room temperature. You can also speed things up (and increase sourness) by placing the dough on an upturned bowl in the bottom of a picnic cooler, throwing a cup of boiling water in the bottom and covering it quickly. After an hour, throw another cup of hot water in. The rise should only take a 90 minutes this way.
Score the bread as you like. Hash marks are traditional for rounds, and batards usually take a single, bold stroke down the center or a couple of baguette-style slashes.
I baked this in a cloche at 450 degrees for about 40 minutes, taking the top of the cloche off about halfway through.
Tomorrow: a big fat tempeh reuben for lunch! (What?! That doesn't sound good? Truth be told, it sounds awful to everyone else but me in my family, as well. But to me ... heaven.)