The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Newbie Sourdough Wannabe Requests Critique

  • Pin It
clofgreen's picture
clofgreen

Newbie Sourdough Wannabe Requests Critique

I've recently started baking bread. Long story short, I live in the US mountain west, a culinary wasteland. Last year my wife and I visited the east coast where I tasted my first real pizza. It was love at first bite, so came back and built a wood fired oven.

Similar to my deprived pizza experience, my bread used to come in a plastic bag and tasted like cardboard. But no more. I've purchased several books including "How to Make Bread" by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, "Whole Grain Breads" by Peter Reinhart and "Bread Alone" by Daniel Leader. I've had varying degrees of success including my latest attempt below which prompted me to come here and ask for help.

My problem is this: Never having tried artisan bread before except once in a sandwich at Kneaders, I'm not sure if I'm doing it right. And since my only local source of "artisan bread" is from a chain grocery store, I'm not sure I should use them as the standard of excellence. So I'm going to describe what I did to make the bread above and hope that some kind soul will correct my mistakes.

OK, I already know my first mistake. After using up a bag of Montana hard red wheat of high protein content which yielding good loafs, I opened a can of wheat my mother gave me and used it not knowing what kind of wheat it was or where it came from. Here's a picture: Or not. There must be a limit to number of photos per post. Oh well, maybe I'll start another post and let some wheat expert identify it for me.

But here's my process: Ground the wheat and sifted it with a #30 sieve. Used 28 oz sifted wheat flour and 15 oz bread flour. Mixed it with 27 oz fairly stiff starter, 27 oz water, and .9 oz sea salt. Kneeded by hand 15 minutes. Proofed 2.5 hours at 78 degrees. Deflated and formed balls that rested 45 minutes. Shaped into Batards. Second rise for 2 hours on a couche covered in the sifted bran. Slashed, put in a 550 oven on 1/2 in quarry tiles (didn't have time to fire up the oven this weekend), added two cups ice for steam, turned to 450 and baked till done (200 degrees). That's the short version of the steps used to make the above loaves. I was going to post photos of the entire process to help you discover my mistakes but guess that'll have to wait. I hope someone will critique my process, and if you can tell from the photos, what I can do better.

Thanks. Craig

 

 

 

 

jannrn's picture
jannrn

That is BEAUTIFUL!! How delicious is your pizza?!

clofgreen's picture
clofgreen

Well, my pizza experience has been Shakey's, Little Caesar's and a few even worse (see revised post above) so I'm not a real judge. But last weekend I had some family over for pizza. They used to live just outside New York and they said it was real good. All I know is that I can spit a pizza out in 90 seconds, two minutes if I keep the heat down to 800 degrees, and they don't sit around long enough to get cold. Last fall I cranked out 24 pizzas for 36 friends in under an hour. The oven kept right up with it. I have to mention that the firebricks were from a steel plant, industrial quality (2300 degree rating) so I guess that helps.

Craig

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

Next time do the same thing but shape it as a boule and bake it in a dutch oven and see what the difference is. You might get more lift from the captured steam from the dough itself. But, it looks like a good example of a bread with a very high proportion of fresh, whole wheat. Was the dough hard to work with because it was too wet? If not, add a oz or two more water. 

BTW ... as a former owner of a wood-fired oven, if you bake bread in the oven, fill it as full as you can for maximum oven spring of all of the loaves.

chouette22's picture
chouette22

... to artisan bakeries, but you seem to live in the most idyllic place and that WFO looks incredible. And you built it yourself? What beautiful greenery all around it and I love the two chairs that look so inviting to relax while the bread/pizzas are baking. 

Your breads look really good and your process does too. You could experiment with autolyse, less kneading and stretch and folds. Also, like one commenter already said, make sure you add enough water to your dough. All that ww flour is often very thirsty and can absorb more water than indicated in the recipes. However, breads with a higher percentage of ww flour will certainly be more dense than breads made with white flour. 

Just keep experimenting! If the bread tastes good to you, then that is all that matters. 

clofgreen's picture
clofgreen

Thank you all for replying. I think my bread dough might have been too dry. After kneading it, it was tacky but not the least bit sticky. Last week I experimented with a wetter dough but it was so slack that when turning it out of the couche onto the peel, it just flattened right out. So this time I reduced the water somewhat. Here's what it looked like after the first rise, two minutes after forming into a ball to rest:

Too stiff you think? I've seen and read about people who use high hydration doughs, but I don't know how to work it I guess. Any suggestions or links to places that explain how to do it?

Craig

polo's picture
polo

I tried to figure your hydration percentage based on your recipe, and if your starter is @ 75%, your final dough would be about 66% hydration. That doesn't seem real low, but if the wheat you are using is high protein you could probably up it a couple of percent, especially given the fact that you are using bread flour.

One thing I noticed about your recipe is that you say you mix the dough for 15 minutes. Is this by hand or do you use a mixer? You may consider using an autolyse period and stretch and fold over a couple of hours to develope the gluten.

Your bread looks good Craig. Half the fun is in tweaking the recipe to produce what you want, and by all means fire up that oven. Like another poster mentioned, make enough dough to fill it up and it will steam itself. Your neighbors and friends will love you for it.

clofgreen's picture
clofgreen

I attended high school in rural Idaho and learned just enough to know how many fingers I cut off in shop. :)

After making dough, I usually have a few ounces of starter left over that I mix with 3 oz water and 3 oz flour. When ready to bake next, I mix that with 15 oz flour, 11 oz water and 5 oz chef. This produces a fairly stiff starter. Would it be best to add the extra water here or wait and add it to the dough? I have read about the stretch and fold method but it seems people are doing it over several hours which I usually don't have. But I'll adjust my schedule and give it a try. Any place in particular that you could recommend that explains how to do it?

Regarding baking bread in the pizza oven; I did that two weeks ago. Baked six loaves at once. They turned out great. I gave them all away and yes, I have many happy friends.

polo's picture
polo

The starter description you give tells me that your starter is indeed at around 75% hydration. If you decide to add hydration to your dough, wait til later. If you have to make an adjustment it is much easier to add water later than it is to add flour.

I typically mix my dough by hand because I am making large batches (can't afford a mixer big enough). A one hour autolyse helps this process immensely. Here is my process, but mind you, I am no expert.

Weigh out starter and add to mixing vessel.

Add liquid (water, milk, whatever you are using), and stir until starter is incoporated in the fluid.

Add flour and mix into a cohesive mass.

Allow that mass to autolyse for one hour.

After one hour, add salt, and start the stretch and fold process. This is merely taking one end of the dough, pulling it in a direction away from the dough ball, and folding it back over the dough. Each time I stretch and fold I do it until the dough starts to firm up. At first your dough will be slack, but as you stretch and fold it will tighten up. Once it is tight, allow it to rest for 20 to 30 minute before repeating the process.

I stretch and fold about four to five times over the next two hours.

Ater stretch and fold I let the dough bulk rise for the next one to two hours (this is dependent on my kitchen temperature).

After bulk rise I make my loaves and put them in floured bannetons until baking. I mostly cold ferment my bread overnight (12 hours or so)

Next morning I bake (I've been firing the oven during the night and it is usually stabilized by about 9:00 to 10:00 am).

Like I said, I am definitely no expert, and there are many others here that would bake circles around me, but my bread turns out very well so far:)

clofgreen's picture
clofgreen

So did using new wheat. More hydration, 60 min. autolyse, stretch and fold over two hours. I'd post pictures but the family snarfed the loaf. But it was much lighter (even though I forgot to sift out the bran) than before and tasted great too. Thanks for all the help.

C

polo's picture
polo

Glad it worked out for you. Keep on baking.

 

Mark

clofgreen's picture
clofgreen

Oh, here's a bit of information that might make you laugh. I mentioned that the wheat I'm using now is of unkown type? Well, I talked to my mother who gave me the history (yes, it has history) of the wheat.

My grandfather used to travel to Montana in the 1940s to help farmers (not sure what he did) but apparently he came home from one trip with several hundred pounds of wheat sealed in military water barrels. When my grandparents moved away from our farm, he gave them to my mom and dad. I remember seeing these barrels as a kid in our basement in the 60s and again as a teenager in the 70s. 10 years ago, when my mother retired and moved south, she gave them to me. Two weeks ago, I opened one up, the first time they've been opened since sometime in the 40s. Here's a picture:

Can anyone tell from the photo what kind of wheat it might be? I wonder if there's any nutritional value left? Think I'll do a bit of research. But I think it's cool that I'm eating 70 year old wheat and that it tastes as good as the new stuff I've been using, maybe even better.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

It was closed up before the nuclear age!   You could sell the closed cans for a fortune!  

clofgreen's picture
clofgreen

And non genetically modified as well. I think you've got something there.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Not to worry.   All American wheat is non-GMO.

clofgreen's picture
clofgreen

to see if it sprouts, comparing it to last season's crop. I'll report the results. I saw a chart once where properly stored wheat was supposed to be good for 30 plus years. Maybe this will convince them to raise the number. (EDIT: I found out the wheat is hard spring red.)

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Such geriatric wheat deserves prehistoric water.  Maybe txfarmer still has some of her 10k yr old thawed Antarctic ice*.   

 

_______
*so that's why she makes up her 36h baguette dough with ice cold water.  Doh!

clofgreen's picture
clofgreen

Very few berries sprouted. Looks like chickens and compost pile are going to be very happy.

subfuscpersona's picture
subfuscpersona

hard white wheat wasn't developed 60-70 yrs ago.

only question is whether it is hard red winter or hard red spring. Taking a look at the USA reference maps for the major wheat growing states ( http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/4632/major-wheat-growing-regions-us-reference-maps ) we can see that Montana is currently a big producer for both types. Hard red spring wheat is a little higher in protein that hard red winter wheat but both are fine for bread - especially since you're mixing it with commerical white flour.

BTW, what grain mill are you using to grind your wheat?

clofgreen's picture
clofgreen

Although just for fun, I hand ground some flour the other evening with a Back to Basics Grain Mill. Took about 6 minutes per cup of wheat berries. It worked reasonably well, not nearly as fine as the Whisper Mill but would work in a pinch.

BTW, I'm very happy with the Whisper Mill.