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.