The Little Loaves That Could
Today was just one of those days. That kind of day when any little thing that could go wrong does. But at the end of it, somehow, despite everything, I got some of the most gorgeous loaves I've ever gotten.
It started with the dog. Usually she wakes us up around 6:30 am. I told my husband to take my preferment out of the refrigerator when he took her out, and then I would wake up later and bake. Well, for once, the dog decided to sleep in and didn't get him up until almost 8 - which is when I planned to be up to bake! This put me behind from the very beginning. Add to that the stress that these were loaves being made for people who had requested them, and even offered money for them, and I was feeling a bit out of sorts.
You know, I should take that back. It started with the starter. Yesterday I had my starter out and it was going at a roiling bubble. After its second feed of the day it shoved the loosely-settled lid of its container off and proceeded to ooze out of the container and onto the counter. My mother, who is visiting, scooped everything up and put it in a bigger container. I was worried about possible contamination as, with guests in the house, a husband and a dog you just never know how perfectly sterile your countertop is. Ah well! It's for reasons just such as this that I keep a small portion of my starter back in the fridge and feed up to what I need on the counter when baking!
So, rather than doing the two loaves the recipe called for I'd decided to do a double batch. I put my cut-up preferment into the bowl of my new KitchenAid Pro 600 and then, for some inexplicable reason, added the flour before the water. I have always mixed my starter with water, then added flour as it is easier to get everything incorporated. I made sure to double everything - except the water! I almost forgot the salt, but then looked over and saw the salt in my mis en place and noticed the bowl, so in it went. At first things were OK, and then the KitchenAid began to protest. The bowl bucked and the mixer became sluggish. Uh-oh! I tried to reset, but it just wasn't working, so I turned it all out and started to knead by hand. After only a few moments of this I realized what I had done.
Let me tell you, there's just nothing like trying to add that much water into a dough at that late stage, by hand! I stretched the dough out as far as I could, sort of like a pizza with a lip, then added a bit of water and rolled it up. Lather, rinse, repeat. The dough became slick and a huge mess, but eventually I got it to a consistency where I was able to toss it back into the KitchenAid to finish up the kneading. As if this wasn't enough I had the pour guard on and bumped it when I was putting in my rosemary and knocked it into the bowl while the dough hook was going. There was a pop as the hook hit it, but thankfully nothing broke.
Thankfully I got a new dough bucket yesterday and I was able to mark where my dough was and easily saw when it had doubled. It doubled in closer to 2 hours than 3 or 4! I suppose in part due to the warmer temperature in the house, but the dough probably got warm with all that nonsense, and the starter was insanely active. Dough was removed and divided up into 4 slightly larger than 1-pound loaves and set to proof on parchment-paper lined pans. I'd like to say that from here on out it was smooth going - but that'd be a bald-faced lie!
Despite spraying my dough with spray oil the saran wrap stuck to the dough. Thankfully I was able to get it free without deflating my dough, though it was very dicy for a bit. Into the oven it went where, after about 8 minutes, I was reminded why I no longer use Reynold's parchment paper. I opened my oven to rotate my loaves - cue the fire alarm! Ugh. The parchment wasn't even that brown! Despite having to run around to the living room while flapping a towel like a maniac, I couldn't help but be giddy with glee as I could already tell that my loaves were springing like mad. I believe I can say that, without a doubt, these Little Loaves That Could are some of the most gorgeous sourdough loaves I've made. I even scored them, because hey, what could have went wrong THERE, right? I was worried that they might be tough and chewy despite looking so perfectly gorgeous, but the crumb is soft and feathery with just that perfect hint of chew! I even got HOLES!