I have been on a baking hiatus, of sorts, realizing that the stash of bread in my freezer needed to be reduced. Having worked through that gradually, I finally got around to baking again the weekend before Labor Day.
What my mouth wanted was something robust, chewy, mildly tangy, and thoroughly wheaty. And it had to serve as a reliable foundation for sandwiches. What to do, what to do? Leader's Local Breads beckoned, and in it I found the Whole Wheat Sourdough Miche, modeled loosely after the Poilane miche. After checking the metric weight quantities (which are generally less error prone than the others in this book) and deciding that it was safe to proceed, I hauled my starter out of the refrigerator and gave it a couple of good feeds. It didn't take long for the starter to bounce back to vigorous health, especially with kitchen temperatures just slightly below the 80F mark. It more than doubled in less than 5 hours!
For once, I stuck pretty closely to the formula and process. The one deviation of note was that I dissolved the levain in the water before adding the rest of the final dough ingredients. Since I mix by hand, I find it easier to do that than to mix the levain into the already-mixed dough as Leader instructs. Other than making my life easier, I don't see that it makes any real difference in the outcome. Because of the warmth of my kitchen that day, I did have to trim fermentation times to avoid over-fermenting the levain and the final dough.
The outcome, by the way, was stunning! A deep, brown-verging-on-black crust, lightly crackled; a firm, moist crumb; a heady aroma redolent of toast with sweet and tangy overtones. I can't remember a recent bake that I was happier with than this. And then there is the flavor! It was everything the fragrance promised, and more. Roasted nuts and malt, a gentle hint of acidity, a down to earth wheatiness, and other good things that I don't have words for. The crust, after cooling, was more leathery than crisp but that played well against the moist coolness of the firm crumb. The crumb texture is rather fine-grained for this style of bread; that comes from the extended kneading that Leader recommends. Frankly, I didn't knead it as long as he recommends and I might even cut it back to just a couple of minutes of kneading for future bakes, combined with more stretch and folds to build strength. That would open the crumb somewhat, but not to the point that condiments would be oozing out of sandwiches.
Here's a picture, which doesn't do the bread justice:
Good stuff, even if it is me that says so!
Both our daughters and their families were with us for the Labor Day weekend, which gave me the excuse to do some additional baking. The tally for the weekend included Portugese Sweet Bread as rolls for barbecue pork sandwiches, sourdough English muffins for one morning's breakfast, and lemon oat scones for another breakfast. Fun!
Now I need to finish testing the breads that I plan to teach at the Culinary Center of Kansas City, starting in November. More fun!