First San Francisco Style Sourdough Batard -- Tender and Delicious, but Soft Crust
This is my third sourdough bread-baking attempt. The first two loaves were baked as boules in a cast iron pot. The bread was delicious, and the crust was crunchy and chewy and had a bit of a shine to it. The scoring was a bit rough on the second loaf, but it was still a better loaf than I had expected.
This time, I chose to try batards instead of boules. I once again used Mike Avery's San Francisco Sourdough recipe from his "An Introduction to Sourdough Baking" booklet (free sample), and followed the "mild" formula with a starter at 100% hydration. Rather than kneading, I used the stretch-and fold technique at 20 minutes, and then 3 additional times at 45 minutes and then an unplanned fold-and-stretch after an additional hour-and-a-half. The dough was light as a feather when I shaped the batards. I proofed them on lightly oiled parchment paper, and was quite happy they held their shape as well as they did.
The loaves were baked on a stone that had been preheated to 475 degrees farenheit. After the loaves had risen completely, they were scored, spritzed with water, then transferred on the parchment paper to the stone. A cup of hot water was was poured into a pan that had also been preheated in the oven. The oven temperature was reduced to 450 degrees, and the loaves were baked for 15 minutes. At that time, they were nicely golden brown, and the crust sounded crisp and the loaves sounded hollow when thumped lightly with a wooden spoon. The internal temperature was 202, so I removed them to cooling racks.
The loaves didn't have the shiny, slightly blistery crust that I had hoped for. After cooling, it was soft to the touch. On slicing, the crumb was soft and delicate, and the flavor was wonderful. It was mildly sour, and had an unexpected smoothness to it.. While I missed the crispy-chewy crust of my iron pot breads, my wife said that it was the best loaf I have made so far. She prefers the softer crust.
Now that I can bake a loaf of bread that pleases my wife, maybe I could also learn to bake a batard with a crust that I also want. Any suggestions?