R.I.P. faithful starter
This past weekend, I was looking for a sourdough formula that sounded interesting and just couldn't find one that tickled my fancy. So, I decided to free-lance a formula of my own. I had about 320 grams of well-fed levain that I pulled out of the refrigerator before leaving for church on Sunday. On returning home, I found it to be warmed up and at peak expansion.
Since I wanted to be able to use the bread for sandwiches, I determined to make a pair of batards and guesstimated that a pre-bake dough weight of about 750 grams each should work nicely. Having had a run of whole grain breads recently, I was ready for a change of pace but still wanted something flavorful. After consideration, I built a 70% hydration dough with 5% rye, 10% whole wheat and 85% bread flour. At the last minute, I chucked in 30 grams of flaxseed meal because, well, because it was there and it seemed like a good idea.
The water, levain, flours, and meal were treated to a 30 minute autolyse. Then I did a double round of stretch and fold, after which the dough went back into the bowl to ferment. I did 3 more stretch and folds at 40 minute intervals, only remembering after the second one that I hadn't added any salt. (That should have been a clue.) I slurried a tablespoon each of water and sea salt and worked that into the dough. After the dough was nearly doubled, I turned it out on the counter, divided it in two approximately equal pieces, pre-shaped it and let it rest for about 10 minutes. After the rest, I finished shaping the loaves into fat batards and set them to rise in a parchment paper couche.
When the batards were still a little short of doubling, I preheated the oven to 450 dF with a baking stone and a steam pan in place. When the oven reached temperature, I poured boiling water in the steam pan, slashed the loaves (still need more practice with that) and loaded them onto the stone. After turning the oven temperature down to 400 dF, I set the timer for 25 minutes. A few minutes later, I came back to see how the oven spring was working (very nicely, thank you) and it hit me that I was seeing all of my levain/starter baking. I had not remembered to reserve a piece for storage! I've avoided making that bone-head move for almost 4 years, but it finally caught up with me. At that point, there was nothing to do but swallow hard and let the bread finish baking. When the timer sounded, I checked the internal temperature of the bread and the thermometer went to 210 dF very quickly, indicating that the bread was fully baked.
The bread, thankfully, turned out very well. No single flavor stands out, but the levain, the rye, the wheat, and the flaxseed meal all meld for a very satisfying taste. Here's how it looks:
On this particular loaf, the slash at each end of the loaf opened beautifully, allowing the crumb to expand fully. The center slash, however, must not have been deep enough, because it didn't open very much. As a result, the loaf has sort of a Bactrian camel appearance with humps at either end and a dip in the middle.
All I have to do to duplicate this is get a new starter going and try again in 4 years ...