Bread Flour vs All-Purpose Flour
I’ve been working since September to produce my own “perfect” sourdough bread. Three weeks ago I was pretty much there, but you know, I keep tweaking, trying to make it more sour, and the recipe more reliable. Well, my tweak this time was changing flour. I’d been using KA Bread flour, but kept reading about people using KA All-Purpose flour and it was “just the same,” “worked just as well,” etc., etc. They never said it was just as good but different. . .
I had promised to bring two loaves to the Easter Dinner party we were invited to, so I took my starter out of the fridge Thursday night and started feeding it: quarter cup of bread flour, two tablespoons purified water, twice a day. This starter is happy, vigorous, bubbly, and I’ve come to understand that the fault lies with the baker in this house, not with the starter. It’s been very patient with me as I’ve struggled to learn.
This morning I started my bread, using about 1/2 cup of starter, along with some preferment, and adding those to 500 gm warm purified water. I added 750 gm flour (350 each of bread flour and AP flour, with 50 gm of rye flour) and 15 gm salt. It was very shaggy, much more than I remembered. Hm. Can’t be all that different, right? It’ll come along. I rolled it into a ball and put it into an oiled container in my rising area. Did hourly stretch-and-folds four times. The dough was so wet I ended up working on a floured surface, with floured hands.
I cut it in half, shaped it into two loaves and put them into my floured couche. An hour into the rise I started to preheat my oven to 500 degrees. And put my cast iron Dutch oven in there as well, hoping it would be my life saver. (It was. . .)
An hour and forty-five minutes of proofing and they were ready to go, but I could see that they were still soft and would not likely maintain their shape. The first loaf basically de-gassed as I rolled it onto the Silpat mat I use for baking. Bummer. I poured the other loaf into the heated Dutch oven, sprayed it with water, and covered it. I dropped the temperature to 470 and baked them for thirty minutes. The loaf was done, but pale and misshapen. I took the cover off the Dutch oven and gave it another ten minutes at 450. It was a glorious honeyed mahogany color, with a few surface bubbles and some shallow thin streaks of cracking (I’ll bet there’s a term for that that I don’t know. . . I never slashed the surface, but it did break open beautifully with these feathery trails.)
I’d love to say that the pictures are here, but the loaf traveled to our dinner party on the cooling rack in the back seat of the car. It was consumed in total with oohs and ahhs, enjoyed by all. I’ll do it again. WOW! The flavor was full, nutty. Not “sour” enough, but probably sour to some. The crumb was grayish (the rye, probably) beautiful, with smaller holes than I had hoped for but lots of them, and that lovely translucence that some bread gets.
So. . . questions and comments: Did the change to 46.6% AP flour make the difference in wetness? If so, I will go back to 100% bread flour. Is the success of Dutch oven baking more reliable? (I was desperate that at least ONE of my loaves “work!” and the Dutch oven did it with dough I thought was a loss.) With dough that wet, how could I have increased the flour after the first stretch-and-fold with any reliability, to something that would have worked as loaves. . . ?
. . . and how do I make it more sour? I’ve been reluctant to go to the citric salt that I understand is used by many commercial bakers, but maybe it’s time.
Thanks for any comments or suggestions – love hearing from the experts and hard-working wannabees on this site. It’s awesome!