Vermont Sourdough in Five-Minutes a Day
It's been a long time since I've posted on The Fresh Loaf. The last several years have seen many changes in our lives, the primary one being that we chose to go "car free" back in December. Doing this is challenging, but not impossible in our hometown of Louisville, KY. While friends and family suggested that we just move on to more "bike friendly" cities (perhaps they're just trying to get rid of us and they figure Portland is as far from Kentucky as one can get), we decided to stick it out in Derby City.
It was one of the best decisions we have ever made. Relying solely on bike and bus (and the occasional ride from a friend) has forced us to become more efficient with our time and cut out unnecessary activities, but it has also led us to meet some amazing people. Who knew that there is an entire "car free" community in our city? Who knew we would have become passionately involved in our upcoming mayoral election? We find ourselves to be constantly advocating, even if only passively, for a city where owning a car will be seen as a burden, where traveling across town will be seen as a well-earned luxury instead of a necessity, and where everyone has the option to travel safely and freely (though not "for free.")
One thing that has had to change is my baking schedule. It is no longer reasonable for me to meander five hours coddling loaves of bread. Instead, I have adopted (and adapted) the five-minute method. It's not perfect, but it has allowed us to continue eating and sharing delicious homemade bread.
Lately, though, I've been getting the itch. A few weeks ago, I decided to make a new starter. Following the recipe in the back of Hamelman's book, I had a vibrant starter within a week. Still not able to carve out half a day for baking, I decided to take a chance oncombining sourdough leavening with the typically yeast-intensive five-minute method.
The results were surprising. In a thousand words...
As I mentioned before, the method I used was a hybrid. For the most part, I followed Hamelman's directions, although I didn't fuss over temperatures due to the warm weather, and I used a little more water (maybe 1/2 cup) to make the dough easier to work with. The dough rested in a covered bowl for about 1.5 hours. I folded in the bowl one time halfway through, and put it in the refrigerator for the night.
The next morning, I pulled out the dough, immediately shaped it into small boules (around 1/2 pound each), arranged them on parchment paper, dusted with flour, and covered. After an hour, I turned on the oven. Within 1.5 hours of shaping, the dough was in the oven. 30 minutes at 450, steam for 15 minutes.
The primary way this differs from Hamelman's recipe is that I shaped the loaves *after* refrigerating, not before. Since the gluten develops overnight, less folding was needed, so I was able to reduce bulk fermentation time, too. This saved about 1-2 hours the night before.
Another advantage to waiting to shape the dough is that it is *much* easier to work with cold dough. Following the "five minute" method, I cut chunks of dough, quickly formed them into tight boules (using wet hands), and plopped them seam-side-down on parchment. No proofing in baker's linen, no preshaping, reshaping, no messing with flour all over the kitchen. After an hour of resting and warming up, the dough was ready for the oven.
I realize that this is not a "new" method, and that many others have advocated an overnight cold fermentation. Still, if you're pressed for time, but still want to make naturally leavened bread, you should give this a try at least once.