The Accidental Loaf
Now that summer is in full blaze in the Washington, DC area, I've banished my rye and white levain starters to my refrigerator, where they seem to mournfully regard me whenever I open the door. This past weekend as I was gazing on them I realized they hadn't been fed in the better part of a week and were probably getting cranky. So I temporarily liberated them from their frosty clime and after an hour or so they were both bubbling and ready to be fed. But as I started to toss a good portion of both it dawned on me I was about to waste a lot of levain for the lack of a plan.
Now, one thing I learned from TFL that has been driven home daily in a commercial environment is that you don't just toss a bit of this and a smidge of that together in creating a loaf of bread. Everything is planned, everything is weighed, always. But it was late and I wanted to just feed my starters and be off to bed, so I grabbed an empty container and a tablespoon and proceeded to throw a couple tbls. of both levains together, along with a handful of rye and one of Sir Galahad which I reckoned came to probably half a cup together, and enough water to create what looked like it might be a 100% starter. And went to bed.
The next morning I found my mixed-starter healthy and looking for a new home, so I decided to create something on the fly. At this point I did weigh the mixture which came to 240g. So with that in mind I decided to construct a loaf that would have a hydration of 68% - making it easy to work with - and where the mixed starter comprised 25% of total dough weight. Again, an easy number to work with.
Some quick computing, and I came up with the following:
Ingredient Baker's Percent Weight
Flour 100% 565 g
Water 68% 384 g
Salt 2% 11 g
Total 170% 960 g
All of which was especially convenient since total weight was just over 2 lbs - a nice size boule for my banneton.
Since I already had 240 g of levain, I did some 'guesstimating' based on the previous evenings couple-of-this-and-a-handful-of-that and decided that the compositon of the levain was probably in the neighborhood of 50 g starter, 95 g flour and 95 g water.
With those numbers in hand it was then easy to determine my final dough mix, which I decided would incorporate 20% whole wheat flour:
Sir Galahad 80% 355 g
KA WW 20% 90 g
Water 58% 264 g
Salt 2% 11 g
Levain 25% 240 g
Total 960 g
Desired dough temp is 76°-78°F.
I employed an autolyse with the flours and water for 30 minutes, and then added the levain and salt and mixed on speed 1 for 3 minutes, on speed 2 for 2 minutes and speed 3 for another 3 minutes.
[Long aside] If I were utilizing a commercial spiral mixer instead of my poor Hamilton Beach this would be an overmixed bread. But frankly, I'm beginning to doubt that most kitchen stand mixers are even capable of overmixing in the sense of over-oxygenating dough and consequently wiping out its carotenoids. In fact, I'm finding that I can either do a very extended mix on speed 1 only, or an abbreviated one using speed 3. On speed 2 the dough just tends to form a ball around the hook and it just goes round and round, which isn't really contributing to gluten development I think. By contrast, with my mixer, on speed 3 the dough is forced down the hook and gradually begins to slap the sides of the mixer which is an outcome you look for using a commercial mixer, signifying gluten development.
Bulk fermentation was 2 1/2 hours, with two folds at 50 minute intervals. I pre-shaped a boule, allowed it to rest for 20 minutes, and then did final shaping, placed in a well-floured banneton, and proofed for 1 1/2 hours. Because it was now early afternoon Saturday and blazing hot, I decided after this shortened proofing period to retard the loaf in my refrigerator for about 4 hours or so, until the afternoon's heat began to dissipate, making it bearable to have the oven on in my kitchen.
After a little more than 4 hours in the refrigerator the dough came out to a preheated oven at 430° F (my oven seems to run hot, so I stepped down the temp from the 460° temperature I'd otherwise bake at.
Pre-steamed, loaded the boule, and then steamed immediately and again after 2 minutes. Total bake time was 50 minutes.
For an accidental loaf I'm pleased with the outcome. It developed a nice crackly crust as it sang once out of the oven, and the crumb is moist and open - but not too open (it's easy to forget that not everything is supposed to resemble ciabatta :>)
This makes a nice sandwich bread. It's moderately sour, which in my case probably reflects the impact of the rye starter more than the white one. Lesson learned: easy way to avoid just tossing some extra starter down the drain, and an opportunity to make up a formula on the fly.