A tale of two sourdoughs
I made a loaf of SF Sourdough for an Easter brunch, following Peter Reinhart's recipe in his book Artisan Bread Every Day. In the past I've had extremely good luck with Reinhart's SF Sourdough recipe in his other book Crust and Crumb but my supply of "mother starter" was a bit low and the recipe in Artisan Bread Every Day only calls for two ounces while the one in Crust and Crumb asks for . Besides, I've been wanting to try the recipe in Artisan Bread Every Day anyway.
I mixed up the intermediate"wild yeast starter" Friday, the dough Saturday, and baked the loaf Sunday morning (keeping the starter and dough each overnight in the fridge between times). When I mixed up the dough it seemed too wet (perhaps I messed up the weights, I was working under pressure); the recipe says adjust consistency as needed so I added more flour until it seemed about right. I fridged the dough up in a stainless bowl with a tight plastic lid. I was a bit worried it might rise too much and pop the lid off but fridge space was limited. In the morning the lid was, indeed, bulging a bit but it hadn't popped off.
I chose to just use all the dough to make a single big "miche" loaf because I didn't want to risk degassing the dough too much by dividing it. It was probably the biggest loaf I've ever baked.
Here are photos of the result:
The loaf looks pretty good, and my wife and our guests seemed to like it quite a bit, but I found the taste and texture less satisfactory, less "yummy", than loaves I baked back in January using the recipe from Reinhart's Crust and Crumb.
Here's a photo from back in January:
Loaves and crumb from January 2011^
The more varied and irregular holes in the crumb of the January loaves is fairly obvious. Not visible is a difference in taste and mouth-feel. The January loaves as I recall were a bit moister, more tender perhaps, and had better taste.
I'm a bit bemused by the difference and curious about the cause. The recipes are very similar, and the "mother culture" is the same. One thing different is that in January I used King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour while in the current loaf I used a less expensive generic unbleached bread flour I got at the local Food Maxx market - both have the same labeled protein content. The loaves in January included a bit of brown sugar in the dough per the Crust and Crumb recipe while the current loaf did not. The January loaves were made exactly by weight according to the recipe while the latest included additional flour which I "eyeballed". I'm not sure but I think there was a tad more salt in the January loaves. Finally, the January loaves were retarded overnight "uncontrained" under plastic wrap while the current dough was retarded in a bowl with a tight fitting lid which restrained it's expansion.
Anyway, the two sourdough bakes tasted quite different to me, although others say they found the current effort highly satisfactory. Go figure!