Altamura Sourdough - A Happy Accident
Every once in a while, things don't go exactly as planned, but the result is really good anyway. This is one of those times - a happy accident.
I promised to bring some bread to a dinner party with friends. I made a delicious loaf of David's San Francisco sourdough, and I wanted to make a durum flour loaf, like Leader's Pane di Altamura. I also wanted to try a loaf shaping technique that I saw in this video. [I think the original reference to the video was posted recently on TFL, but I can't find it, so my thanks to the poster and my humble apologies for not being able to give credit.] Having never tried either the recipe or the technique, and reading some posts on TFL about some problems with Leader's formula, at the last minute I decided to bail and modify the recipe to one I felt a little more comfortable with.
I had already built the levain in three stages and was ready to mix the dough. I started with my stock 100% hydration starter, and converted part of it to an 81% H using whole wheat durum as the first refreshment (formula below in the "Method" section). A second refreshment was done after fermenting overnight, and the final build was mixed after 13 hours and left to ferment again overnight. I found the whole wheat durum peaked too quickly (6-7 hours), so for the final build I switched to Extra Fancy durum. This was beautifully peaked and full of gas bubbles the next morning (sorry, no pics).
After looking at some past Altamura-type loaves that I had baked in the past, I decided on a 40% AP flour/60% Durum blend for the final dough. It turned out to be fairly easy to work with, even though the final hydration was in excess of 70%. The dough had excellent structure, but when it came time to score the loaves, I found that it was too wet a dough to score like in the video and the result is the top loaf in the photo below. It was scored with the baker's knife, but the dough was too wet to coax up the corners into the desired peaks. The second loaf was scored with a lame.
The oven spring was so huge you can barely see the score in the bottom loaf. It was also underproofed, but overall look didn't suffer too badly. The crumb was extremely moist and chewy with lots of irregular sized holes. The crust was also chewy, perhaps a bit too soft for my tastes, but the overall flavor was very good.
Here's the formula and method. [Note: this formula is revised based on discussion below.]
I think that in order to be able to shape as in the video, the hydration needs to be in the 60-65% range. I will definitely try this again.