An Exploration of Heresy - To be a Fruity, yet-ever-so-foolish, Loaf Maker
To err in light of bread is not too err at all...
A terse, yet alarmingly pedantic, narrative:
After a brief to a local Le Pain Quotidien, my mother -the conductor of this crazy carbohydrate train- produced and prompted me to taste what I could only describe as the instigator of a newfound obsession: the walnut-raisin sourdough loaf.
For an uninitiated individual, the rapid descent into a vast spectrum of flavors unbeknownst to me was little less than a momentary venture into culinary euphoria; to suddenly be cast into an infinite expanse of gastronomic territories uncharted by my naivety almost too much to handle, too great a burden to bear. The crisp shatter of what I could only presume to be a perfect crust, immediately trailed by a chewy interior marred not by the repugnant sensation I associated with the (not-so-wonderful) Wonder Bread; a symphony of sensations that caused me to ponder my purpose for my 19 years on this planet.
I had developed a shallow interest in baking during my first year in college, but only then did I realize that the use of an oven reached far beyond simple scones or common cookies. What I sought - and currently seek - is a mastery of undertones and overtones, a blend of subtle undertones that enunciate the intricacies of flavor with uncharacteristic brash avowal.
Approximately one year has passed since that introduction to naturally-leavened breads. My fascination with sourdough has surpassed even that of my mother, who, in all her being, never could have foreseen that her culinary comrade would develop such a vested interest in a foodstuff that our household was initially void of. My ventures shifted from mindlessly meandering about to studying baking techniques and venturing to every bakery I could to garner inspiration from every facet imaginable. A short journey to Seattle devolved from seeing the Space Needle to waking up at 5:00 am to walk four and a half miles to reach the opening doors of Columbia City Bakery... two days in a row. A similar story occurred in San Diego, involving a 6-mile morning round trip at 6:30 am to purchase walnut scallion loaves, still warm from the oven, from Bread and Cie on University Avenue. I myself am, at times, intimidated by this ravenous desire to sample scrumptious breads wherever I go, and now, with a functioning whole wheat starter at 100% hydration and an insatiable appetite for a malformed, bronzed-to-burnt, perfect loaf, I present my Frankenstein's monster: A Blueberry Blackberry Sourdough Boule.
My fourth attempt at sourdough, the first being an unpalatable whole-wheat slab made with what I now realize was a sorely underfed starter, the second a most peculiarly moist apricot walnut loaf that resembled a damp sponge in both appearance and aromatic allure, and the third being a flawed reproduction of Robertson's classic Tartine loaf, this loaf is the first that I feel truly resembles the first loaf I tried in the gastronomic sense: a fine, crispy crust with a lightly chewy crumb, and an earthy aroma derivative from a blend of whole wheat, semolina, spelt, and bread flour. The smattering of fresh berries, which I find are quite an infrequent addition to sourdough breads, hearkens back to the blueberry muffins I used to eat at during family outings to a local Souplantation, though their intense sweetness no longer suit my tamer tongue. It was this memory, and memories of my mother raving over these muffins so many years ago, that make it feel suiting that my first successful loaf would be some distant offspring of a treat the one who introduced me to sourdough once loved so dearly.
Apologies for the extensive tangent. Perhaps my excitement over my first acceptable sourdough is radiating a tad too strongly and irradiating my writing habits.
The crumb on this bread is fairly underwhelming; as my first loaf with actual rise, however, I am excited to see where I can proceed from here with further experimentation with long autolyzes and gluten development.
One note I should make, however, is that the heat radiating from the dutch oven I used was only paralleled by what I can assume to be its burning hatred for my unprofessional practices. The reason I have no full-loaf photos is because the entirety of the bottom of one of the loaves adhered to the dutch oven, and it took a fair bit of coaxing (tough love from a now deceased and dearly missed wooden spoon) to remove. I can only assume it was the fruit juices that burnt into the oven as it was baking that cause this to occur. This, however, did not hinder me from scraping out the bottom half of the loaf and consuming the crispiest crust I have ever encountered.
Another note: The bitter tones of burnt bread compliment blueberries surprisingly well.
Though I wrote down my process, I can't say with certainty that it was recorded with the greatest integrity.
My measurements, however, are as follows:
150g 100% Hydration Whole Wheat Leaven
630g Water, warm
600g Whole Wheat Flour (King Arthur)
35g Semolina (Bob's Red Mill)
35g Spelt Flour (Bob's Red Mill)
80g Bread Flour (Lehi's)
Thank you all for the wonderful information frequently shared amongst the annals of the forums. As a long time lurker and a first time poster, I can say with certainty that the advice proved invaluable in this endeavor.