basic 100% whole wheat sourdough learner formula needed
The quest continues, after a week being forced to focus on other things...
My most recent loaf (yesterday) seems like baked starter. Surprisingly, it is getting eaten. Thank goodness for home-milled Red Fife, it will compensate for a lot of failings! I think I should have known that something was up when the dough started bubbling as I was mixing it. I'm going to stay away from recipes with any added honey. Something in my starter gobbled it right down.
What I really need is a basic, 100% whole wheat flour-water-salt-starter formula at a hydration below 80% to work with until I get a good feel for the dough and the process. I really need to work on judging when the dough is developed sufficiently, and fermented the right amount.
And, weirdly, that really basic formula seems to elude me! Tons of recipes have added stuff, sweeteners and fats and other stuff like "vital" wheat gluten or dry milk powder or potato flakes... and all this "stuff" just confuses the issues for me.
Here are my thoughts for a basic loaf:
Morning of day one: take starter from frig, start feeding it every 4-6 hours to get it activated and sweeter (my other eater doesn't like sour bread).
Evening of day one, or morning of day two: mill enough flour for one loaf (suggestions welcome) and autolyze with plain water, holding some back to dissolve salt in the next day. What percent hydration to aim for, so that the dough will rise nicely but not be too difficult for this novice to work with (80% might be the max I can handle at the moment -- less would be better, I think).
Morning of day two: feed starter; watch closely.
Need to know how to tell when starter is ready -- float test? When to try it? Does scooping some out to test disturb the rest? Can you use the blob you floated or sank?
When starter is ready, mix with flour and water. How much starter to use? (I maintain mine at 100% hydration.) Dissolve salt in small amount of water held in reserve and mix that in (when? at the same time as the starter?)
Knead until dough is developed, since I need to learn how to judge when that is. My thinking is that I've been under-kneading; I've read that it's impossible to over-knead whole wheat by hand; but what if the flour has had a nice long autolyze? How thin does the windowpane need to be? Why would dough get stickier the longer you knead it? Or go through phases of getting slacker and stickier, then sort of tightening up, then getting slacker and stickier again?
Bulk ferment. Okay, don't try to get it to double. Poking with a wet finger doesn't seem to give the expected results. In a translucent container, what should the bubble population look like?
Shaping: once I'm getting risen dough that seems like the right texture and is not crazy sticky (like the most recent dough) or crazy slack (like some earlier doughs), I can start working on this...
Scoring: if the dough's texture is close to correct, this goes alright.
Baking: the main thing that seems to go right, although sometimes I overcook... even five minutes before the time is supposed to be up, the internal temp may be 5-10 degrees F above expected... and yes, I use two oven thermometers on opposite ends of the oven.
Eating: oddly, this still happens pretty well, in spite of repeated partial (or even almost total) bread failure!
All thoughts on the above suggested process are welcomed :-)