It's amazing how far your confidence can plummet after baking a whole string of inedible sourdough frisbees. Necessity (and hunger) got the better of me, so this week I switched back to a hybrid recipe that's always worked well.
20g oat bran
300g tepid water
4g dried active yeast
45g rye starter
Tablespoon vegetable oil (I use rape seed oil)
It's actually a recipe for a Polish sour rye that I found in a book and adapted a little while back. By varying the types of flour and flavourings in the mix, I can produce loads of different kinds of breads. If I'm in a real hurry, I can up the yeast to 7g and do the bulk ferment in an hour at room temperature (20C) and the proof in about 30 mins. If I've got more time, I can take the yeast down to 3g and let the dough come together more slowly. 4g of yeast gives a bulk ferment of around 2 hours and a proof of around 45 mins.
I've also been experimenting with using a large stock pot inverted over a baking sheet in order to do the first part of the bake. I can fit a medium-sized bread under that, either free form or in an 8x4 tin. I put this contraption on top of a pizza stone in my pre-heated oven. I bake for 25 mins at 230C and then 20 mins at 200.
The first loaf I made had a flour mix that was two parts wholemeal, one part granary and one part white bread flour. I also added in a tablespoon of milled linseed. This quantity is just right for an 8x4 loaf tin.
This made a really good all-round sandwich loaf; chewy, flavoursome crust and a lovely soft crumb.
The second variant I made this week was the most ambitious... The flour mix was 3 parts white bread flour and one part wholemeal, but I added two ounces of grated cheese (a mix of mature cheddar and parmesan) to the dough at the kneading stage. Because of the cheese, I put in only 7 grams of salt as opposed to 9. After the bulk ferment, I knocked the dough back, rolled it into a rectangle and spread a couple of tablespoons of my home made apricot and chilli chutney over it. I then did a series of letter folds and rolling out - a bit like adding butter to croissant dough in order to incorporate the chutney before shaping the dough into a boule and letting it proof. I took my eye off the ball a bit during the proof and ended up with a frisbee...
The chutney made the loaf brown really quickly, so I had to turn the oven down to 180 in order to complete the bake without the bread burning. Even though the loaf was rather flat, it smelled wonderfully cheesy, fruity and spicy all at the same time. The crust was chewy with a rather strong flavour, the crumb was super soft and very tasty - a really good bread for savoury things. Would be good to dunk into soup as well :-)
I would definitely have another go at this, but need to pay more attention to my timings and oven temperatures - and probably bake it in a tin. I do like the way the chutney ended up being marbled through the dough. This bread would make a nice tear-and-share loaf as well...
The third variant of the recipe that I tried last night is probably the most basic. I used the same 3 parts white to one part wholemeal for the flour as I did in the cheese bread, but I left out the tablespoon of oil. Instead, I replaced 60ml of the water with extra virgin olive oil. After the bulk ferment, I shaped into a boule (I now use a different method to the one that gave me all the issues) and proofed it. As it was rather warm in the house yesterday it rose quicker than anticipated - didn't want to end up with another frisbee, so I put it into the oven even though the oven hadn't quite come up to temperature. The oven was only at 150, so by the time it would take to reach 230, the dough would have been way overproofed.
I set the timer for 55 mins to take into account the fact that the oven was colder. After 25 minutes, I removed the stock pot from the baking sheet to find myself very pleasantly surprised. In the end, the bread only wanted the 45 minutes that it normally takes. Serendipity maybe, but for the first time ever, I had a really beautiful boule. No wonkies, no blow-outs, no flying crust, no Jekyll-and-Hyde bread. Just a boule :-D
To say I was over the moon was an understatement as boules have been the bane of my existence. I think in future, when using the pizza stone / baking sheet / stock pot arrangement, I will definitely put the bread in the oven before the oven has come up to temperature.
The crust is soft rather than crunchy, but still chewy, and the crumb, like the other versions of this bread is wonderfully soft. It is a lovely bread that goes well with just about anything - you can taste the olive oil, but it's not pronounced, more of a nice background note.
It's felt really rewarding going back to basics, and I've made some good bread to boot. :-)
On other fronts, yesterday Lexi brought me a dead racing pigeon and today she brought me a headless mouse. She also chased my neighbour's cat out of the garden. Meanwhile, Poppy has decided that an old paper Primark bag makes the best cat bed ever...
I don't know how Lexi can manage to look so cute and innocent... ;-) And I recently finished a few paintings I'd been working on, so I figured I'd share... :-)
FV Northwestern: 16x10 inch watercolour on bockingford
Paul Warwick, Hednesford Hills Raceway 1986: 14 x 10 inch acrylic.
Justin Wilson portrait: 20x16 acrylic.
Hope you all enjoy the rest of the weekend - and best wishes from everyone chez Casa Witty :-)