The quarter sponge system was a method of professional breadmaking developed in Scotland and was designed to produce tall, airy tin loaves with the minimum amount of yeast possible. The quarter refers to the fact that a quarter of the total recipe water is used in the first sponge.
I've tried it a few times before, but the loaves were never as tall as they should be and lacked oven spring.
Not liking to give up on my breadmaking missions, I decided to have another go.
I have two recipes, one from Manna, by Walter Banfield (1946), and the other from The Modern Baker from John Kirkland (1911). Both recipes are pretty similar and this time I went with the Manna recipe. I upped the hydration from the original 55% to 61%. These old recipes always have low hydration - I guess it was because of the wheats used in those days.
Previously I think I've followed the recipe times too closely and not fully taken account of what was actually going on with the dough.
The recipe starts with the Quarter Sponge (a stiff sponge):
229g Canadian bread flour
1.35g fresh yeast
Made in the Kenwood with the dough hook with some gluten development and stored for 14 hours at 25C
After 14 hours this was well risen and starting to drop. Time for the next stage, which is the batter sponge:
All the stiff sponge, chopped up
Made in the Kenwood with K beater
Well mixed at moderate speed to give good aeration
Stored at 28C
This is allowed to rise fully and is then ready for use when it starts to drop. This should take an hour, but actually took 2hrs 40mins!
Batter songe dropping:
All the batter sponge
100g white wholemeal, coarse bran sifted out
Mixed in the Famag with 5 minutes high speed
Punchdown and knead when well risen - 1hr 20mins, then fermented for another 1hr before turning out. (The recipe time for bulk is just 1 hour.)
Scale and bench rest 20 mins
Dough degassed by pinning out into squares and then shaping and placing into tins.
Final proof lasted 1hr 40mins, until dough had reached the shoulder of the tins
Ideally the loaves should be baked in wooden frames, (the loaves are then called Scottish plain loaves), but my wooden frame experiments are over, as I don't think they are suitable for a home oven. So I baked in tins. I do have one big tin that approximates pre-war tins in size and shape so I used that. It has tapered sides which I believe give better rise than straight sided tins.
Masterclass large bread tin used:
Much improved compared to my previous efforts! Good oven spring and a soft fluffy crumb. And very tasty, helped by the 22 hour fermentation. It's incredible to think that the yeast rate was only 0.135% fresh yeast!