Beginner help - baking equipment
Apologies if this has been asked before - I had a look through the other topics and couldn't find an answer.
I am completely new to baking sourdough bread. I have a starter that I have been feeding and it looks about ready to be used. My worry is that all of the recipes call for a cast iron oven or a baking brick/tile, etc.I've had a look and to buy the cheapest cast iron lidded pot it around £60 which I don't have at the moment.
Is there anything that I can do in the meantime without any of this equipment so that I can still bake some bread? If it just to do with the crust and steam, would placing a pan of water at the bottom of the oven not have the same effect? Or will the loaf just lose its shape on a normal baking tray?
Many thanks for your help in advance.
You can bake a loaf freestanding on a baking tray and try to create steam like the example you've given. It is difficult to create steam so won't be as effective as a Dutch Oven and a baking tray won't be as effective as a baking stone.
You can use a casserole dish if you have one. Makes for a good Dutch Oven substitute.
Bear in mind that a freestanding loaf at high hydration will struggle with height so you might forgo height or lower the hydration.
Best of luck with your first sourdough bake. Looking forward to reports.
I only have a very small casserole dish, so I'd be concerned that it would rise past the capacity of the dish.
Apologies again for the ignorance, but how do you lower the hydration of the dough?
Many thanks for the tips
....means using less water in the recipe. If your recipe calls for 75% water (for example), lower the water to 65% - 68% which will make it easier to handle.
By using less water and making a stiffer dough which won't flatten too much when freestanding.
But it all depends on the recipe you're following and flour being used.
You can post the recipe you're following on here and get advice on the hydration.
That is how I started. My first few bakes I used a large cookie sheet, and for steam I did this:
1) a minute or so before putting the dough in, I threw 4 or 5 ice cubes onto the oven floor
2) Lightly spray the dough after scoring
3) After putting the dough in the oven, I threw 4 5- cubes onto the oven floor, and another 4-5 cubes five minutes later.
This produced bread that was very good, but not the best. My next step was to get a baking stone and covered the dough with an inexpensive foil roasting pan (only a few dollars at the grocery store). Knowing what I know now, I'd skip the stone/cover and go straight to a Dutch Oven. I got a combo cooker for US$38: http://cajuncastiron.com/eshop/10Expand.asp?ProductCode=10495dwds
This is the recipe I was planning on using, I'm just looking to use as simple a recipe as possible. My sourdough has been made using organic rye flour and is really active. Do you suggest less water is used at the prefermentation stage?
100g sourdough starter
250g of stoneground organic wholemeal flour
250g organic strong white flour
10g sea salt mixed with 15g of cold water
In a large bowl whisk your water and starter and mix well. Add all the flour and mix until all the ingredients come together into a large ball.
Cover with a clean damp cloth and let the dough rest on the side in the kitchen for between 30 minutes and 2 hours – this what bakers call Autolyse
Add the salt mixed with the water and dimple your fingers into the dough to allow the salty water and salt to distribute evenly throughout the dough. Leave for 10 mutes.
Next lift and fold your dough over, do a quarter turn of your bowl and repeat three more times. Repeat 3 times at 30 minute intervals with a final 15 minute rest at the end.
Shape the dough lightly into a ball then place into a round banneton dusted with flour (If you don’t have a banneton then use a clean tea towel dusted with flour inside a colander). Dust the top with flour, then cover with a damp tea-towel
Leave your dough to one side until it is 50% bigger then transfer to the fridge, and leave to prove there for 8 – 12 hours.
Bake the following morning
Hydration = water/flour x 100
Total flour = 550g
Total water = 365
(I'm assuming your starter is 100% hydration so 100g = 50g flour + 50g water)
So... 365/500 x 100 = 73%
Would be quite high if all white flour but it's 50% whole-wheat. I think this should make a very manageable dough.
Make sure you develop the gluten well and don't think you'll have a problem.
Best of luck.
P.s. if I were to alter a recipe I'd alter the water at the dough stage. Take a look at this nice recipe... (another option) https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/sourdough-pain-naturel/
Thanks very much for your help, I will post the results over the weekend
is to put the dough on something flat (like a baking sheet) and to cover it with an upside-down container (like a pan). The result won't be exactly the same as using a dutch oven, but will be similar. It will be closer if you have a pizza stone or something else with some heft (and thus thermal mass) that will hold heat better than a baking sheet. The same for the cover.
or a pizza stone, or a steaming tray... and don't feel any need for them. While the dutch oven or cast iron combo cooker might be ideal for holding temperature and retaining the moisture from the loaf for steaming, they are far too heavy and difficult for me to handle when I have an arthritis flare..
I chose instead to just use my old and very lightweight enameled roasting pan. It can be preheated just as high as the cast iron can, when I put a thick aluminum baking sheet under it it holds the heat very well, and it is a good size for me to do the log or batard shapes that I prefer (and it does the boules just fine, too). I don't know what your local equivalent would be, but mine is the 30+ year old version of this: http://www.amazon.com/Granite-0509-2-18-Inch-Covered-Roaster/dp/B000050AVC/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1490377290&sr=8-3&keywords=enamel+roaster+with+lid I suspect that you either have something of the sort kicking around the house already, or that it would be far less expensive for you to purchase than the cast iron would be.
Don't wait until you have the "perfect" equipment - it's not needed! Just check around your kitchen for something that will accomplish the basic ideas, and start from there. You'll figure out after a few bakes what other pieces of equipment are worthwhile for you to budget for in future.
I've never used a cloche or a cast iron pan. I have a baking stone and use an ordinary oven broiling pan underside. The stone and pan are heated in a 460-500 F oven. I use a small refrigerator to proof the loaves of sourdough in wicker bannetons ($0.99 at the local Michaels Craft store) lined with plain linen my wife shaped. With the loaves proofing at 44 F they will freestand quite well on the stone or a baking pan as some have suggested. After proofing 1 - 2 hours I slash the tops and put into the oven. I bake Polish Country (white and rye), NY Sour Rye, Wheat and Apple Spice Raisin with only sourdoughs. It's worked for 6 years now.
Good luck with your sourdough breads,
Sorry I forgot to tell you that I throw 1 cup of boiling water on the broiler pan after I've loaded the loaves in the oven. It steams instantly and hasn't hurt my oven yet.
It depends on your oven - I have a relatively cheap, £195 domestic Beko brand fan oven and it bakes breads really well. I have a try in the bottom that I throw a cup of water in then load the loaves, close it and off it goes.
I actually think it bakes better than the commercial Lincat oven I have, but there you have it. I don't use a cloche/dutch oven, casserole, etc. Just bread in tins, or on a silicone mat, or in shallow tins, tipped out of bannetons.
is a somewhat old video now of it in operation with 2 loaves in shallow tins.
If you want a simple recipe then this works:
although it uses a wheat starter - maybe use 50g less of your rye starter.
-Gordon @ moorbakes in Devon
Thanks very much for all of your suggestions. First bake went relatively well! The crumb isn't what I want looking for - I was looking for some larger holes.
I think this is because I overworked it as it was extremely sticky following 3 s&f and resting it for 40 minutes in between, so I s&f until it tightened up. It was just very sticky so it didn't feel right to start proving it at this point. Any suggestions on how to combat this?
Another issue is the shape - the casserole dish which is the cooking method that I decided to go for was too small, so it doesn't have that classic boule shape. Also, I scored the dough too lightly.
It was probably a little overambitious going for a 70+ hydrated whole wheat dough for a first attempt, but it tastes great, and the crust is good, so I cant complain for my first try. Really enjoyed the whole process.
I will post some pictures once have time to get onto my computer.
A lot of people reckon that UK/European flours don't absorb as much liquid as their US counterparts. I've swung each way, having made a classic tartine style loaf at their 78% hydration with my usual flours, but much prefer a lower hydration. It does depend on the flour though - I recently changed mills (I buy flour by the ¼ tonne) and this mills flour was very very different from what I'd been using for the past 18 months, however..
100% Wholemeal bread - not really my thing, but some of my customers want it, so I make it. although I make it in tins. It's almost impossible to overknead by hand too, however the one thing you really can do that makes a big difference with wholemeal is autolyze - mix the flour and water together and leave in a cool place for 2 hours or more. Some recommend overnight in a fridge, but I've found that 2 hours is usually enough. Mix in the starter and salt and off you go. Don't let it overproof - if anything under proof with wholemeal too. You don't want to aim for doubling - much less than that.
Happy baking and I'm sure you're having lovely fresh bread this morning :)
Keep going :)
150g levien, 50g flour, 50g water, 50g starter (left for 12 hours) 100% hydration
200g organic strong whole wheat flour
250g organic strong white flour
50g organic rye flour
Mixed 3 flours and water, left to autolyse for 2 hours.
Mixed 10g salt with 15g warm water. Added to flour and water following 2 hours autolyse. Left to soak for 10 minutes. Added levien and mixed by hand for 5 minutes. Left for 1 hour.
Started s&f - 3 turns every 40 minutes for 4 rounds, resting in between.
Left to prove until dough bounced back slowly (around 2 hours).
Baked at 200°c for 20 minutes with lid on, followed by 40 minutes with lid off.
Any suggestions on how I could improve this? Was the stickyness maybe to do with the rye? Can you prove when it's that sticky so you don't overwork it (I was concerned I wouldn't be able to get it out of the proving basket), or would putting it in the fridge help firm it up?
Your overall hydration is just 65%. And you have white flour too - I was under the impression it was a 100% wholemeal!
(I include the starter/levian in that, so a total of 75 flour in the levian + 200 + 250 + 50 = 575 and water: 75 (in the levian) + 300 - 375; 375/575*100 = 65%. Taking that extra 15g of water into account takes it to 68%. My regular sourdough is 64-65% but it doesn't have rye and only 20% wholemeal.
Which is approximating my usual sourdough, but you have more wholemeal and rye.
Yes - the Rye will make things a little sticky. You can use light rye (Type 997) which Shipton & Doves sell (but watch the Doves stuff- they also sell a white rye too - which is a little bit too light for my uses)
The first question I'd ask is; Do you need to improve it? I'd suggest baking it a few times to get used to the feel of it (and taste) before moving on, then you have a "baseline" to come back to if it all goes pear shaped. the only thing I'd do if I was baking that would be to bake it hotter. I start at about 250°C then down to about 210°C after 12 minutes.
From my reading and limited experience, I don't know if it's possible to overwork a dough with that level of whole grains and that level of hydration when kneading by hand. If you are machine kneading, then you would have to be careful, but I have been thinking that the warnings about overworking when hand kneading are a bit misplaced. I think that you'll have to do some experimenting with various approaches to figure out the best way to consistently get the type of crumb that you like out of the flours that you have.
For me, I'm working with doughs that are 50-100% whole grain, and with hydrations of 65-80% --- and with Canadian flour --- so things could be very different with different ratios or flours that you might be using. I also prefer a light and airy crumb, but without big open holes (since I use the loaf for sandwiches). What I have found is that I get the crumb that I most enjoy by:
rough mixing full dough (including levain, autolyse, soakers, salt) then let rest in the bowl for 5 minutes
hand kneading in bowl for 15 minutes, or until it feels like the dough is fighting back, then letting rest covered for 15-20 minutes
hand kneading in bowl again for 5-7 minutes, or until it naturally comes together in to a smooth ball ready for bulk fermentation (generally, it feels more tacky - like a Post It note - instead of sticky),
stretch-and-fold in the bowl every 30 minutes (I consider a "set" to be a pull from each of the compass points, and I'll do as many sets as the dough feels like it can handle - stopping as soon as I feel the resistance increase) I'll do this 4 or 6 times (30 / 60 / 90 / 120 minutes past mix, and adding 150 / 180 minutes if the dough seems to need it) and then allow to complete bulk ferment
I pre-shape on a clean work surface, using damp hands and a damp bench scraper to create the shape and the surface tension, and let it bench rest (covered) for 30-60 minutes before final shaping. I de-gas the dough as I'm getting it out of the ferment container, de-gas it more as I create the shape, and pop any surface bubbles that appear as I'm shaping it.
I use minimal bench flour (at most a couple of Tbsp - and that's only for an 80% hydration - usually less than a Tbsp) for final shaping, and I de-gas it pretty thoroughly (although gently) before stitching / pulling / rolling it in to shape, and then put it in to a banneton or basket (if I'm proofing in the fridge) or on to parchment supported in the shape I want (if I'm proofing on the counter).
I have seen in many references that higher whole grain ratios and higher hydration ratios need a much lighter hand, can be easily overworked, and should be treated with extreme gentleness in order to maintain the gas within the dough for a good oven-spring and airy crumb. Well - I get a higher oven-spring and a lighter, more airy crumb (with more consistent air holes, even though smaller) by doing all the things that the references warn against... It really seems that it's a personal preference as to what it "best" for you!
Just remember that the most important thing is that you have fun with the process, and enjoy the taste of the result!
When I was first experimenting with my sourdoughs a few week ago, I was baking multiple small loaves at around 200g flour each at a time. I used various 2qt and 3qt pots along with my 3qt dutch oven. The pots don't work exactly the same as the dutch oven but get you 90% there, the only real difference I've noticed is that it takes an extra 5 to 10 minutes after the lid is removed to get the dark brown crust that Ken Forkish promotes in his books.
One thing I do is put these pots on cast iron skillet and I think that gets them closer to a dutch oven.