Two-starter sourdough method
This recipe from Dan Lepard came to me in a newsletter email from Bakery Bits UK. I t looks interesting because it uses 2 levains in the same dough - one at 100% hydration and the other 400%.
I haven't tried the recipe yet, but I'm posting it here in case anyone wants to give it a go. Dan's recipes are usually very reliable.
Testing Sourdough pH
Get ready to embrace your inner 'geek' and look at testing pH levels of sourdough with brilliant baker Dan Lepard for surprisingly tasty results. His two starter sourdough method is a must try...
One key thing I notice among the edgier artisan bakers I follow, is that they’re no longer looking for “the ultimate sourdough” and specific lactobacillus and saccharomycetaceae (bacteria and yeast). The brilliance and technical expertise of pre-cultured sourdough additives isn’t for them. Instead, what they yearn for is the microbiological expression of the flour, water, even ambient temperatures that they have on hand, and often related to a local grain grower. They want the ultimate expression from these elements though the sourdough process.
Sourdough starter is today the life-blood for artisan bakers. We, as in the “neighbourhood of bakers”, use it all kinds of ways and not just for the well-known sourdough loaf. Sourdough starter can be used when making croissant, panettone, chocolate brownies, pasta even, wherever its acidity will be welcomed you can be sure that someone, somewhere has poured a dash of tangy sourdough into the mixing bowl.
Now I do like sour acidic things, I’m always looking for interesting vinegars, I prefer most fruit on the unripe sour-side for eating and cooking, and of course I love sourdough. In fact, my baking life today is quest for getting more acidity back in my sourdough. And this is where the Hanna Instruments electronic pH meter has been hugely helpful.
What this pH meter helps you do is get guidance as to the general acidity of your sourdough starter and loaf. One odd fact you have to remember is that a higher number is less acidic, while a lower number is more acidic. You first calibrate the meter by dipping it into a supplied solution that has a specific pH number, then you’re ready to go. Simply press the button to switch it on, dip it into your sourdough starter or dough, and then within 30 seconds (though the tech manual recommends 30 minutes) you get the pH reading.
You will see cheaper ones on the internet but this particular model – Hanna HI981038 – that BakeryBits supplies is specifically designed for bread and dough. This means that:
1. the meter has a smooth clog-free probe that makes it easy to clean with sticky dough mixtures, like 1:1 flour/water ferments, especially ones containing gluten that can clog and damage other models.
2. it has a conical tip that makes it easy to probe firmer dough, like your risen sourdough.
3. the pH glass tip, according to the manufacturer “uses a special low temperature (LT) glass… beneficial when measuring food products at lower temperatures” like dough given a chilled overnight rise.
Now what bakers might think of as the acidity in crumb is complex, as it also encompasses flavours that aren’t in themselves acidic but help the sensation: wine-like sour grape and grassy notes, hints of tart lemon and metallic twangs that you sometimes taste with rye flour. But in maximizing the acidity you also help underpin and enhance the sensation of those other flavours, a bit like how lemon juice makes strawberries taste more of themselves.
So to see roughly where I was pH-wise, I mixed three roller-milled white wheat flour starters to give a blank starting point. All three used 10g of active rye flour starter (pH 3.77), and were mixed:
(a) with 150g flour and 100g water,
(b) with 100g flour and 100g water, and
(c) with 200g water and 50g flour.
These were left covered overnight at 23C, and the following day using the Hanna pH Meter read as:
(a) pH 4.09
(b) pH 3.97
(c) pH 3.56 (3.77 in the photo here post-baking).
Now the difference of half a pH scale number is surprisingly noticeable, and if matching a corresponding difference in titratable acidity (a much more complex test, as bakers it’s easier and cheaper to judge by taste) you get quite a difference in flavour. So I needed to taste and judge the difference.
Two-starter sourdough method
It was baker Joe Fitzmaurice at Riot Rye Bakehouse & Bread School who told me that he sometimes added two starters to the dough mix - one very liquid and one less liquid – to magnify the flavour. So armed with the knowledge that the Haana pH Meter gave me I thought I’d give it a shot and it worked brilliantly, much more final flavour and acidity, plus a much more malty kick that I’d noticed before. Now these are the measurements I used but by all means tweak this to suit your preferences.
Makes one large loaf
125g liquid starter, 24 hrs old (taken from 10g seed starter, 50g flour, 200g water)
70g regular starter, 24 hrs old (taken from equal parts white flour and water)
300g Matthews Organic Strong White Flour
50g Marriage's Organic Stoneground Strong Wholemeal Bread flour
50g Marriage's Dark Rye Wholemeal flour
Mix water with both starters, then mix in the flours until smooth and cover. Then an hour later mix in the salt and another 15g water. Leave covered for 2 hours then give one stretch and fold. Leave for a further 2 hours then shape tightly and place in a basket to rise in the fridge overnight. Turn out, slash and bake in a preheated Challenger Bread Pan with steam (an ice-cube added with the bread) at about 230F fan until done: I give it 25 minutes with lid on, and 15 minutes without.