A new starter, a new build method, and a little decorative scoring
Let's get the obvious out of the way... My first attempt at decorative scoring is, well, let's say rudimentary at best. Still a lot to learn on that! :-)
Just before Labor Day weekend, I had a bunch of windshield time and was thinking about random stuff. Thought I remembered reading somewhere that the Gold Rush cooks would keep a ball of their starter in a bag of flour and break it out when they needed to bake. Then, refresh it and put it back in the flour bag. I tend to like the traditional and historic side of things, especially this hobby, so I decided to give it a whirl.
I have a blend of wheat varieties from Janie's Mill that I've been grinding as my whole wheat: Glenn, Red Fife, Turkey Red, and Warthog. Before we left for a 3-day camping weekend, I mixed up 40g of flour (50% WW blend and 50% Bread flour) at 45% hydration and formed a dough ball. That went into a jar, was covered with bread flour, and put in my proofing box at 76 deg F. 3 days later I came home and found a nice mound in the top of the flour and the dough ball had definitely grown. It also had a hard shell with an active starter center. I did multiple refreshes. A few at 24 hours. Then a few at 12 hours. Since then, I have been refreshing it at 1: 0.9: 2 with about an 8 hour ferment. After 8 hours, it goes into the fridge. This is my first bake with it.
I've also been done a few bakes recently with a 2-stage build on the levain. The first is at 100% hydration to promote yeast and the second down at 60% to promote acetic LABs. This is based on comments from one of the recipes on The Rye Baker website.
This bread is a country loaf with 15% whole wheat at 68% hydration and 15% PFF. The whole wheat uses the blend of grains mentioned above. My first build was 11g of stiff starter, 20g of water, and 18g of bread flour (haven't done the math on the hydration but should be close to 100%). This was fermented for 6.5 hours at 76 deg F. It was more than doubled, but hadn't fully peaked yet. A young levain... The second build was all of the first build combined with 20g of water and 49.5g of bread flour. This fermented for 10.5 hours at 70 deg F. The levain was fully matured and maybe just starting to show signs of deflating. Wish I would have grabbed photos at both stages...
The resulting loaf had great spring and was maybe the thinnest, crispiest crust I've ever achieved. This isn't full of cracks like others have attained, but it's the first one I've ever had. My baking setup, times, and temps were standard for me so no changes there.
The loaf hasn't been sliced yet and I had to travel for a day. It smelled great though! Will try to post a crumb shot when I get back home and slice it.