All images ⓒ Pastry Ninja Photography 2009|2010|2011

Search This Blog

Saturday, May 1, 2010

~Occam's Lame~ Sourdough simplicity at its best

So I've been on a bread kick for some time because I will no longer be buying tasteless "foam" bread from the store for the prices asked and certainly not warranted.  I also have an objection to spending 6 dollars for a reasonable quality artisan loaf.  In Culinary school in CA, my favorite class was breads and pastry and my favorite part was making the sourdough boules!  Alas...  my move back from CA proved too much stress for my little starter and it died, putting my sourdough projects on long term hiatus.  Recently I got it in my head to start again with a new starter and an adapted recipe.  I think that after more than a few dead starters and some boring yet surprisingly overcomplicated recipes, I've finally got something worth posting here:

~Basic Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread~
Printable Version 

3.75 C Organic Unbleached Bread Flour
0.75 C Organic Unbleached Whole Wheat Flour
2 Teaspoons kosher Salt
1.5 - 1.75 C Purified Water (108f)

Special Tools: 2 Medium Bannetons or Bowls
                        Bread or Pizza stone

This is a recipe that I adapted from my own notes on yeast and bread and a basic sourdough recipe from the Bread Baker's Apprentice.  If you're ever thinking of going the same rout I did and making all your own bread at home, I can't recommend it enough!

The first thing you'll want to do here is make the barm from your Mother Starter.  As with everything in this recipe, it takes some time but requires very little effort.

Feed your mother starter and retain the normal amount you would normally toss out (for ideal results you should take your sample from the Mother between 8 and 12 hrs after the last feeding.)  in a 1 Qt container, thoroughly combine 2.5 oz Purified Water and 3 oz High Gluten or Bread Flour and add your mother sample.  Let this rise until it almost doubles (2-3 hours) then place in the fridge for 12-24 hours.  About 30 minutess prior to using it, take the barm out of the fridge, cut it into small pieces, work them just a tiny bit and let them rest at room temp a to let warm up just a little.


Here is as good a place as any to begin this weeks food science section!  The reason we keep doing what we do when we feed and temperature control the Mother and cool ferment the Barm overnight before use is to maintain a microbial equilibrium in the culture that we've named (mine is Gilbert by the by.)  In nature, and especially in the flour itself (organic = more) there are a hoard of tiny yeast (Saccharomyces exiguus) and most commonly Bacteria (Lactobacillus Sanfranciscensis) spores.  When we add water to them they wake up and start consuming the sugars broken down by natural enzymes in the flour.  The yeast acts as natural leavening as most leavened breads, consuming simple sugars and releasing co2, while the bacteria, consuming mostly waste products from the yeast, produces lactic acid: the familiar "sourdoughness" we all love so much.  Friends til the end might be anthropomorphising a tad but with the right care, we get an ideal symbiotic relationship that will last a loooong time.  Microbiotic Symbiosis = Sanfransisco Sourdough.  Science!


Once the pieces have had a chance to wake up, measure out your water and dry ingredients in separate large bowls.  If you will be using a stand mixer like a Kitchen-Aid, measure out your flour and salt in the mixer bowl.  Add the pieces to your warmed water and mix them gently into the water so you have only a few pea sized pieces of undissolved barm.  Add the water/barm mixture to your dry ingredients in portions while mixing, allowing the moisture to be absorbed before adding more.

Once all the moisture has been absorbed and the dough has come together in a rough ball, let your dough rest 15 mins to autolyse.  If your using a stand mixer with a dough hook, knead on medium speed for 4 minutes, rest for 2, then knead again on medium for another 4 minutes.  If you're hand kneading, knead vigorously for 10-12 mins on a relatively cold, floured counter top to avoid excess oxidization.  The final dough should be smooth and pass the windowpane test.  Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise 3-4 hours, turning once at the half way point to help distribute the yeast more evenly.  To fold, press the dough out into a 12" rectangle and fold over into thirds.  Crimp the edges closed and repeat once more then return to the bowl to let redouble.

Gently remove to a clean work surface, being careful not to degass it too much.  cut into two pieces and round them off, pinching the edges together underneath.  Flour two coiled Bannetons or line two medium bowls with floured tea towels and place the boules, smooth side down in to proof, covered, until they roughly double in volume.  I love the coiled bannetons because they give you that wonderful spiral pattern when they come out. 

Preheat your oven and stone to 500f with a shallow pan on the highest rack and start boiling extra water in a teapot for steam.  Once the oven is hot, turn the boules out on to a floured peel or sheet pan and score them however you like with a Lame or very sharp serrated knife.  I like a simple square pattern but there are many to choose from on sites like the Fresh Loaf (great site for bread baking fans!)  Slide your scored loaves off the peel onto the waiting stones, pour about 1.5 C of boiling water into the shallow pan and close the door quickly but GENTLY (don't pop all the bread bubbles.)  Wait 45 seconds then squirt or spray more water onto the sides of the oven and close the door.

I accomplished this with a sterile 60 CC saline syringe from a hospital supply shop and a tall drinking glass of warm water.  Repeat twice more and turn down your heat to 450.  Bake 12 minutes, rotate loaves 180 degrees and bake for a further 12-18 minutes until the reach a 210f internal temp and are golden brown all over.  A few good tests for doneness are a hollow sounding thump and a distinct crackly crunch when squeezed gently right after coming out of the oven.

So there it is!  Delicious sourdough bread hot and fresh out of the oven!  I admit it may not be quick by any stretch but the steps required are all as paint-by-numbers simple as you could want and with a recipe of 3 ingredients (flour, salt, water) you cant get much more cost effective in a quest for bready goodness.  I don't think even William of Ockham himself would have any qualm with a nice piece of this on a brisk early spring morning...  Did I go to far?  I guess I just like bread a little too much sometimes.


No comments: