Archive for September 1st, 2009

As you may have read late last week, I have been experimenting with a wild yeast sourdough starter.  Once my starter was bubbling happily


the next step was to see what would happen when I used it as the foundation for bread.

Again following the recommendations on Michael Ruhlman’s sourdough starter post, yesterday I combined 10 ounces of starter, 10 ounces of water, 20 ounces of flour and 0.8 ounces of salt in my mixer.


Using the dough hook, I kneaded the dough until it was smooth and supple.  As I was kneading I continued to add water, probably adding at least another 1/4 cup until the dough seemed “wet enough.”  I prefer a slightly wetter dough as I have found that it results in a chewier bread with larger, shiny holes.


Once the dough felt ready, I turned it out of the mixer onto a lightly floured board, kneaded it by hand briefly, and shaped it into a round to ready it for the first rise.


I put the dough into a bowl, covered it, and left it to rise for several hours while I went out to run some errands.  When I got home, I deflated the dough (it had not risen a huge amount, but was softer and much puffier than when I left), and set it to rise again.  Several hours later (after dinner, in fact), I deflated the dough again, and reshaped it for one last rise.

This time I put the dough into the refrigerator and let it rise slowly overnight.  This morning, I removed it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature


while I preheated the oven, a baking stone and a cast iron skillet (for generating steam, more about that later) to 450 degrees F.  After about an hour of preheating, I gently inverted the dough onto a peel dusted with coarse cornmeal (polenta)


and slashed the top


with my bread slashing tool (or lame).


I slid the loaf from the peel onto the preheated baking stone and poured about 1/4 cup of water into the hot cast iron skillet to generate some steam.

Following the baking instructions in my favorite book about bread, Bread Alone, I added more water to the skillet after three minutes and then baked the loaf for 20 minutes.  I then lowered the oven temperature to 400 degrees F and continued baking.


After the recommended 15 minutes at 400 degrees, I checked the loaf by taking it from the oven and thumping the bottom while listening for a hollow sound.  The dull thud I heard meant that the bread was not quite ready so I returned the loaf to the oven for an additional 5 minutes.  I repeated this process twice more until the bread sounded quite hollow and I removed it from the oven to cool.


While the bread had not risen as high as some other loaves I have made, the crust was shiny and had the “rich caramel color” that I like to see in a well-baked loaf.


As tempting as it was (and I wish you had been here to savor the toasty smell of just-baked bread that filled my kitchen) I waited for the bread to cool before slicing it; bread actually finishes baking as it cools and slicing it too soon will result in an under-baked, doughy, loaf.


And my final evaluation?  The bread has some of the big holes I like to see, but the crumb is a little dense for my liking and the big holes that have formed are concentrated near the top of the loaf instead of distributed evenly throughout the bread.  The crust has a nice crunch and is also chewy — a perfect combination — and the bread tastes good.

My guess is that the starter needs more time to develop and that I might want to add even more water to my dough next time.  We’ll eat this loaf and I’ll make another later in the week.  I’ll keep you posted!


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: