Tonight's experimental loaves are baking because our friend David gave my wife some of his homemade organic strawberry lavender freezer jam. She turned to me and said I had to bake a loaf that didn't taste so strong; she wanted a bread that she could taste the jam that she spread on it.
It also became an experiment for me because I needed to refresh my motherstarter again. While I was doing that, I was (as usual) overcome with grief that I would be throwing out some perfectly good sourdough starter. "Isn't there something I can do to save this?" I cried.
Also serendipitous was the fact that I had already received my father's day gift from my wife: a new 'beer fridge' that would house my many and varied containers of dough, barm, starter, and retarded mixes. I suspect that this was more a gift for her, since it frees an awful lot of space from our regular refrigerator. But it is nice to have a fridge so close to me in the cellar, where I dwell. I can keep an eye on my various ingredients.
So I glanced at Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, for his Basic Sourdough Recipe. This calls for a high-gluten flour, or bread flour, not a whole grain flour. This could be what my wife is looking for, I thought. I'll make her some sourdough bread from this otherwise discardable sourdough starter. I would use some all purpose flour (our Canadian AP flours are apparently high enough in gluten they rival some bread flours). Sure, it is not whole grains, which is what I am ultimately striving for in this blog, but one or two (or four, or six) loaves of AP flour-based breads for my wife will still fit into the whole scheme of things, because I am learning things all the time.
What really interested me was Reinhart's 'Grace Notes' sidebar that accompanied the recipe, wherein he gives some options to make your basic sourdough more interesting and individualized. Of course, he does mention using different flours (like whole wheat and rye, in various combinations), but because I was doing this for my wife's palate and not my own, I would stay with the basic AP flour ingredient. Of course, I had 2 motherstarters, one whole wheat and one rye; I could bake breads with both of them, comparing the dough and the resultant breads. That alone would be interesting to me. But there was another 'grace note' concept that also intrigued me:
"It is also perfectly acceptable to make your final dough directly from the barm. You will have to diminish the water in the final dough to compensate for the wetness of the barm, but otherwise you can proceed with an equal amount of barm for firm starter."When I read that, here is what I wanted to know: What is the difference in taste and in rising potential and crumb between one dough that has been elaborated from a motherstarter (barm) into a firm starter, and one that simply uses the (barm) motherstarter as the firm starter? To find out,
(I figured that his firm starter should weight 298g)
- I mixed up a whole wheat motherstarter with some AP flour and water, and
- I mixed up a rye motherstarter with some AP flour and water;
- and I also set aside 298 grams of (mixed) unrefreshed barm or motherstarter.
Here we see the rye-based motherstarter that will build the all purpose wheat firm starter on the left, the whole wheat based motherstarter and ingredients to the right; and far away in the distance is 299 grams (close enough) of unrefreshed motherstarter. It is mostly whole wheat, with a dollop of rye to make up the last 80 g or so of missing motherstarter.
All of this stuff was mixed up and sat out about 6 1/2 hours overnight (side-by-side the refreshed motherstarter) as I slept [note: it should have been only 4 hours for the dough, but for me, it should have been 8 hours. The dough and I compromised]. Everything had risen in the morning, including the barm/motherstarter which had nothing added to it in the way of flour and water. I put them all in containers and stuck them into my new refrigerator until I had a few minutes, this father's day, to continue working with them.
I didn't really think I'd have time for any of the loaves on Father's Day, but since I'm working the next two days, I decided to take a chance and go for one of them. I tried the one that would be made directly from the barm. Reinhart said I would use less water in the final dough. I measured out a cup and a half, but I only added a little at a time until the dough was mixed. I had 1/2 a cup of water left over.
This dough sat for about 4 hours and by that time it was doubled.
One loaf would be a free-form boule on the baking stone. The other would bake in a casserole dish (my poor man's Le Creuset Dutch Oven) -- there really wasn't room for my Cast Iron Dutch Oven beside the baking stone. There was a problem on transfer of the dough from the basket: I had pulled the stone out, instead of the rack, and the stone toppled when I placed the upended basket on it. With the fire alarm going off due to the 500 degree preheating which roasted some leaked meringue from the lemon pie baked the day before, I quickly righted the baking stone and tossed the now-misshapen dough back on top of it. The one that went into the casserole dish fared a little better. I didn't hit the mark exactly, but at least it didn't bounce out of the dish.
This loaf, made with the Lahey method, was sadly misshapen. It did not look appetizing to me at all. The dough looked hard and tough, and the sourdough made the surface blonde. It didn't perform well at all in the casserole dish.
The other loaf didn't expand at all either: not even enough to crack the surface (which may be the point, since I had not, in my haste of trying to toss it back onto the baking stone and turn off the fire alarm, managed to properly score the top of the loaf). About the only good thing you can say for this loaf is that it held its shape -- at least, the shape I tossed it into, when I was flinging it back onto the stone. But I guess that just goes to show that a) this is a very dense dough, not enough hydration, and b) the loaves were not proofed long enough.
It looked uninteresting like this, so once I had snapped a quick photo, I sprayed it with a water bottle just to see what would happen to the crust as it began to cool.
Steam rose from the surface of the loaf, and the whole wheat flour that had been on there, picked up from its too-short stay in the couche-lined basket, made a crackly noise. Now the crust had a texture to it.
It is a dense loaf, not properly proofed. Tastes okay to me, but it does have a slightly sour smell which is not off-putting to me, but I think my wife will not like. I suspect that this is not the loaf she was looking for, to put the Strawberry Lavender Jam onto. [Update: "You have to bake a bread that has more holes!" she said, spreading the jam on top of it. "The jam just slides right off!" But she didn't complain about the bread's taste.] And it's unlikely she will allow me to bake again for awhile: she hated the way this very hot oven heated up our house on such a hot evening.
So I guess the other doughs I was going to bake today will have to wait. They should be used within 24 hours, but they will not, because I'm working.
New experiment: will they still be good, refrigerated, after the 24 hour period?
Notes to Myself:
- There is no way to rush the proof stage. You should have waited longer before baking the bread. It is always tricky, though, to get the oven preheated at precisely the time when the bread has fully risen. I expected it to continue to rise in the last half hour. It did not. You could have baked one, and let the other one double, rather than bake the two of them together -- which was the cause of the other problem, the mishandling of one of the doughs.
- Spraying the top of the finished, freshly baked loaf is something I read about on a German Bread making site and I always wanted to try it and see what would happen. It is too soon to make a comment on the appearance and mouth-feel of the crust. I will report later on this.
- This is a very dense, very blonde loaf. Would it have benefited from more hydration? But that would have made the colour even more pale. Newer sourdough might have made a bigger difference.