These days, when I find my bread getting stale, I soak the leftover chunks in some water to soften it up and then I give it to my chickens. The other day I realized that the water I soaked the bread in turned a lovely brown colour, so I decided to use it in hydrating the next loaf I bake. I call this "bread tea" but it has nothing to do with the tea plant. It is just the water from stale homemade bread which has been steeped overnight to soften it for my backyard hens. The water turns such a nice, dark colour -- mostly from the carmelized crust, I think -- it reminds me of the dark, deep clear dark muskeg waters of the Canadian north.
A. Kamut Loaf
Four loaves today. Here are the baker's percentages for the 2 kamut loaves:
- 70% ww flour
- 30% kamut flour
- 5% w germ
- 5% w bran
- 2% salt
- 20% late starter
- 75% bread tea
By "late starter" I mean that the starter I used was slightly past its prime. It still had lots of yeast and bacteria, but it might have been a bit spent before I used it.
This loaf was made and baked pretty much in the Tartine Style, however I used a baking stone with water in the bottom of the stove rather than using a Dutch Oven.
I've made a 30% kamut loaf before, but it was more of a novelty loaf. There are links to more info on Kamut on the blog entry for that previous loaf. This kamut flour was obtained from nearby Arva Flour Mill, which I've mentioned many times (e.g. here).
B. 100% Whole Wheat loaf with 400g Starter
This is just a typical Tartine-style Sourdough bread, except I used 400g of starter instead of 200g. This starter was at peak, not too sour. I used 75% hydration. As usual, lately, I add 5% wheat germ and 5% bran to increase the bulk, flavour and nutrients of the loaf.
For the loaves today, I'm taking a tip I found in the book "Culinary Reactions: the everyday chemistry of cooking" (2012) by Simon Quellen Field. "If you like a soft crust, you can let the loaf cool in a plastic bag," he says. I thought I'd try it to see what would happen.
Cooling the loaves in a plastic bag does make a noticeable difference to the hardness of the crust.
|Appreciably softer crust|
However, I believe that it may also hasten the staling process (which despite the best efforts of chemists, is not entirely understood yet, as I reported here).
Results of these Loaves
The Kamut loaf was excellent. Very flavourful. Kamut is supposedly an ancient relative of Durham wheat, but I think this tasted much better than my recent semolina loaves. But was that due to the grain, or to the use of the bread tea?
The 100% Whole Wheat bread was very good. It was a bit more sour, granted, due to the increased amount of starter. Still, a great bread -- it is just that, side-by-side with the Kamut loaf, it just wasn't superb.
These loaves were wonderful for a couple of days, and then began to stale. The staling process may have been hastened because the bread was cooled in a plastic bag. The crust remained softer than usual, but the crumb became stale faster than usual. I would recommend the plastic bag idea only for those loaves that you know are going to be consumed in a couple of days.
These loaves tasted so good, I had no problem with that. So that also means I didn't leave anything behind that would give me a handle on how the loaves resisted mould.
And of course, this is just my experience. Your mileage may vary.
Notes to Myself
- Does "bread tea" contain acrylamides from the the dark crust of the old loaves? Probably.
- Cool your bread in a plastic bag if you are going to eat the entire loaf in a couple of days, or else expect the loaves to stale a bit faster than normal.
- The Amazon Link to Field's book is not an endorsement of their service, just a link to further info. I remain ad-free.