It’s been a while since I baked a loaf of sourdough bread. A quick browse through my archives proves this sad turn of events: October 13th was my last adventure in the Land of the Wild Yeast. But, with so much going on, trips, busy schedule, I was forced to let my starter sleeping in the freezer a lot longer than I expected. Finally, the second weekend of December shaped up as a perfect opportunity to resume bread baking. The weekend schedule seemed flexible enough – just a cocktail party Saturday night – and the perfect weather to crank the oven up all the way to 450 F. Sometimes a tropical being is forced to find positive aspects in outside temperatures falling below 60 F. I sat down next to our fireplace with quite a few of my bread cookbooks, and went through the very elaborate process of choosing which recipe to work on. Keep in mind that if I have to dress up for a party, my outfit is decided in 5 minutes, accessories included. But choosing a sourdough bread takes me hours. And I mean hours in the strict sense of the term, in which 1 hour equals 360 seconds. After intense mental struggle, I picked a winner from Ken Forkish’s book “Flour Water Salt Yeast“. It was worth all the pacing back and forth, the many stick-it notes, and the snide remarks of the husband asking if I needed another couch to spread some more cookbooks. Very uncalled for. Obviously, I can only endure this type of treatment because I am an easy-going, serene, and forgiving human being. PAIN AU BACON
(recipe reprinted with permission from Ken Forkish)
Makes one loaf.
for the levain:
50 g mature active sourdough starter
200 g unbleached all-purpose flour
50 g whole wheat flour
200 g lukewarm water
for the final dough:
432 g unbleached all-purpose flour
8 g whole wheat flour
343 g water (warmed to about 90 degrees F)
10 g fine sea salt
250 g (about 1/2 pound) bacon, fried to crispy, and then crumbled
1 T reserved bacon fat
108 g of the levain
Mix the levain ingredients in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for about 10 hours, until bubbly. In a large bowl mix the flours and water by hand until just incorporated. Cover and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes (that is the autolyse step).
Sprinkle the salt all over the flour mixture, then add the levain. Using wet hands to prevent the dough from sticking, mix the dough by pinching it to distribute the salt. Cover and rest for 10 minutes.
Spread the bacon fat over the dough and add the crumbled bacon. Using the pincer method alternating with folding, mix all of the ingredients in the bucket. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 30 minutes. In the next 2 hours, stretch and fold the dough 4 times, every 30 minutes. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 12 hours, until about tripled in volume.
Gently shape the dough into a loose boule. Flour a banneton, shape the dough into a medium tight ball and place it seam side down into the proofing banneton. Cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let the loaves proof for about 4 hours, depending on the room temperature.
About 45 minutes before baking, heat the oven to 475 degrees F with an empty covered Dutch oven placed on the middle rack.
Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. Place a piece of parchment over the banneton with the proofed bread inside, and a flat baking sheet over it. Flip the dough over, remove the basket, and place the shaped boule in the Dutch oven using the parchment to help move it. The paper can stay in during baking. Cover the Dutch oven and place it in the hot oven. Wet the lid of the Dutch oven, and quickly use it to cover it. Alternatively, you can use your own favorite method to generate steam during baking.
Bake covered for 30 minutes, and then uncover it and bake it for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the interior of the bread reaches 205 to 210 degrees F and the bread is a deep brown.
Cool on a rack completely before devouring it…
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: After such a long time away from my starter, I get a little anxious when baking a loaf like this. I was particularly worried about leaving the dough to ferment at room temperature for 12 hours, something I had never done before. But, the dough behaved exactly as Ken mentioned in the book. Take a look at these couple of shots:
One of the things I love about Ken’s book, is that he offers a sample timeframe for all recipes. Just for fun, I include my notes, prepared the night before. On top you see his suggestion of timing, and as I move along, I jot down my actual timing, adapted to fit my schedule. If you have the book, you may notice I actually halved the recipe to make a single loaf instead of two.
The subtle smell of bacon while the bread baked was wonderful! I made this bread especially to share with my youngest stepson and our great friends from Oklahoma who were coming to visit us the following weekend. So, the bread cooled completely over a rack, rested for a day, and the following morning I sliced it and froze the slices, in small packages. It is a perfect way to have bread as good as freshly baked at a moment’s notice.
And the slices on their way to the freezer…
This was a superb loaf of bread! In fact, when we served it – alongside a hearty pasta with Bolognese sauce – it was hard to believe that bacon was the only ingredient added. It tasted very complex, almost as if a mixture of nuts were also incorporated into the dough. Salty, spicy, and smoky at the same time.
Ken, thank you for allowing me to publish the recipe for one of the most flavorful loaves of bread I ever made!I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!
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