EMILIE RAFFA’S HIGH HYDRATION SOURDOUGH

As you might imagine, I should stop buying cookbooks because I’d need to live to be 173 years old to go through the ones I already own. However, I am thrilled that I got the latest one from Emilie, pre-ordered the moment I saw it available: Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.


I’ve been following Emilie’s blog for a long time, and even reviewed her first cookbook a while ago (click here for a flashback).  The salad I chose to feature in that post is one of those rare recipes that ended up in our regular rotation. You know how it goes in the kitchen of a food blogger. We are always trying new recipes, it’s a bit compulsive sometimes, but when a truly spectacular thing lands on our table, we go back to it. With this new book, Emilie does exactly what the title states: simplifies the making of artisan sourdough bread. She offers a very detailed explanation on how to make your first sourdough starter (that method that collects microorganisms from the environment), how to keep it healthy and use it to make all sorts of wonderful concoctions, going beyond bread baking.  Formulas are simple, the timing is flexible, as exemplified in the recipe I share with you today. I was so fond of it that I made it four times in 5 weeks! Yes, talk about re-visiting something spectacular. I am not the only one smitten with Emilie’s book. Celia, the one and only blogger who lives in beautiful Australia, composed a wonderful review of Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, and I urge you to stop by and take a look… It might just be the push you need to take the book home with you (at least virtually, as I did with my Kindle version…). So, without further ado, my first sourdough bread from Emilie’s book…

HIGH-HYDRATION SOURDOUGH
(printed with permission from Emilie Raffa)

Tips from Emilie: The first step toward bigger holes is to add more water, or to increase the dough’s hydration. The second step is to expand your sourdough technique: Gently dimple the dough after the bulk rise and then shape it twice. Both techniques will help to open up the crumb and can be applied toward other doughs to achieve the same effect.

Suggested baker’s schedule: Thursday and Friday: Feed your starter until bubbly and active. Saturday Evening: Make the dough and let rise overnight. Sunday Morning: Shape the dough, let rise again, score and bake.

Bread formula
50 g (¼ cup) bubbly, active starter (mine was at 100% hydration)
375 g (1 ½ cups plus 1 tbsp) warm water
500 g (4 cups plus 2 tbsp) bread flour
9 g (1 ½ tsp) fine sea salt

Making the dough
In the evening, whisk the starter and water together in a large bowl with a fork. Add the flour and salt. Mix to combine, then finish by hand to form a rough dough. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 1 hour.  After the dough has rested, work it into a ball, about 15 to 20 seconds.

Bulk fermentation
Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise overnight at room temperature, about 8 to 10 hours at 70 ° F (21 ° C). The dough is ready when it has doubled in size, has a few bubbles on the surface, and jiggles when you move the bowl from side to side.

Shaping the dough
In the morning, coax the dough onto a floured surface. Dimple the dough all over with floured fingertips. Gently shape it into a round and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line an 8-inch (20-cm) bowl or proofing basket with a towel and dust with flour. Using a bench scraper, scoop up the dough and flip it over so that the smooth side is facing down. Shape it again, and then flip it back over. Cup the dough and gently pull it toward you in a circular motion to tighten its shape. Place into your lined bowl, seam side up.

Final fermentation
Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour to set its structure. Note: You can chill this dough for up to 6 hours or more. When ready to bake, let sit at room temperature while the oven heats up.

Baking the bread
Heat your oven to 500 ° F (260 ° C). Cut a piece of 
parchment to fit the size of your baking pot. Place the parchment over the dough and invert the bowl to release. Dust the surface with flour and rub with your hands to coat. Using the tip of a small knife or a razor blade, score the dough with the pattern of your choice. Use the parchment to transfer the dough into the baking pot.  Place the pot on the center rack, and reduce the heat to 450 ° F (230 ° C). Bake the dough for 20 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Lift the loaf out of the pot, and bake directly on the oven rack for the last 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: One of the advantages of a simple bread recipe is that you can concentrate on aspects other than the making of the dough, or its shaping, since it’s all so straightforward. This recipe was my gateway to practice different slashing patterns. My conclusion was that bread has a mind of its own. Almost every single time the final product was not exactly what I had in mind. But, isn’t that what life is all about? The more we try to control things, the more frustrated we might get. Until… until we learn to dance to the music and enjoy the unexpected, the stuff that does not go exactly as planned. No, I am not that wise yet, but working on it.

Indeed, for some members of our home, the way the bread looks is totally irrelevant…

Let me now show you my quartet of breads, all made with the same basic Emilie’s recipe, except that for the third loaf I increased the hydration even further (385 g water instead of 370g), and included one series of folds before the dough fermented at room temperature overnight.  I did that after the dough had rested for one hour, then waited 45 minutes more to shape it into a ball and leave it alone at room temperature until next day. The more you push the hydration up, the more you’ll need some type of folding or kneading to make sure you have some structure in it.  All things considered, I think Emilie’s formula as written is spot on,  considerably simplifying the process.

Slashing #1

That is the exact slashing that produced my featured bread.  You probably did not see anything wrong with it, but that’s because I picked the best angle of the bread to take the picture. Full disclosure? Here we go:

The slash at the base of the circle was probably a bit too deep, and the thing lift off like a lid! Looked pretty funny, almost like a Trilobite fossil in search of food. And the crust got a tad too dark in that spot.  Lesson to learn: be more gentle with the slashes at the base of the dough.

Slash #2

I was aiming for a yin-yang kind of thing.  Here’s the result after baking…

Nice, open ears, but definitely not what I expected. Not sure if I had to be more delicate with the depth of the central slashing… but I liked the way the bread looked.

Slash #3

I went with a star-type pattern, and diagonal small slashes all around….  This time I had no particular expectations, just decided to accept whatever the Gods of the Yeasty Things rewarded me with…

Slash #4

and the final, resulting loaf….

Probably my favorite… all plump and was singing out loud as it cooled…

All breads made with the high-hydration sourdough tend to have open crumb,
very creamy texture, with a hard crust.
The kind of bread we really love!

So there you have it, four loaves of bread made with a basic sourdough formula, according to Emilie’s Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.  The same formula produces amazing – let me state that again – produces AMAZING focaccia…

It is really a lovely book, Celia did a great job reviewing it, so let me just tempt you with a very simple list of breads included in one of her chapters. I want to bake every single one of them. Period.

Decadent Chocolate Chip (O.M.G)

Dill and White Cheddar

Olive, Thyme, and Parmesan

Seeded Pumpkin Cranberry (O.M.G. #2)

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip

Pickled Jalapeno, Cheddar and Chive (O.M.G. #3)

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary

Sticky Date, Walnut and Orange (I rest my case)

Emilie, thanks for giving me permission to share one recipe from your lovely book…  I am looking forward to baking more and more goodies from your tasty collection!

Note added after publication… I am thrilled to share with you a bread made by one of my followers, Sue (check her comment below). She used this recipe to make a real masterpiece in bread form! 

Great job, Sue!  Thanks for sharing your bread with me!

ONE YEAR AGO: Short-Ribs with Chickpeas and Chard & London Cookbook Review

TWO YEARS AGO: Asian-Style Short Ribs 

THREE YEARS AGO: Herbed Goat Cheese Souffles

FOUR YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jammin’ Blueberry Sour Milk Pancakes

SIX YEARS AGO: Scallops with Black Pasta in Orange Cream Sauce

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

 

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