Bread baking can be intimidating, and if you take it into sourdough territory, things are potentially even more stressful. Truth is, when compared to “regular” bread made with commercial yeast, sourdough is very forgiving. In part because it is a slower process, and it offers a lot of flexibility in terms of timing, amount of starter, level of hydration. It is easier to accommodate to any working schedule, once you get used to the rhythm. I am set on mixing the dough from 5 to 9pm, shaping and retarding in the fridge the whole night, baking early next morning, straight from the fridge. The breads from this post were all made with the same simple formula, mostly white bread flour, a touch of spelt. After bulk proofing for 4 hours at room temperature, they were shaped and placed in the fridge to sleep and dream overnight. Then, the real fun started. I tried a few different things, as you will see. It’s great that the husband enjoys a slice of bread for lunch several days a week. Because the home bakery has been working overtime lately!
CLASSIC SOURDOUGH BREAD
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)
100 g active starter (at 100% hydration)
375 g water, room temperature
450 g bread flour
50 g whole-wheat flour
10 g salt
Mix all ingredients for the bread in a large bowl, making a shaggy mass. Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Mix gently folding the dough a few times until smooth.
Allow it to ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough 3 times during the four hours, no need to be precise about the spacing of folding cycles. Just make sure you fold it a few times. At the end of four hours, shape it either as a round ball or a batard.
Transfer to a well floured banneton, seam-side up, and place in the fridge overnight, 8 to 12 hours, longer if needed.
Next morning, heat the oven to 450 F. Invert the shaped loaf, still cold from the fridge over parchment paper. Dust the surface with a little flour and slash to your liking. Or, dust with cocoa powder using a stencil.
Place in a cold Dutch oven, cover, and stick in the hot oven for 30 minutes with the lid on, and 15 more minutes with the lid off. Allow it to cool completely before slicing.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: Cocoa powder is a nice way to create contrast without affecting taste. You will not detect any bitterness or cocoa flavor in the bread, don’t even worry about it. The sourdough nature will be pretty much unaffected by the thin layer of cocoa on top. Right before baking the bread, lay your stencil on top of the shaped dough, sift cocoa all over. Remove the stencil carefully, slash the bread and bake.
You have two options here, slashing right before adding the stencil, or after. I think slashing before might be better, and that’s what I’ll be doing from now on. The other thing to keep in mind is that you need to coach your bread to preserve the design as much as possible during baking. With that goal in mind, make one or several reasonably deep slashes around the perimeter of the design, so that – all things working as planned – the bread will burst around the design, not in the middle of it. But, of course, bread has a mind of its own, and part of its charm is that you just never know…
I did not expect to have such amazing oven spring, but Polaris, my newly named starter, is absolutely amazing! I got it from Elaine, and you can get it too (as well as the gorgeous bread lame you can see in the composite photo) with a visit to her site here. She ships worldwide, by the way.
Another way you can use cocoa powder is coupling it with a more delicate slashing using a brand new razor blade (this is really important, it must be super sharp). Coat the bread with a fine dusting of cocoa powder (or you can use a mixture of regular bread flour with cocoa for a lighter tone), then slash the pattern you like.
As you can see, I made the mistake of not coaching the bread into opening someplace else rather than the middle of my design. It was still a pretty nice loaf, but just did not look the way I wanted. Next morning we noticed a scary monster waiting for us in the counter top…
Hello there! Come here often?
Now, to continue with the fun. For the following bake, I made a slightly bigger amount of dough (starting with 600 g flour and increasing all other ingredients proportionally), then shaped two small balls (using roughly 200 g dough for each). The remaining dough was used to make a batard. The small loaves were proofed in cute little bannetons, about 5 inches in diameter. This picture shows them next to the regular sized banneton.
So we had not only a scary monster in the Bewitching Kitchen, but also an alien. Never a dull moment, my friends. Never a dull moment.
One of the small rolls received a cocoa-stencil, the other got slashed in a basket-pattern. Exact same dough and time of fermentation, baked side by side in the Dutch oven. These would be excellent bread-gifts for the holidays, maybe with a special stencil design, like a small Christmas tree, stars, or bells.
The bigger, batard, got just a straightforward slashing pattern, and upon baking, also showed its rebel personality… 😉
As usual, we enjoy a couple of slices on the day I bake, next morning the bread is sliced and placed in the freezer. Baking once or twice a month is enough to keep up with our bread consumption. But, I confess that the temptation to bake every week to try something new… is not negligible (sigh).
ONE YEAR AGO: Pasteis de Nata
TWO YEARS AGO: New Mexico Pork Chile, Crockpot Version
THREE YEARS AGO: Chocolate on Chocolate
FOUR YEARS AGO: Double Chocolate and Mint Cookies
FIVE YEARS AGO: The Story of my first Creme Brulle’
SIX YEARS AGO: Sourdough Mini-rolls
SEVEN YEARS AGO: Focaccia with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Gorgonzola
EIGHT YEARS AGO: Mediterranean Skewers
NNE YEARS AGO Fettuccine with Shrimp, Swiss Chard, and Tomatoes