It is amazing how a bread formula can be tweaked slightly and result in totally different outcomes. I share today nine versions of sourdough. They all start with the same composition (90% white bread flour; 10% whole-wheat, salt and sourdough starter). From this starting point, some get added flavor components, and the final outcome depends on how they were handled for scoring.
BASIC SOURDOUGH FORMULA
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)
470g white bread flour
30g whole-wheat flour (regular whole-wheat, spelt or rye)
75g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
Make the levain mixture about 6 hours before you plan to mix the dough. It should be very bubbly and active.
When you are ready to make the final dough, place the water in the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and dissolve the starter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add all flours and salt. Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 4 minutes at low-speed all the time. You will notice the dough will gain quite a bit of structure even with just 4 minutes in the mixer. Remove from the machine, and transfer to a container lightly coated with oil, cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 4 hours, folding every 45 minutes or so. Because the dough is already a bit developed from the initial time in the mixer, you should get very good structure after 3 and a half hours, or even sooner than that.
After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough as a ball, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. Place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.
Next morning, heat the oven to 450F.
Invert the dough on a piece of parchment paper and score with a new razor blade, if so desired, or simply make a cut on the surface in the shape of a cross with a very sharp knife.
Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. You can generate additional steam by spraying the inside of the lid with water before closing the pan. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.
to print the recipe, click here
PANCH PHORON SOURDOUGH
To the basic recipe above, add 1 to 2 tsp Panch Phoron, a five spice mixture from Eastern India, often used in Bengali cuisine. It is a mixture of equal parts of seeds of fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard and fennel. I shaped this bread as an oblong loaf, and scored a pattern of leaves.
We loved this bread, in fact it was the first loaf that got us into a path of sourdough flavored with Middle Eastern spices.
VADOUVAN CURRY SOURDOUGH
In these three loaves, 1 + 1/2 tsp of Vadouvan curry mix was added together with the flour and incorporated in the dough. The bread in the center had spelt as the minor flour component, the other two regular whole-wheat.
For the final decoration, I covered the first loaf with red beet powder, marked with a string a symmetry of 8 guide lines and then scored as shown. The beet color faded a bit during baking but still gave it a little hint of purple. The second loaf got a dusting with charcoal powder, the string marked 6 guide lines to create a slightly different type of design. Finally, the third loaf was dusted with flour, marked with 8 lines and scored as a flower. A little center of pearl dust was added but the color faded during baking (is that a recurring pattern for this baker?).
I love the charcoal and the beet powder effects, but be warned: they stain your fingers as you handle the bread, so when you cut a slice, make sure you don’t touch your face right after. No further questions on this subject. Please and thank you.
Exact same recipe using rye as the minor flour component, and 1+1/2 tsp Ras-El-Hanout in the formula. One of our favorite breads in this series. I should give credit to a baker from Israel who is a true magician with scoring. I follow him on Instagram (check him out here) and often try to make one of his cool designs. This is one example, that starts with a little square as shown below.
I am very fond of geometric-type scoring. I find it easier to do if I make a drawing on a piece of paper with the different steps because once that razor blade hits the surface of the bread… is game over! There is no “erasing” possible. Of course, during baking the design will be affected in unpredictable ways. I am still trying to figure out ways to minimize explosions.
Basic recipe using spelt flour as the minor component and 1 + 1/2 tsp za’atar. The bread was coated with charcoal and I followed one of Mogi’s Dough Engineering scoring designs which he calls “reverse spiral”. Mine did not turn out as beautiful as his, but I still like it a lot. Here is what it looks like before baking.
He uploaded a video showing how to do it. It goes very fast, but after watching it (in awe) a few times, I felt ready to do it.
To the basic formula (with whole-wheat flour as minor component), I added 25g tahini, and adjusted the consistency with a little more flour after the initial mixing with the Kitchen Aid, as the tahini I used was reasonably fluid. The tahini gives a wonderful flavor. The scoring made the round loaf end up with a square shape after baking, pretty interesting.
You can see it starts pretty round, but the way the slashing opens up during baking substantially affects the final shape. I love using nut butters in sourdough, they bring a bit of fat to the composition and the crumb feels moist and tender. Along those lines I share another favorite version….
PEANUT BUTTER SOURDOUGH
Basic formula with spelt flour and 25g creamy peanut butter. This was one delicious bread, the smell during baking is something! The scoring was once again inspired by Mogi’s Instagram feed, and this time I used a powder red food dye that is fat-soluble (appropriate for chocolate work). That seemed to stand better during baking.
Very simple scoring, I used 8 guide lines made with a string, but you could definitely just improvise.
CELEBRATION OF LOVE SOURDOUGH
My final adventure following the footsteps of Mogi. This is a bread called Tu B’av (ט״ו באב), the Jewish holiday of love, similar to our Valentine’s Day. I made a simple sourdough with full white flour, and 1 tsp turmeric in the dough. The surface was dusted with white flour, a shower of turmeric, and the center was dyed with pitaya powder, which next time will be replaced by red dye powder. A round cookie cutter comes in very handy to contain the red dot. I am still struggling with how heavy a hand to use when adding colors, particularly the subtle ones as turmeric that might end up too similar to the crust. Once again my results are not as gorgeous as Mogi’s, but there is always next time!
So that’s all for now, my friends… This post, entitled For the Love of Sourdough, had to end with a bread to celebrate love, that feeling that keeps us together, staring at the future without fear.
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