CHARCOAL PEANUT SOURDOUGH

I’ve been struggling with bread stencils lately. My designs end up not as sharp as I hoped them to be, lack of contrast after baking, all sorts of annoying little disappointments. I finally figured out what I was doing wrong, after watching videos from bread guru Morgi. I will share a couple of tips today, in case you’d like to use this method to decorate your bread.

CHARCOAL PEANUT SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

470g bread flour
20g spelt flour
10g peanut flour
7g charcoal powder
10g salt
370g water
100g 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 the three types of flour, charcoal 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. If the dough seems too soft, add a bit more bread flour. 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. Leave at room temperature one hour, and then place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F. Invert the dough over parchment paper, if the surface seems moist you can place the stencil right away on top of it. If it seems dry, spray lightly with water and position the stencil. Shower some white rice flour on the stencil and rub gently with the fingers of your right hand as you steady the stencil with your left hand (do the opposite if you are left-handed). The idea is to rub the flour on the surface through the openings of the stencil, so that you get a good pattern formed. Carefully lift the stencil and slash the bread around it, so that the bread will not open and compromise the image.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you use a banneton for the final rise of your shaped loaf and it glues to it when you try to invert it to bake, you know that can be VERY frustrating. Sometimes it even distorts the beautiful shape achieved slowly overnight in the fridge. I normally add quite a bit of flour to the banneton before the dough goes in, but when I want to do the stencil decoration, I prefer not to have too much flour on the surface to start with. My tip is simple: place a plastic wrap (like Saran-wrap or other brands) inside the banneton and THEN add your bread – it does not prevent the ridges from making that cute impression on the surface (although it will be slightly less evident) and you will have NO issues inverting the dough to bake.

For the image to be sharp and evident, the trick is to have a little moisture on the dough, and rub the flour, gently but firmly. Hold the stencil in place with one hand, and rub the flour with the other. Lift the stencil as delicately as humanly possible. Finally, whatever design you choose, slash the bread in ways that coach the opening away from the design. You can cut four deep slashes in a square shape with the design in the center, or do what I did, a circular series of small, deep cuts all around.

Peanut flour has no fat, but transfers the taste of peanuts quite well to the bread. It has a softer crumb than a straight sourdough with just bread and whole-wheat flours. And the charcoal contributes no taste. When we freeze slices after a couple of days, we like to cut one or two into croutons, because they look pretty amazing in that shocking black color.

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BE MY VALENTINE SOURDOUGH BREAD

I had different plans for this post. It was going to be Kung Pao Chicken. Then it hit me. This is the last week before Valentine’s Day, so Kung Pao can wait. I shall dance to the romance. I have a special bread for you, decorated with a trio of hearts. Share it with someone who lives in your heart. If you are all alone in these crazy times, bake it for you. You deserve it.

BE MY VALENTINE SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

450g bread flour
50g spelt flour
370g water
75g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
10g salt

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 the two types of flour, 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. Leave at room temperature one hour, and then place in the fridge overnight, from 8 to 12 hours.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F.

Place three strings over the dough nicely spaced, and touch the strings to glue them lightly to the bottom of the bread. Place a parchment paper on top, a flat baking sheet, and invert the dough, flipping it out of the banneton. Flour the surface of the dough, and tie the strings on top as shown in the composite picture. Score as desired, forming a heart pattern.

Bake at 450F for 45 minutes, preferably covered for the first 30 minutes to retain steam. I cut the strings quickly after 30 minutes when I open the pan, and moved them gently out of the bread. Don’t worry if some parts of the string stay glued to the bread, you can remove later. Cool completely over a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The other day I was chatting with my friend Dorothy from Shockingly Delicious and she suggested that I make a Valentine-inspired sourdough. I jumped on the idea right away. However, I cannot take credit for the look of this bread, I had seen the scoring months ago on youtube and simply followed more or less her method with a few minor differences because I found myself with less space for additional details around the hearts. I wanted to use beets and make a vibrant red concoction, but there was no way I would go to the store under the dreadful weather conditions of this past weekend. If you don’t know what Polar Vortex is, count yourself lucky. Enough said.

I’ve been a bit puzzled by the way my designs sometimes tend to disappear during baking, and just the other day saw a tip about it. Apparently if you bake it in a Dutch oven (as I do), cracking the lid open allows some of the moisture to escape and the flour rubbed on the surface of the dough is not incorporated into it, so the design will be more evident and crisp. Obviously I forgot all about it when I baked this loaf. I will try it next time for sure.

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SUNBURST PUMPKIN SOURDOUGH

OCTOBER 16th: WORLD BREAD DAY!

It is that time of the year, when leaves turn orange and red, pumpkins pop up in every recipe (including many where they don’t belong, but let’s not get into a sour mood).  I share with you today a sourdough bread to celebrate Fall. It does have a little canned pumpkin in the formula, but I promise you the taste is very mild, it just contributes moisture and it slightly changes the final texture of the crumb. We loved this bread and hope you’ll also like it if you make it.

SUNBURST PUMPKIN SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

475 g white bread flour
25 g whole wheat flour
120g starter at 100%
100 g canned pumpkin
340g water
10g salt

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer and using the dough hook, work the dough for 4 minutes at low speed. Adjust flour if necessary, it should still stick to the bottom of the bowl not cleaning it completely as the dough moves.

Remove from the bowl, knead briefly by hand and let it ferment for 3 and a half hours folding every 45 minutes. Shape as a round loaf, refrigerate overnight, seam side up.

Heat the oven to 450F, invert the dough on parchment paper, so that the smooth side is now up. Dust the surface with regular flour, lightly but uniformly. Score with a brand new razor blade, in concentric arcs from the center. Bake for 45 minutes in a Dutch oven, covered for 30 minutes, removing the lid for the final 15 min.  Let it cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve been really in love with this method of starting the kneading in the KitchenAid and finishing with foldings. It gets a nice jump start on gluten formation, and it has the advantage of being very “clean”.  When you do the whole incorporation by hand, the two initial foldings can be pretty messy, the dough gets on the fingers, sticks to the sides of the bowl… it’s not too big a deal, but allowing the KitchenAid to do that initial work makes clean up so much easier. I know bread baking purists will turn their noses but… it works for me.

This bread was a loud, loud singer as it cooled down. And the crumb had the kind of structure we like. Not too open, not too tight.

As I mentioned, you cannot taste pumpkin, it is just a very mellow sourdough, with a creamy texture given by the pumpkin puree. If you like a more orange hint to the crumb, adding turmeric is a good option, but not too much, I’d say 1/2 tsp for this size loaf.

ONE YEAR AGO: Sourdough Four-Play

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ELEVEN YEARS AGO: October 16 is World Bread Day

 

MARBLED CHARCOAL SOURDOUGH

Lately a dramatic, marbled sourdough keeps popping everywhere in the blogosphere and Instagram world. I find marbling pretty cool in cakes, cookies, icings. So, why not take it into bread territory?  Most bakers opt for laminating the two doughs together. I have tried the lamination process and found it a bit too convoluted. To make matters worse,  I never get as much structure and gluten development as I like, so I just took my normal default recipe and used it as a starting point. Read the comments after the recipe, if you are interested in the details. Without further ado, here is my first bi-color sourdough.

MARBLED CHARCOAL SOURDOUGH
(from The Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by many sources)

475g bread flour
25 g whole-wheat flour
100 g sourdough starter at 100%
10 g salt
2 g activated charcoal
375 g water

Mix everything (except the charcoal)  with a KitchenAid in low speed with dough hook for about 3 minutes. Adjust consistency with additional bread flour if the mixture seems too loose. Divide the two in two parts, add the charcoal to half of it, knead until fully incorporated (you can do it by hand or place it back in the KitchenAid for a minute or so).

Transfer the two doughs to individual oiled bowls and bulk ferment for 4 to 4.5 hours at room temperature, folding the dough at every 45 minutes to 1 hour. On folding cycle number 3, incorporate the two doughs together, and continue with the bulk proofing. Fold one last time, shape the bread as a round ball, place in a banetton heavily floured, sticking it in the fridge overnight.

Next morning, heat the oven to 450F. Invert the bread straight from the fridge on parchment paper, dust the surface with a small amount of flour, and slash it with a brand new razor  blade.

Bake inside a covered Dutch oven for 30 minutes, remove the lid, leave it in the oven for additional 15 to 20 minutes, if necessary lower the temp a bit in the final 5 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: As I mentioned, bakers often use a lamination process to marble different colors of dough, or even to add components such as herbs or nuts. One of my issues with the lamination is that the process tends to be quite a bit longer. When I do my initial mixing in the KitchenAid for 3 to 4 minutes, the dough starts with a solid kneading that not only advances the process of gluten formation, but makes the whole thing quite a bit “cleaner.” The dough, once out of the KitchenAid, already handles quite smoothly for the subsequent folding by hand. And I can tell right away if I need any adjustment, just by the way it behaves during this initial step of mixing.

Most recipes that use lamination rely on a long (3 hours or more) autolyse step,  in which you just mix water and flour, then another pretty long proofing after the starter is incorporated. The hydration level of the dough is often higher (you need to add more water to be able to stretch the dough nicely and laminate it), and that forces you to go through more cycles of folding. I sometimes had to do 5 cycles and still felt the dough a bit weak at the end, but by then it was getting so late I had to call it a day and shape it. If you like to try, search youtube, there are countless videos showing the process.

To achieve this level of mixing between the two types of dough, I joined them at cycle 3 out of 4 total foldings. If you prefer both colors to be more uniformly mixed, join them at folding cycle number 2 instead of 3, and be more aggressive with the way you handle it. I can see a Halloween version with pumpkin and charcoal on my horizon…

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ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Love me tender…

 

 

 

TWELVE YEARS OF SOURDOUGH BAKING

March 11th, 2020
Twelve years of sourdough and 60 years alive and kicking!

The other day I found a little notebook with handwritten notes about the very beginning of my sourdough days, when I did not have a blog yet. No photos, just remarks about what to avoid, what to improve, the favorite recipes. The notebook is 12 years old, the age of my oldest starter, Dan. I wish I knew how many loaves I’ve baked over these years. What I realize is that I streamlined the process quite a bit, and now settled on a timeframe that works perfectly for me. Mix the dough around 4pm, shape and refrigerate around 9pm and bake next morning, straight from the fridge, into a cold Dutch oven type container, sitting on parchment paper. No more arm burns trying to deal with a screaming hot pan. Sometimes I throw a bit of water or an ice cube inside the pan, sometimes I forget and the fact that the pan is covered tightly with a lid seems to generate enough moisture for a nice crust. In this post, I share two loaves in which I played with color, razors and scissors. I also modified slightly how I mix the dough, and must say that I love the effect it has on the overall “strength” of the crumb. Purists, prepare to be disappointed.


SALLY’S SCISSORHANDS SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

110g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
380g water
50g whole-wheat flour
450g bread flour
10g salt

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 sourdough 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 lightly, very lightly coat it with flour, then rub all over the surface with the palm of your hand. Use a string to make four lines to mark regions of the bread to facilitate drawing the patters. Use a new razor blade to slash the dough in a leaf pattern, one leaf per quadrant. Then, with very small scissors, clip the outside lines of the leaves. Decorate the inside region with more razor blade slashes.

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.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Loved scoring the bread with scissors! I cannot take credit for it, just noticed a few breads like that in instagram feeds and pinterest, and decided to give the technique a try. I think I could have been a bit more assertive, but to tell you the truth, after I butchered Paul Hollywood’s Cob Loaf in front of the cameras because of excessive enthusiasm, I became slashing-shy. I need some more time to recover and find my mojo.

Moving on…  A similar sourdough loaf with two additions: peanut butter and butterfly pea flower powder. I was so thrilled by the taste and looks of this bread, I cannot wait to bake another loaf.

NUTTY BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWER SOURDOUGH 
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

110g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
380g water
50g whole-wheat flour
450g bread flour
1 Tablespoon butterfly pea flower powder
1/8 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
10g salt

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 and the peanut butter in it, mixing with a spatula briefly, then add the 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.

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 lightly, very lightly coat it with flour, then rub all over the surface with the palm of your hand. Use a new razor blade to slash the dough in a decorative pattern.

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.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I was a bit worried when the dough showed such intense blue color, but it gets quite a bit mellowed down during baking. The other thing that amazed me about the bread was the peanut smell during baking, very noticeable and pleasant. The idea of using a nut butter came from my friend, Bread Baker Queen, Elaine. She’s been doing it quite often with great results (check her post here) and I finally had a chance to do it myself. The additional fat in the peanut butter changes the texture of the crumb quite a bit. Try it, you might fall in love with it too.

Someone was very intrigued by the color of the loaf. Keep in mind that the blue color is lost on the crust as it gets dark in the oven, so don’t panic thinking that the blue was somehow ruined. Once you slice it, you’ll have a big smile in your face.

Did I say I was going to share two breads today? Well, here’s one more, same recipe as the first, but no scissors. Just some swirls.



I find  sourdough baking one of the most flexible and forgiving methods to make bread. When you use commercial yeast, things happen so fast, you need to be around and on top of it from beginning to end. Once you get a system in place for the slow approach of wild yeast, you will never look back.

As this post is published, we will be in Oahu, enjoying a double celebration trip, 20 years of our wedding anniversary and my Birthday. I feel lucky and grateful for so much. Having the blog to share recipes and thoughts, and friends that make it so special, is the icing on my Birthday cake. THANK YOU!

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