CHARCOAL SOURDOUGH

I suppose I’ve resisted long enough. Charcoal baking was a big thing a while ago, I kept seeing all sorts of breads, desserts, drinks using this shocking, funky ingredient. I decided to give it a try and loved playing with it. There is no real taste of charcoal, it is more a visual experience. Charcoal can interfere with the absorption of some drugs, but the amount used in baking is very small, so I would not be worried about it.  If you are into trivia, a French chemist, Mr. Bertrand, first found out the power of activated charcoal to absorb toxins and prevent them from causing harm in animals. Then, in 1813 he went on to do a sort of “chemical performance” live, consuming an amount of arsenic that could kill a horse, but previously mixed with charcoal. He survived to tell the tale and proved the power of charcoal as an antidote. A few years later, another French scientist, Mr. Touery, swallowed a huge amount of strychnine in front of the French Academy of Medicine, and survived it. Gotta love the French!  I hope you try charcoal in your baking, but please, leave the arsenic and strychnine out of it…

CHARCOAL SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

475g bread flour
25 g rye flour
120 g sourdough starter at 100%
10 g salt
2.5 g activated charcoal
380g water

Mix everything with a KitchenAid in low speed with dough hook for about 4 minutes. Adjust consistency with additional bread flour if the mixture seems too loose.

Transfer to oiled bowl and bulk ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough at every hour. At the end of four hours shape as a round ball, and place in a banetton heavily floured, sticking it in the fridge overnight.

Invert on parchment paper, moisten the surface with a little water, place a stencil on top. Dust with flour over the stencil, and lift it very carefully. Score the bread in a way that will not interfere with your design.

Bake inside a Dutch oven at 450F for 30 minutes, removed 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: The charcoal powder I got is this one. Beware it is a very fine powder, so when you open the bottle and remove that little inner protection glued to the top, use caution. It flies everywhere. I mean everywhere. You catch my drift. Charcoal drift.  So far, I’ve only used it in bread and crackers (sourdough and regular), and really love the look, although I admit not everyone is fond of it. Some people are just turned off by breads with “unusual” color. As you probably figured it out, I am not part of that crowd.

Charcoal bread next to a cheese platter would look very nice, and of course, what could be better in a Halloween party?  Keep that in mind… I am actually planning my next sourdough charcoal adventure, and it will involve kalamatas. Taking black to the limit!

ONE YEAR AGO: Ispahan Macarons

TWO YEAR AGO: Smokin’ Hot Meatloaf and Homemade Ketchup

THREE YEARS AGO: Banana Bread with Espresso Glaze

FOUR YEARS AGO: Slow-Cooker Carnitas & Paleo Planet Cookbook Review

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Making of a Nobel Reception

SIX YEARS AGO: Fennel Soup with Almonds and Mint 

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Green Curry Pork Tenderloin

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Farfalle with Zucchini and Ricotta

NINE YEARS AGO: Slow-baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

TEN YEARS AGO: Hoisin Explosion Chicken

 

 

 

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!

ONE YEAR AGO: Rainbow Carrots with Rose Harissa

TWO YEARS AGO: Deviled Eggs go Green

THREE YEARS AGO: Tiramisu

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pulled Pork, Slow-Cooker version

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Pie of the Century

SIX YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Leaving on a Jet Plane

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Pearfect Drink

NINE YEARS AGO: Ming Tsai Under Pressure

TEN YEARS AGO: Paris, je t’aime!

SOURDOUGH FOUR-PLAY

October 16th is World Bread Day!

Sourdough four-play… I should stop giggling now.  A sombrero, a butterfly, a flower and a flaming red loaf were recent playful adventures in our kitchen. The butterfly is still a work in progress, haven’t managed to do it like I imagined, but I have fun trying and a few less than ideal bakes here and there won’t stop me.  All breads were made with the same general technique, but slightly different flour composition.

BASIC SOURDOUGH LOAF METHOD
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

Dissolve the starter in the water in a large bowl, mixing well until it is well-dispersed. Add the flours and salt, mix with your hands or with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy mass.

After 20 minutes, do a minimal kneading, about 10 times or so until the dough becomes smooth. You will now allow the dough to ferment for 3.5 to 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough every 40 minutes or so. Ideally try to have 4 cycles of folding, if the dough seems a bit too “weak”, incorporate one more cycle of folding.

Let the dough relax for about 30 minutes, and proceed to shaping as a round loaf.

Place inside a banetton well dusted with flour and keep it 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 slash it or use a stencil.

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

Below I give you the composition of each of the loaves.

SOMBRERO BREAD

This is a loaf that goes in the direction of a hearty Poilane type bread, but considerably simplified.

100 g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
390g water
250g whole-wheat flour
200g bread flour
50g rye flour
10g salt

After overnight in the fridge, the dough was slashed in a simple pattern.

 

BUTTERFLY BREAD

 

100 g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
390g water
250g whole-wheat flour
250g bread flour
10g salt

After overnight in the fridge, dough was slashed to form a butterfly design. Apologies to all beautiful Lepidoptera.

 

HIBISCUS FLOWER BREAD

150 g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
585g water
675g bread flour
75g spelt flour
15g salt
cocoa powder and water to form a paste

After overnight in the fridge, loaf was brushed with cocoa paste, then a flower stencil placed on top, and a light dusting of white flour made the design.

FLAMING RED SOURDOUGH

150 g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
390g water
475 g bread flour
25g rye flour
10g salt
powder red food dye + all-purpose flour

After overnight in the fridge, the top of the loaf was dusted with a mixture of flour and red food dye.  A simple scoring (similar to sombrero bread) was applied before baking.  The dough had a very impressive oven spring, probably because I fed the starter with rye flour a couple of times and also increased the amount of starter in the dough.

I loved all these loaves, but I guess my favorite is the Flaming Red Sourdough because it looked so impressive as the bread exploded through the scoring. The small amount of rye gave the bread enough complexity without making it heavy. The only issue is the food dye rubbing off in the fingers a bit.  I might consider other ways to dye the surface, but it’s hard to beat the intense red tone given by the powder.

This method of preparing the dough the day before is hard to beat. If you are spending your Saturday afternoon at home, it’s really no big deal to make it. No need to be precise with the timing for folding the dough, just make sure you give it a minimum of 3 and a half hours of bulk fermentation. Next morning, turn the oven on, plan your design, and don’t forget, no need to heat the pan you’ll use to bake the bread in.  Free yourself from those nasty oven burns… Into a cold pot the dough goes, and I promise you it will all be fine!

ONE YEAR AGO: World Bread Day 2018

TWO YEARS AGO: Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

THREE YEARS AGO: Spicy Cotija and Black Olive Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Rye Bread with Flaxseeds and Oats

SIX YEARS AGO: PCR and a Dance in the Mind Field

SEVEN YEARS AGO: October 16: World Bread Day

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The US Listeria Outbreak 2011

NINE YEARS AGO: 36 Hour Sourdough Baguettes

TEN YEARS AGO: October 16 is World Bread Day

 

A SOURDOUGH QUARTET

Today I share four different ways to play with sourdough… Different amounts of whole-wheat flour, different ways to slash and decorate it, and a version studded with a mixture of Kalamata and green olives that was probably the winner with the resident bread taster.

First, a loaf that pushes the level of whole-wheat a bit higher than I normally go for. I am calling it 50:50 sourdough, for obvious reasons

50:50 SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

100 g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
390g water
250g whole-wheat flour
250g bread flour
10g salt

Dissolve the starter in the water in a large bowl, mixing well until it is well-dispersed. Add the flours and salt, mix with your hands or with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy mass.

After 20 minutes, do a minimal kneading, about 10 times or so until the dough becomes smooth. You will now allow the dough to ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough every 40 minutes, and keeping it covered with plastic. You don’t have to be precise, but allow the full four hours fermentation to take place.  You can do foldings at 40 min, 1h 20 min, 2 hs, 2 hs 40 min, 3 hours 20 min. After that final kneading, leave the dough undisturbed for 40 minutes more, then proceed to shape as a round (or a batard, if you prefer).

Place inside a banetton well dusted with flour and keep it 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. Score the pattern of your choice.

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: The amount of whole-wheat flour in this bread makes it hearty and quite filling. I kept the hydration level of the final dough at 78%, because it makes it easier to slash the surface. If the hydration is too high, it’s a lot harder to get a pattern going.  I started from the center and drew a little spiral, not too deep but deep enough to coach the bread into opening a bit. Then I use a brand new razor blade to form the design inside the spiral.  I really liked the way it turned out, and the crumb was more open than I expected.

Next, a very similar formula, but lowering the level of whole-wheat a little bit.

70:30 SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

100 g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
400g water
350g bread flour
150g whole-wheat flour
10g salt

Dissolve the starter in the water in a large bowl, mixing well until it is well-dispersed. Add the flours and salt, mix with your hands or with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy mass.

After 20 minutes, do a minimal kneading, about 10 times or so until the dough becomes smooth. You will now allow the dough to ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough every 40 minutes, and keeping it covered with plastic. You don’t have to be precise, but allow the full four hours fermentation to take place.  You can do foldings at 40 min, 1h 20 min, 2 hs, 2 hs 40 min, 3 hours 20 min. After that final kneading, leave the dough undisturbed for 40 minutes more, then proceed to shape as a batard (or a round, if you prefer).

Place inside a banetton well dusted with flour and keep it 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 brush off all the flour stuck from the banetton to keep it as clean as possible. Place the stencil of your choice on top of the bread, shake some all-purpose flour, lift the stencil carefully. Slash the bread in a way that will be compatible with the design. You need to cut one or more reasonably deep slashes to coach the bread to open in those spots.

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: The overall technique remained the same, but the reduction in the proportion of whole-wheat makes the bread considerably lighter not only in color but also in taste. Since the slashing was going to be a lot simpler and the main decoration would come from the stencil, I increased the hydration a little bit to 80%.

Next, comes a loaf with even less whole-wheat in the formula, but made more special thanks to the inclusion of a good amount of olives, both Kalamata and green. I had never mixed two kinds of olives in the same loaf, and I can tell you this will be happening again soon. Phil decided this might very well be his favorite bread of 2019. It turned out divine, even if I say so myself.

MIXED OLIVES SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

50 g active starter
380 g  water
470 g  bread flour
30 g whole-wheat flour
9 g fine sea salt
150 g pitted green and kalamata olives, chopped
1 tsp Herbes de Provence

Dissolve the starter in the water in a large bowl, mixing well until it is well-dispersed. Add the flours and salt, mix with your hands or with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy mass.

After 20 minutes, do a minimal kneading, about 10 times or so until the dough becomes smooth. You will now allow the dough to ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough every 40 minutes, and keeping it covered with plastic. On your first folding cycle, add the mixture of olives. You can do foldings at 40 min, 1h 20 min, 2 hs, 2 hs 40 min, 3 hours 20 min. After that final kneading, leave the dough undisturbed for 40 minutes more, then proceed to shape as a round (or a batard, if you prefer).

Place inside a banetton well dusted with flour and keep it 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 brush off all the flour stuck from the banetton to keep it as clean as possible. Place the stencil of your choice on top of the bread, shake some all-purpose flour, lift the stencil carefully. Slash the bread in a way that will be compatible with the design.

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: A light crumb due to the smallest proportion of whole-wheat (only 6%), and a hydration of 76% bumped a little bit due to the water content of the olives. The presence of the olives also made me reduce slightly the amount of salt.

Hard not to use superlatives to describe this bread. Green olives are definitely under-appreciated and I admit to this sin. Of course the Kalamatas bring a lot of flavor and moisture, but there is definitely a lot more happening through the slightly sharper nature of the humble green creatures. I did not pay close attention to the ratio of the olives in the mix, but I think it was pretty close to 50:50.  The crumb turned out pretty open and very moist, difficult to eat only one slice, and it went well with pretty much anything we paired it with, including a nice lentil soup made by the husband.

To get the best effect of a stencil design made with white flour, start with the bread inverted from the banetton and delicately but thoroughly brush off any residual flour that might have stayed glued to the surface. Then sprinkle the white flour over the stencil of your choice. If the bread has any flour on the surface, the design won’t be as evident after baking. The other thing to keep in mind is that you need to try and avoid the bread from opening right in the middle of your design. The best way to avoid that is to make a deep slash coaching the dough to open where you want it to. You can never be 100% sure it will work, but that’s your best bet. You can see how I dealt with it on the composite picture above.

Finally, I share a bread that used the exact same formula of the previous one, but no olives. In this case, my main goal was to do a white-on-black stencil design. Some bakers use charcoal powder, I decided to go with black cocoa powder, the kind that is used to bake Oreo type cookies.

BLACK COCOA SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

50 g active starter
380 g  water
470 g  bread flour
30 g whole-wheat flour
10 g fine sea salt

water and black cocoa powder to form a thin paste

Dissolve the starter in the water in a large bowl, mixing well until it is well-dispersed. Add the flours and salt, mix with your hands or with a wooden spoon until it forms a shaggy mass.

After 20 minutes, do a minimal kneading, about 10 times or so until the dough becomes smooth. You will now allow the dough to ferment for 4 hours at room temperature, folding the dough every 40 minutes, and keeping it covered with plastic. You can do foldings at 40 min, 1h 20 min, 2 hs, 2 hs 40 min, 3 hours 20 min. After that final kneading, leave the dough undisturbed for 40 minutes more, then proceed to shape as a round (or a batard, if you prefer).

Place inside a banetton well dusted with flour and keep it 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 brush off all the flour stuck from the banetton to keep it as clean as possible. Make a paste with cocoa powder (preferably dark) and water. Brush the surface of the bread with it, then immediately place the stencil of your choice on top of the bread, shake some all-purpose flour, lift the stencil carefully. Slash the bread in a way that will be compatible with the design.

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: The goal for this bake was to play with a new stenciling technique. After the shaped dough is inverted out of the banetton, simply make a little paste of cocoa powder and water, liquid enough to brush with a silicone brush, but not too soupy.  Then, add the stencil on top and dust with all-purpose flour.  I imagine other colors could be used. Beet powder, sweet potato powder, butterfly pea powder…  I am not sure the red color of beet powder would be preserved during baking, I tried using it in the dough once, and the result was a brownish color with very little to do with my expectations. Worth giving it a try, I am sure. Even if it turns brown, could be still a nice contrast with the white pattern of the stencil. I should mention that there is absolutely no taste of cocoa in the baked bread.

The bread had absolutely amazing oven spring, which in a way messed up the design a little, but a baker should never complain of too much oven spring, since that can upset the Gods of the Sourdough and result in failure after failure for months to come. Yeah, I am a scientist. Very pragmatic. But I try to keep a sense of humor.

Final remarks: these loaves use a very simplified method.  I did not do autolyse, and did not bother adding the salt later, it all went into the dough at the same time. As you can see from the photos, I got enough oven spring and a nice crumb using these shortcuts. Also, I never bother waiting for the shaped bread to sit at room temperature before baking, or keeping the oven at 450F for an hour before baking. Some bakers insist those steps are important for a good bake. They are not. Once the oven reaches temperature, my cold, shaped bread goes in. It amazes me that people would waste so much energy heating up an oven to very high temperature for a long time before baking their loaves. Trust me, it is not at all necessary.

ONE YEAR AGO: When bad things happen to good people

TWO YEARS AGO: Sweet Potato “Hummus”

THREE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

FOUR YEARS AGO: Silky Rutabaga Puree

FIVE YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken: Light and Spectacular

SIX YEARS AGO: Red Wine Sourdough Bread with Cranberries

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Award-Winning Sourdough Baguettes

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Country Rye (Tartine)

NINE YEARS AGO: Penne a la Vechia Bettola

 

 

 

 

FUN WITH SOURDOUGH

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.

ENJOY!

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

GILDING THE SOURDOUGH LOAF

Two sourdough posts in a row! But this one brings back the subject to its most classic use: a rustic bread made less rustic with a razor blade and a ton of fun. Here is my baby, all dressed up for party!

CLASSIC SOURDOUGH BREAD
(adapted from Anna Gabur)

for the levain:
120g water
40g starter
40g whole-wheat flour
80g all-purpose white flour

for the final dough:
Half of the levain above (about 140g)
375g water
50g spelt flour
150g whole-wheat flour
300g bread flour
10g salt dissolved in 15g water

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, dissolve half the prepared levain in water (375g), then add all flours. Save the remaining levain in the fridge for later.  Mix well with your hands until a shaggy dough forms.  Leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Add the salt dissolved in the remaining water, and incorporate by folding repeatedly the dough over itself. Now let the dough ferment for a total of 4 hours, folding a few times every 40 minutes. You don’t have to be precise, but allow the full four hours fermentation to take place.

Shape as a round ball and place inside a banetton covered with a cloth and lightly floured. Keep it 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. Score the guiding lines according to the desired pattern, use a razor blade to slash the dough with firm, short slashes.

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: I love a rustic sourdough that is left untouched, opens up in the oven according to its own desire, or one that gets a very basic crisscrossed slash at the top to get things started. But I must admit it’s nice to work a little magic on the crust. However, my previous attempts failed to match my expectations. In other words, I had issues to transfer to the razor blade the image I had in my mind for the baked loaf.

A couple of weeks ago I found an online course taught by a gorgeous woman named Anna Gabur on artistic bread slicing. I asked myself, do I really need this? Not sure what happened, but before I could give an honest answer to that question, my paypal account was activated and the online class was playing on my screen. Very odd. Must be a computer virus or something. At any rate, I am very glad this odd phenomenon happened, because I loved the class, learned a lot and was very pleased with the results of my very first attempt. I followed her design very closely, but maybe at some point I’ll feel confident to come up with my own creations (fingers crossed).

Between you and me, I can hardly believe this bread came out of our own oven… I was in total awe when I opened the lid and saw the oven spring, the pattern, the crust starting to get golden. A real baker’s thrill…

I highly recommend that you get Anna’s course if you are passionate about bread baking. You don’t need to make a sourdough, any bread formula will work, as long as it’s not very high in hydration. You need some structure to be able to slash it, so high-hydration formulas won’t work as well. Also, it helps a lot if the bread gets its final fermentation in the fridge, so that its surface is tight and easier to slash. My loaf went straight from fridge to pre-heated oven, it took me less than 10 minutes to finish the slashing, and I bet most people can do it much faster.  You’ll need a regular razor blade that you will hold between two fingers, not using a lame holder. And, according to Anna, one blade should last you for about 5 loaves. It needs to be truly sharp. She makes it seem so easy, it is a pleasure to watch her in real-time making a very elaborate design on the loaf. You can also marvel at all her photos on Instagram.

The bread had excellent taste and crust, the crumb was not super open, but that was expected from a bread with a lower hydration level.

Anna has quite a few articles about bread baking written on her blog, like this one that goes over basics of artistic slashing, and this one that shares her favorite bread formula. If you’d like to sign up for her online tutorial, follow this link.    She lives in Moldova, and often has to adapt her bread baking for the types of flour she can find. I often get a bit upset with “trendy” bread cookbooks that insist you must obtain the flour that was milled 4 days ago under a full moon, otherwise don’t bother making the recipe.   All you truly need is flour, water, a bit of yeast, a touch of salt, and the right amount of passion… Anna’s masterpieces prove this point!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Lolita Joins the Bewitching Kitchen

TWO YEARS AGO: Cashew Cream Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Margaritas

FOUR YEARS AGO: Smoked Salmon Appetizer

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clementine Cake

SIX YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

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SOURDOUGH CHOCOLATE TWIST BREAD

Every once in a while, it’s nice to expand the horizons of the sourdough starter. I have yet to try sourdough croissants, a much more involved process, but when I saw a blog post joining bubbly starter with chocolate in a twisted shaping, I could not wait to try it.  It does take a little practice to get the braiding correctly, but I think this attempt turned out a little better than the one of years ago. Practice, practice, practice.

SOURDOUGH CHOCOLATE TWIST BREAD
(slightly modified from My Daily Sourdough Bread)

Starter
100 g water
100 g bread flour
1 tablespoon sourdough starter

Dough
all of the above starter
180 g warm milk (water can be used instead, for a less rich dough)
370 g bread flour
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons of melted butter
1 tablespoon of sugar
6 g salt

Filling
100 g soft butter
60 g brown sugar
50 g grated chocolate (70% cocoa)

In the evening, first prepare your sourdough starter. Mix 100 g of white wheat flour, 100 g of water, and 1 tablespoon or your base starter. Leave it to ferment until risen, puffed, active and bubbly, so you will be able to mix it into the dough next morning.

In the morning, mix the dough. First, dissolve all of your starter in 180 g of milk (or water, if desired). Add egg yolk and melted butter. Next, add all of the flour (370 g), salt and sugar. Mix well, and knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth. Shape it into ball and place it into a bowl. Cover with a plastic wrap and leave to ferment until doubled in volume, about 3 hours.

Prepare the filling mixing softened butter, sugar, and grated chocolate. Line a Dutch oven or another appropriate baking container with a piece of parchment paper.

Roll the dough into a 12×18 inch rectangle. Drop the filling across the rolled dough and spread it thinly, leaving about 1 inch clean border on all sides.  Roll the dough from the longest side, then tuck the ends underneath. Cut the rolled dough in half length-wise. Flip the cut halves outwards.

Start braiding two strands one over another. Tuck the ends together to form a circle. Place the twisted bread into Dutch oven and let it rise until doubled, about 1.5 hours.

Heat the oven to 375°F. When the dough is ready, put the Dutch oven into oven and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack before slicing. If desired, cover the bread with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was a fun weekend project, for sure. My only issue was that during baking, a lot of butter sipped out of the bread, forming a puddle on the bottom of the baking dish. I was not sure how to deal with it, so I ended up using one of those stainless steel bulb basters (like this one) to remove the butter a couple of times during baking. The bread tasted amazing, no major harm done on the bottom crust, all seemed fine. It was not overly greasy either.

We enjoyed some of it still a bit warm from baking. A deep silence ensued. You know how that goes sometimes.  Leftover wedges were wrapped in plastic and frozen. A few minutes in a low oven restored the bread to top-notch level, so rest assured, you won’t need to consume it all in one sitting. There’s a limit of how much aerobics a person can do…

This bread is a nice alternative for a pain au chocolat craving. Much easier to make and equally delicious.

ONE YEAR AGO: Dan Lepard Times Three

TWO YEARS AGO: Turkey Portobello Burger

THREE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Ricotta Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2014

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Pasta with Lemony Tomatoes and Spinach

SIX YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Memories of Pastéis

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