PAINTED SOURDOUGH

I consider this bread a work in progress, as the color is fading a bit during baking. Sugarprism stays very well on cookies (as I showed in the first cookie from this post), but I suppose 450F is a different story. However, this was only my second time doing it, and I already saw some improvement from the first attempt. Any sourdough recipe you are fond of will work. I opted for Elaine’s Herb and Olive Oil Sourdough, which I used as a teaser recipe in my recent review of her wonderful book (click here to read it, in case you’ve missed it). I like the way the olive oil in the dough seemed to tame a bit the crust explosion, and that worked well to keep the design untouched.

Basic things to consider when painting… minimize the amount of flour on the surface. When we do stenciling or even artistic slashing, a coating with flour is super important. In painting the dough, it makes things difficult and interferes negatively with the color. In today’s bread, for the outline I used black cocoa diluted with water. For the petals, Sugarprism in yellow and red. For the center of the sunflower, bronze luster powder diluted with vodka. As you can see, from the before pictures the bronze luster powder was the champion as far as keeping the color during baking. Black cocoa will always stay well, but if your goal is color, that cannot really help you much…

Just in case you are curious, below you see my first attempt painting sourdough. Two small issues happened: the dough had so much oven-spring that it lifted the design in ways that were not ideal. And I coated the surface with flour, which made the Sugarprism color interact with it and fade even more. The flour also gave a rough texture that made it impossible to spread the color nicely with a brush. In this case, I re-painted the bread the moment it came out of the oven to bring the color back. But my goal is to not have to do that, and get some method that retains the color during baking. Stay tuned then for my next adventure, in which I will use exclusively luster powder + vodka, hoping for a happy, very colorful ending…

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EMBOSSED CHOCOLATE-CHERRY SOURDOUGH LOAF

This bread is simply amazing. If you are not too sure about mixing chocolate with sourdough bread, let me tell you, it works! As the husband put it, this is dangerously good. He also said that “we” absolutely must make it again and have slices of this bread in the freezer at all times. I cannot take any credit for the basic formula, but I completely changed the method, and will explain my reasons in the comments. With this loaf, I tried a new way to decorate the surface, using paper towel to emboss a pattern. I definitely intend to explore this method further in the near future.

EMBOSSED CHOCOLATE-CHERRY SOURDOUGH LOAF
(modified from The Perfect Loaf)

260g water
80g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
320g bread flour
40g spelt flour
12g cocoa powder 
12g canola oil 
60g dark chocolate chips
60g dried sour cherries
8g sugar
7g salt
additional flour for embossing effect (optional)

Bloom the cocoa. Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the cocoa and heat, stirring until it thickens slightly. Allow it to completely cool.

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 all other ingredients, except the chocolate chips and cherries.

Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 2 minutes at low-speed all the time. If the dough is too sticky, add 1/4 cup flour, you want the dough to start clearing the sides of the bowl, but still be sticky at the bottom. Add the chocolate chips and cherries, knead in the machine for 2 and a half minutes more.

Remove the dough 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. If you intend to do the decorative embossing, rub all-purpose or bread flour all over the paper towel. Reserve.

After four hours bulk fermentation, shape the dough in any shape you like, and place, seam side up, in a lightly floured banetton. If embossing, the bread lays on top of the paper saturated with flour. 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, slash the surface with a sharp razor blade. 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 technique to do the embossing is explained very well in this video from youtube. I was hoping for more staying power and contrast after baking, so on a loaf made a few days later I tried tapioca flour and rice flour, but they did not work. The tapioca behaved very oddly when rubbed in the paper, so I did not use it, and the rice flour never formed a pattern after overnight in the fridge. So, as far as my limited experience goes, it might be better to use regular white flour.

The bread had great oven-spring, and the smell was amazing as it baked. My modification of the method involved super-simplifying it. As I like to say, your kitchen, your rules. If you prefer to go along the path of autolyse, and adding water in different stages, go for it. I’ve been baking sourdough for 15 years pretty much non-stop, and I stick with the simplest way to do it. It works well for me. Would it be better if I did the autolyse and all the other convoluted tricks? Maybe, but honestly, I don’t really care. Some bakers go to the extent of measuring the temperature of the room, the water, the flour, adjust the number of revolutions per minute in the KitchenAid to get to the perfect increase in temperature by friction etc etc. I have zero interest in this type of precision. My default method works fine for all bread formulas I’ve tried so far. Quoting my dear friend Elaine (author of two bread cookbooks): “Keep It Simple.”

The flavor of this bread is hard to describe, but Maurizio really hit the jackpot with this one. It is not a sweet bread. Biting into the pieces of cherry around the crumb? Added bliss. Make it, and you might find yourself with a new favorite loaf of bread to keep around the house.

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DOUBLE PEANUT SOURDOUGH LOAF

Of all the nuts out there, the peanut is the ugly duckling. Simple, humble, affordable, available everywhere. It does not have that majestic feel of a macadamia, or the sexy aura of a hazelnut. Most sourdough breads include walnuts or pecans, leaving them once again neglected. Not in my kitchen, though. This bread gets a double load of peanuts. Peanut butter, and roasted peanuts joined together with flour, salt and a wild bunch of yeast and bacteria aka sourdough starter.

DOUBLE PEANUT SOURDOUGH LOAF
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

370g water
70g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
470g bread flour
20g spelt flour
10 g rye flour
30g peanut butter (smooth)
30g roasted peanuts, unsalted
10g salt

  • 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, the peanut butter and the salt.
  • Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 2 minutes at low-speed all the time. If the dough is too sticky, add 1/4 cup flour, you want the dough to start clearing the sides of the bowl, but still be sticky at the bottom.
  • Add the peanuts and continue kneading in low-speed for 2 and a half minutes more.
  • Remove the dough 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.
  • 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, rub gently white flour on the surface. Score with any pattern you like.
  • 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 follow my blog, you know that my default method for sourdough involves the Kitchen Aid initial kneading and never heating the Dutch oven before dropping the bread inside, over parchment paper. Those two details make life a lot easier in terms of clean up of bowls, hands, and lack of burning marks in forearms and fingers…

I add the peanuts after 2 minutes kneading with the KA, and run the machine for one additional couple of minutes or so. That is enough to incorporate the nuts in the dough, which will continue to happen during the subsequent foldings. You can slash the dough in patterns or just do a simple slash. Below I show you another type of pattern, a kind of geometric flower.

We loved the subtle peanut flavor of this bread, and biting into a little peanut here and there was also very nice. The peanuts will end up softer than other nuts normally used in breads.

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BAHARAT FLOWER SOURDOUGH

I am quite fond of adding Middle Eastern spices to sourdough bread, and this time I experimented with “baharat.” Interestingly, the word “baharat” means “spices” and a commercially available mixture might have different proportions of many kinds, depending on the origin. You can also make your own, using the formula suggested in this article. I went with a store-bought product, and chose this one. It has intense flavor, but it is not overly hot.

BAHARAT FLOWER SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

385g white bread flour
16g whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp baharat mixture
8g salt
280g water
65g sourdough starter at 100% hydration

optional for decoration:
egg white + a little water (egg wash)
sesame seeds (I used a mixture of white and black)
luster powder + vodka

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, the baharat and the salt. Turn the mixer on with the hook attachment and knead the dough for 4 minutes at low-speed all the time. If the dough is too sticky, add 1/4 cup flour, you want the dough to start clearing the sides of the bowl, but still be sticky at the bottom.

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. 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, rub gently white flour on the surface. Score with a flower pattern and paint the details with a bright color using luster powder diluted with vodka. You need it to be a bit on the thick side, and don’t worry about precision, it will more or less mix with any flour bits around it. Do not worry. Paint the center of the flower pattern with egg wash and gently press sesame seeds on it.

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 ask me which type of spice is my favorite for sourdough, I would have to politely decline to answer. I love them all. I tend to use curry more often than others but probably because I have two or three types of curry in the pantry and like to put them to use. The amount included gives just a hint of flavor and the bread is still good to enjoy with anything you want. Even plain with a little olive oil or butter.

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MINI-PULLMAN SOURDOUGH BREAD

First things first. Full credit to my dear friend Elaine, for inspiring me to use a pan I had bought a few months ago and was sitting in the basement, feeling neglected (the pan, not the baker). The gadget is a mini-loaf, Pullman style, that makes a cute cube-shaped bread. You can use any type of dough you like, but I went with a simple sourdough.

MINI-PULLMAN SOURDOUGH BREAD
(adapted from Elaine’s master recipe)

225g white flour
25g whole-wheat flour
40g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
175g water
5g salt

Lay a piece of parchment paper in the mini-loaf pan with a little overhang to make it easier to pull the baked bread later. Reserve.

Mix all ingredients for the dough in a medium-size bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Do a series of foldings every 45 minutes or so until you reach 5 hours bulk fermentation (so do folds for 4 more hours, don’t worry about timing, try to make 4 more cycles of folding. Shape it loosely as a ball, and place in the mini-loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic and place in the refrigerator overnight. It should fill a little more than half the volume of the pan.

Next morning, heat the oven to 425F. When it reaches that temperature, remove the plastic cover, shut the pan with the metal lid, and bake for 30 minutes. Open the lid, and leave in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes, and invert to remove the bread. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For this size of pan, you need to have enough dough so that during baking it will reach the top. However, if you add too much it will end up badly compressed at the top, and the texture of the crumb won’t be homogeneous. The picture above shows the dough before it went into its final fermentation in the fridge. It is perhaps 70% full.


I don’t think you need to add the parchment paper, but it was my first time using this method and I was afraid of the dough sticking to the pan. Not at all the case. I did not grease the pan, and the dough stayed inside overnight in the fridge without any issues.

This recipe makes a small loaf perfect for a family of two or three. Another great advantage is that leftovers will be perfect for cutting as croutons, something we do often. I know I will be using my pan all the time now, not only with sourdough but other types of bread too. I am thinking a marbled charcoal and white in the near future..

Elaine, thank you for that much needed push to put my baking toy to good use!

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