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.

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EIGHT YEARS AGO: Memories of Pastéis

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EMILIE RAFFA’S HIGH HYDRATION SOURDOUGH

As you might imagine, I should stop buying cookbooks because I’d need to live to be 173 years old to go through the ones I already own. However, I am thrilled that I got the latest one from Emilie, pre-ordered the moment I saw it available: Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.


I’ve been following Emilie’s blog for a long time, and even reviewed her first cookbook a while ago (click here for a flashback).  The salad I chose to feature in that post is one of those rare recipes that ended up in our regular rotation. You know how it goes in the kitchen of a food blogger. We are always trying new recipes, it’s a bit compulsive sometimes, but when a truly spectacular thing lands on our table, we go back to it. With this new book, Emilie does exactly what the title states: simplifies the making of artisan sourdough bread. She offers a very detailed explanation on how to make your first sourdough starter (that method that collects microorganisms from the environment), how to keep it healthy and use it to make all sorts of wonderful concoctions, going beyond bread baking.  Formulas are simple, the timing is flexible, as exemplified in the recipe I share with you today. I was so fond of it that I made it four times in 5 weeks! Yes, talk about re-visiting something spectacular. I am not the only one smitten with Emilie’s book. Celia, the one and only blogger who lives in beautiful Australia, composed a wonderful review of Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, and I urge you to stop by and take a look… It might just be the push you need to take the book home with you (at least virtually, as I did with my Kindle version…). So, without further ado, my first sourdough bread from Emilie’s book…

HIGH-HYDRATION SOURDOUGH
(printed with permission from Emilie Raffa)

Tips from Emilie: The first step toward bigger holes is to add more water, or to increase the dough’s hydration. The second step is to expand your sourdough technique: Gently dimple the dough after the bulk rise and then shape it twice. Both techniques will help to open up the crumb and can be applied toward other doughs to achieve the same effect.

Suggested baker’s schedule: Thursday and Friday: Feed your starter until bubbly and active. Saturday Evening: Make the dough and let rise overnight. Sunday Morning: Shape the dough, let rise again, score and bake.

Bread formula
50 g (¼ cup) bubbly, active starter (mine was at 100% hydration)
375 g (1 ½ cups plus 1 tbsp) warm water
500 g (4 cups plus 2 tbsp) bread flour
9 g (1 ½ tsp) fine sea salt

Making the dough
In the evening, whisk the starter and water together in a large bowl with a fork. Add the flour and salt. Mix to combine, then finish by hand to form a rough dough. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 1 hour.  After the dough has rested, work it into a ball, about 15 to 20 seconds.

Bulk fermentation
Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise overnight at room temperature, about 8 to 10 hours at 70 ° F (21 ° C). The dough is ready when it has doubled in size, has a few bubbles on the surface, and jiggles when you move the bowl from side to side.

Shaping the dough
In the morning, coax the dough onto a floured surface. Dimple the dough all over with floured fingertips. Gently shape it into a round and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line an 8-inch (20-cm) bowl or proofing basket with a towel and dust with flour. Using a bench scraper, scoop up the dough and flip it over so that the smooth side is facing down. Shape it again, and then flip it back over. Cup the dough and gently pull it toward you in a circular motion to tighten its shape. Place into your lined bowl, seam side up.

Final fermentation
Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour to set its structure. Note: You can chill this dough for up to 6 hours or more. When ready to bake, let sit at room temperature while the oven heats up.

Baking the bread
Heat your oven to 500 ° F (260 ° C). Cut a piece of 
parchment to fit the size of your baking pot. Place the parchment over the dough and invert the bowl to release. Dust the surface with flour and rub with your hands to coat. Using the tip of a small knife or a razor blade, score the dough with the pattern of your choice. Use the parchment to transfer the dough into the baking pot.  Place the pot on the center rack, and reduce the heat to 450 ° F (230 ° C). Bake the dough for 20 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Lift the loaf out of the pot, and bake directly on the oven rack for the last 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: One of the advantages of a simple bread recipe is that you can concentrate on aspects other than the making of the dough, or its shaping, since it’s all so straightforward. This recipe was my gateway to practice different slashing patterns. My conclusion was that bread has a mind of its own. Almost every single time the final product was not exactly what I had in mind. But, isn’t that what life is all about? The more we try to control things, the more frustrated we might get. Until… until we learn to dance to the music and enjoy the unexpected, the stuff that does not go exactly as planned. No, I am not that wise yet, but working on it.

Indeed, for some members of our home, the way the bread looks is totally irrelevant…

Let me now show you my quartet of breads, all made with the same basic Emilie’s recipe, except that for the third loaf I increased the hydration even further (385 g water instead of 370g), and included one series of folds before the dough fermented at room temperature overnight.  I did that after the dough had rested for one hour, then waited 45 minutes more to shape it into a ball and leave it alone at room temperature until next day. The more you push the hydration up, the more you’ll need some type of folding or kneading to make sure you have some structure in it.  All things considered, I think Emilie’s formula as written is spot on,  considerably simplifying the process.

Slashing #1

That is the exact slashing that produced my featured bread.  You probably did not see anything wrong with it, but that’s because I picked the best angle of the bread to take the picture. Full disclosure? Here we go:

The slash at the base of the circle was probably a bit too deep, and the thing lift off like a lid! Looked pretty funny, almost like a Trilobite fossil in search of food. And the crust got a tad too dark in that spot.  Lesson to learn: be more gentle with the slashes at the base of the dough.

Slash #2

I was aiming for a yin-yang kind of thing.  Here’s the result after baking…

Nice, open ears, but definitely not what I expected. Not sure if I had to be more delicate with the depth of the central slashing… but I liked the way the bread looked.

Slash #3

I went with a star-type pattern, and diagonal small slashes all around….  This time I had no particular expectations, just decided to accept whatever the Gods of the Yeasty Things rewarded me with…

Slash #4

and the final, resulting loaf….

Probably my favorite… all plump and was singing out loud as it cooled…

All breads made with the high-hydration sourdough tend to have open crumb,
very creamy texture, with a hard crust.
The kind of bread we really love!

So there you have it, four loaves of bread made with a basic sourdough formula, according to Emilie’s Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.  The same formula produces amazing – let me state that again – produces AMAZING focaccia…

It is really a lovely book, Celia did a great job reviewing it, so let me just tempt you with a very simple list of breads included in one of her chapters. I want to bake every single one of them. Period.

Decadent Chocolate Chip (O.M.G)

Dill and White Cheddar

Olive, Thyme, and Parmesan

Seeded Pumpkin Cranberry (O.M.G. #2)

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip

Pickled Jalapeno, Cheddar and Chive (O.M.G. #3)

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary

Sticky Date, Walnut and Orange (I rest my case)

Emilie, thanks for giving me permission to share one recipe from your lovely book…  I am looking forward to baking more and more goodies from your tasty collection!

Note added after publication… I am thrilled to share with you a bread made by one of my followers, Sue (check her comment below). She used this recipe to make a real masterpiece in bread form! 

Great job, Sue!  Thanks for sharing your bread with me!

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SEVEN YEARS AGO: Stir-fried Chicken with Creamed Corn

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

 

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ELAINE’S SOURDOUGH BOULE


The recipe for this bread, also known as 500 g overnight sourdough,  is beyond tried and true. My dear friend Elaine has been baking this very recipe for years, probably at least twice every week, if not more often. Her very detailed blog post about it can be found here. You can also marvel at her slashing skills, which inspired me to become more adventurous. Remember?

When you bake bread on a regular basis, it is nice to have a formula that is not overly complicated, one you can do it almost without effort. This is it. Of all sourdough breads I’ve baked, this is the one that I will go back to when I want a great loaf of bread, pure with regular bread flour, just that delicious sourdough tang, and a crumb that has the type of texture I enjoy. Some holes, but not a bread sieve. And add to that great crust too. All bases are covered.

Here is a simplified overview of the recipe. First, you need a bubbly sourdough starter, at 100% hydration, that is 50:50 flour to water ratio.

You’ll use 150 g of your bubbly sourdough and mix it with 285 g water, 500 g bread flour, and 9 g of salt. Incorporate it all with your hands, no need to work very hard.  Leave it for 30 minutes at room temperature, then knead it by folding a few times.  Let the dough proof at room temperature overnight. Mine was ready to walk outside and greet the world…

Pour the dough gently out on a floured surface, shape it.
Let it sit for 30 minutes, while you heat the oven to 450 F.
Slash it with enthusiasm…

Bake for 45 minutes, leaving the bread covered for the first 30 minutes, generating steam whichever way you like.
I use the moistened lid of a Dutch oven.

To view the detailed recipe, visit Elaine’s site.

I loved this recipe so much, that I baked it twice in the same week, so that we had enough bread for a bunch of golfing buddies that visited us.  On my second time around, I went for a wheat-stalk design, but the bread had a mind of its own…
Still, it’s fun to try different patterns.

The goal… a few wheat stalks decorating the bread….

The outcome…  not exactly a wheat stalk, but it’s always nice to see a strong oven spring in action!

I can hardly wait to bake again, and try new slashing patterns on the bread.  For the wheat stalk, I think the key is to either omit the central slash of the stalk, or make it very delicate and shallow. Must practice…

Elaine, thanks for bringing sourdough baking back to my routine,
you are a constant source of inspiration!

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