Breaking Bread

Contents

References

Starter

  • ST-S : starter small, <20%
  • ST-M : starter medium, [20%, 35%)
  • ST-L : starter large, [35%, 50%]

Water

  • W-S : water small, [55%, 65%)
  • W-M : water medium, [65%, 80%)
  • W-L : water large, [80%, 110%]

Flour

  • White : all white bread flour with a little bit of whole wheat from the starter.
  • W-Mixed : mostly white flour mixed with smaller amounts of other types of flour.
  • Mixed : mix of white, wheat, spelt flours in nearly equal proportions.
  • R-Mixed : mostly rye flour mixed with other flours.
  • Rye : all rye flour, baby!

Actions (in order of appearance in baking)

  • Activate cold starter By this I mean to wake up the yeast after having been kept in the refrigerator for sometime. I do this by keeping it on the kitchen bench to let it reach room temperature. You might start seeing little bubbles which means it is ready to be fed or levain-ed.
  • Feed starter / Feed starter in ice
  • Float test - Once the starter is active, you can take a small spoonful of it and place it gently in a container full of water. If it floats, it will bake! If it doesn't, check the interwebs for an answer :(
  • Autolyse - Autolysis is like suicide in the microscopic world. No really, that was my first reaction when I read about it. But technically, it is a chemical reaction that happens when flour and water are mixed to break down the nutrients in wheat (or the grass you're using for the flour) into simple sugars and protein (which makes up the gluten). If you think about it, this step in bread-making, basically, partially digests the wheat grain for you so that your stomach can digest the rest of it. Feel free to experiment with the duration of autolyses with the type of grain and see what suits you. There's no exact science here in my opinion.
  • Rest - let the dough rest in the mixing bowl.
  • Mix and light knead
  • Rubaud knead (optional) There are many videos explaining this technique of kneading but the one that I liked is this one.
  • Stretch and fold / Slap and fold
  • Bulk rise
  • Pre-shape
  • Bench rest
  • Final shape
  • Proof in room / Proof in fridge
  • Pre-heat oven
  • Bake / Bake with steam - Ideally, you would bake in a dutch oven. But since I couldn't move my fine ass to buy one (and I am hoping that I will get one as a present), what I do is fill a baking tray with ice or hot water and place it below the the tray where the bread is kept. The idea is to mimic the dutch oven to obtain a good oven-spring.
  • Cool
  • Cut

Overnight Proof Mixed W-S ST-M

Temp 24.8 °C and humidity 45-50% in the kitchen.

Recipe

White flour - Wuzener 550.

Whole wheat - Rewe Bio.

Spelt flour - Rewe Bio.

Mix of table salt and black kosher salt.

Item Qt %
Starter 107 23.78
White flour 200 44.44
Whole wheat 150 33.33
Spelt flour 100 22.22
Water 265 58.89
Salt 8 1.78
Time Requirements State/Results
11:30   Feed starter.
16:00 White flour, Whole wheat, Spelt, Starter, water Autolyse. Rest.
16:40 Salt Mix and light knead. Rest.
17:00   Stretch and fold.
17:20   Stretch and fold.
Set a timer for every 20-25min Stretch and fold.
19:30   Stretch and fold.
19:30   Bulk rise.
23:00   Pre-shape. Bench rest.
00:00   Final shape.
00:05   Proof in fridge.
08:15   Pre-heat oven.
08:45   Bake.
09:45   Cool.
12:30   Cut.

Verdict

  • Dough: Beautiful dough; a pleasure to work with. Felt very light and airy, especially during final shaping. I wish our brains were like this. I had the briefest idea of making a parachute out of it but I let it pass and moved on to proofing this amazing dough in the fridge.
  • Baking: The fermented dough looked good - poke test passed with flying colors. I decided to place a wet kitchen towel instead of ice or boiling water to facilitate a more prolonged steaming process. Turned out to be a terrible idea. Not only did the towel start to char as it dried, the smell of the cloth itself mixed with the steam. Stupid, stupid!
  • Taste and texture: I thought the kitchen towel debacle would ruin the bread from the inside (the smell was a teeny-bit off but nowhere close to bad). But no, it tasted awesome. The burnt flax and the chia seeds gave it a new smell and taste - can't say I liked it enormously over the others. A tad low on salt (1.78% as per the table) - maybe I should hit the 2% mark for good flavor. Not stuffy. Air pockets are uniformly distributed. Feels soft and light. Slight tangy smell.
  • Presentation: I am still out of luck here. I had slashed the bread like Zorro. The rise was fine. But no oven-spring, the brazen scoring failed to facilitate that. Maybe I am missing something. Can't figure out what it is.

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Overnight Proof White W-S ST-M

Temp 23 °C and humidity 55%.

Recipe

White flour - Wuzener 550.

Mix of table salt and black kosher salt.

Item grams %
Starter 80 24.39
White flour 328 100.00
Salt 9 2.74
Water 197 60.06
Olive oil 3 0.91
Sesame seeds 3 0.91
Time Requirements State/Results
10:00 Warm oven from last bake Activate cold starter.
13:00 White flour, water Autolyse. Rest.
14:00 Starter, sesame seeds, olive oil, salt Mix and light knead. Rest.
14:30   Stretch and fold.
Set a timer for every 20-30min Stretch and fold.
17:00   Stretch and fold.
17:30   Pre-shape. Bench rest.
18:30   Final shape. Proof in fridge.
08:00   Pre-heat oven.
08:30   Bake.
09:40   Cool.
11:00   Cut.

Verdict

Compared to the bread from the last bake:

  • Dough: Clearly, the gluten structure was strong because of higher than usual proportion of white flour. However, my manly hands broke the structure after adding the starter and salt - I should be careful with the kneading. What was lost in brute force was gained in patience and technique later on with many rounds of stretch and fold. The gluten was mostly restored but I didn't have a great feeling about it. And that ruined my plan to do fewer stretch and folds than last time, as I had noted.
  • Baking After pre-heating at 250°C, I set the final dough over a tray of boiling water for about 20 min. The browning was good. The oven-spring seemed to look good as well. I am not gonna lie, I sat next to the oven to watch it grow in front of my eyes. The scariest part was when the dough stayed flat for a good 15min and I started to wonder if I unknowingly killed millions of yeast during proofing in the fridge. But around the 20 minute mark, poof, lo and behold, the dough rose like dead angels!
  • Taste and texture Definitely in the top three of what I've made so far (which would be six), in terms of taste. The texture, hmmm, not so sure. The crumb wasn't very open. With almost complete white flour and around 60-65% hydration, I expected a better crumb. Should experiment with lower water for white flour next time. Or higher water with whole wheat. Anyways, the stiffness of the bread is dependent on many variables, the brand of white flour being one of them. So, gotta be patient and keep baking and learn from trials and errors.
  • Presentation I was confident that the scoring would work this time. It looked very promising through the hazy oven window as I watched the rise of the dough (Heh, "Rise of the Dough" could be a sequel to "The Dough".) But, from the picture you can see what happened. The yeasty gases didn't push out; hence, no oven-spring or an open crumb. I should be more ambitious with the scoring next time.

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Overnight Proof W-Mixed W-M ST-M

Temp 23 °C and humidity 55%.

Recipe

White flour - Wuzener 550.

Whole wheat - Rewe Bio.

Spelt flour - Rewe Bio.

Charcoal kosher salt.

Item Qt %
Starter 100 33.33
White flour 140 46.67
Whole wheat 80 26.67
Spelt flour 80 26.67
Salt 9 3.00
Water 205 68.33
Time Ingredients State/Results
11:00   Activate cold starter.
15:00 White flour, Whole wheat, Spelt, water Autolyse. Rest
15:30 Starter, salt, soaked chia seeds Mix and light knead. Rest.
16:05   Rubaud knead.
16:30   Rubaud knead.
16:50   Rubaud knead.
17:15   Rubaud knead.
18:00   Stretch and fold.
Set a timer for every 20-30min Stretch and fold.
21:00   Stretch and fold.
21:30   Pre-shape.
22:00   Final shape.
22:05   Proof in fridge.
06:30   Pre-heat oven.
07:00   Bake.
07:50   Cool.
09:00   Cut.

Verdict

  • Dough: Soft and wet dough. Super easy to knead, stretch and fold. The soaked chia seeds probably increased the hydration beyond 70%. The

Rubaud knead technique helped soak all the water up. Though it seemed that it got wetter through the stretch and folds, not sure why. I will admit that I love this part of the bread-making process - working the dough and then shaping it, is like being a good father doting on his baby while changing the diaper. Does that mean I'm ready? To bake more bread?

  • Baking: Baked at 250°C for the most part. I placed a tray full of boiling water to

mimic the dutch oven.

  • Taste and texture: Was very delicious. With salt content at 3%, the flavor is hard to miss.

Could it be because I used a fancy black-colored kosher salt? The crumb is soft, airy. Not so stiff.

  • Presentation: Nope. Nada. The bread scoring looked professional, if you ask me. But it

hardly allowed the bread to open up. Looked like a scar on a mob boss' face (see first photo above). The dark color of the bread was prominent due to the addition of the salt.

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Overnight Mixed W-M ST-S

Temp 22.1 °C and humidity 53%.

Recipe

White flour - Kathi 405.

Whole wheat - Rewe Bio.

Table salt.

Item Qt %
Starter 90 19.96
White flour 301 66.74
Whole wheat 150 33.26
Salt 10 2.22
Water 349 77.38
Time Ingredients State/Results
18:32 white flour, whole wheat, water Autolyse. Rest.
19:10 Starter, salt Mix and fold. Rest.
19:30   Stretch and fold.
19:45   Stretch and fold.
20:00   Stretch and fold.
20:30   Shape. Cover and rest.
06:40   Divide. Pre-shape.
06:58   Final shape. Proof in fridge.
16:50   Bake.
17:35   Cool.
20:00   Cut.

Verdict

Having me some delicious bread with delicious spread:

  • Dough The experience from the previous, high-hydration bread was enough to encourage me to learn how to shape such a dough - check out this video to get a good idea on how to do so. So, how did I do? So bad that I wanted to kill myself. Anyways, I somehow managed to rein in the sticky dough and took a big sigh of relief after plopping it into the proofing bowl.
  • Baking Funny thing happened, the base of the final dough wouldn't let go of the proofing bowl when I turned it upside-down to place it on the kitchen bench. The flip stretched the dough to it limits, I shrieked and quickly moved in with my hands to finish the transfer. My heart pounded like a race car. Luckily for me, the kitchen bench offered another opportunity to shape the dough before placing it on the baking tray.
    • Taste and texture Tasted good. Well salted. Smell, sour and fresh. From the pics you can clearly see big, gaping holes, especially at the top of the bread. That must be the loosening of the dough at the top edge due to the botched-up transfer. There were some big holes in the middle as well, *as if a super-yeast punched through the dough and escaped the hellish death of the oven furnace!*
    • Presentation This was my first attempt at scoring with a small paring knife. If you would call it scoring, really! I felt bad to leave a small, pointless cut in an otherwise nice looking dough. Better luck next time. Also, the final bread looked like a blob of mud - I wouldn't last long as a baker with that kind of output.

Day Bake White W-S ST-L

Temp 21.7 °C and humidity 44%.

Recipe

White flour - Kathi 405.

Table salt.

Item Qt %
Starter 114 37.87
White flour 301 100.00
Yeast 7 2.33
Salt 9 2.99
Water 170 56.48
Sesame seeds    
Time Requirements State/Results
09:00 Starter, white flour, yeast, water Mix and knead. Rest.
09:23 Salt Mix and knead. Rest.
09:30   Bulk rise.
13:20   Pre-shape. Rest.
15:00 Sesame seeds Final shape. Pre-heat oven.
15:24   Bake with ice.
16:00   Cool.
17:30   Cut.

Verdict

  • Dough This was the first attempt at combining starter yeast and industrial instant yeast. So, I didn't perform any stretch and folds, just let it bulk rise to double the size. Not bad if you have a busy day. It was easier to manage than the last time which was a disaster.
  • Baking This was a low temperature bake, kept the oven at 200°C. I placed a tray of ice at the bottom, below the bread-tray. The idea is to sweat the ice to provide some steam to the dough as it rises. Apparently, this mimics the dutch oven. I wonder who first came up with this idea for novice sourdough bakers like me?
  • Taste Tasted amazing - the mild sourness with saltiness, close to 3% salt. However, with about 40% starter, I expected it to be more tangy. Either my taste buds were sleeping or a high starter content does not directly correlate to higher tanginess. Why, oh natural world, why? Why do you bereft me of amazing sour bread flavor! Also, there was more salt near the crust than the inside. Some stretch and folds would have definitely helped.
  • Texture The crumb was a bit stiff. Not many pockets of air. Maybe the lack of stretch and fold caused that. Or the mixing of different types of yeast. Something to experiment with on the next bake.
  • Presentation A sprinkle of seeds on top goes a long way in enhancing the presentation. I haven't started scoring the dough yet. *I should do it the next time as it might bring the texture within expectations, besides making it look like the Youtube-couture sourdough breads.* I liked the light golden brown color, since I didn't bake above 200. There is a linear gash on one side of the bread, where the gases might have burst out. Better score the dough next time.

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Levain W-Mixed W-M ST-M

Temp 22 °C and humidity 50%.

Recipe

White flour - Wuzener 550.

Whole wheat - Rewe Bio.

Spelt flour - Rewe Bio.

Table salt.

Item Qt %
Starter 114 32.48
White flour 251 71.51
Whole wheat 50 14.25
Spelt flour 50 14.25
Salt 10 2.85
Water 260 74.07
Time Ingredients State/Results
18:00   Activate cold starter.
23:30 Starter (17g), water (93g), White (46g), Wheat (46g) Make levain.
08:45   Float test pass/fail.
08:45 White flour, Whole wheat, Spelt flour, water, levain Mix and light knead. Rest.
09:14 Salt, water (15g) Mix and light knead. Rest.
09:15   Stretch and fold.
Set a timer for every 30-35min Stretch and fold.
14:25   Stretch and fold.
14:45   Pre-shape.
15:45   Final shape.
15:50   Proof.
21:00   Pre-heat oven.
21:30   Bake
22:10   Cool.
10:00   Cut.

Verdict

So, this was my first, earnest attempt at baking a sourdough bread (after days of reading and watching Youtube-bakers). Here are some pictures of how that turned out.

  • Dough Being the first time, I didn't really anticipate how the dough would behave with a hydration of over 75% (and I poured in more water when I added the salt). Stretch and fold exercise was fun. I never knew the dough could be treated like that without kneading. But i found it quite challenging to pre-shape, sticking to the bench like glue. Eventually, I managed to give it a nice round shape (see pics).
  • Baking Had to proof a long time (almost 5.5h) since the dough was taking time to be set. Transfer from proofing case to the baking tray was a disaster. The dough stuck really badly to the case and spread flat on the baking tray. Gotta be careful next time. Baked at 230°C with boiling water added for steam for 30min. Then 200°C for 15min.
  • Taste and texture Very, very nice, I'd say. I didn't have a restaurant sourdough bread to compare with but I really loved how it turned out. Not an open crumb like the Youtube-couture sourdough breads but satisfying to the eye and to the touch.

Learnings

  • Maybe keep the levain in a warmer place - oven with the light on.
  • Be careful during transfer to baking tray.

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