Sunday, 26 August 2018

Best Sourdough Bread Yet

Last night I completed my best sourdough loaf to date. I had had endless problems getting it right. I am grateful for Trevor J. Wilson for his brilliant Youtube video on how to get an open crumb from a stiff dough (low hydration) and after 4 or 5 attempts at this (I’ve lost count!) I finally got it right last night.

Part of the problem I had before this may have been due to the rye flour I was using in combination with my normal white bread flour. I decided to replace this with whole wheat bread flour and it was certainly better. However, I also think it was something to do with my improving dough handling skills.

With the rye, the dough was soooo sticky, and whenever it was left to rest, it spread dramatically, so that I thought if I left it much longer, it would walk out the door.

Anyway, here’s last night’s effort:

I am thrilled with the lovely open crumb. The flavour is fabulous, too.

My only complaint (I’m such a perfectionist!) is that there wasn’t quite enough oven spring. Next time I’m going to pre-heat my Dutch oven for an hour rather than half an hour and see if this helps.

Just for the record, here are my previous efforts.

My first effort, back on 19th June.

Not a very open crumb, but not bad for all that. Good flavour. After this, my starter began to fail because I hadn’t been feeding it correctly, and I had to start again.

This pathetic offering was a result of using a moribund starter – 9th July.

15th July. Not much oven spring.

21st July. Again. Pretty flat, and not very open crumb.

29th July. Getting better.

This was the first one I made with Trevor’s method, on 12th August. It came out very well.

I wasn’t quite happy with the crumb, so decided to experiment, increasing the hydration. This was a big mistake.

The first time it spread out completely flat. I scraped it all up and threw it away, and tried again the next day, and the same thing happened, but I was reluctant to waste yet more good food, so decided to add the sourdough starter crackers ingredients and try and rescue it as biscuits, but it started to rise, so I thought I might as well bake it as bread, and this was the result – 20th August.

Pretty dense, but definitely edible! A rather curious sourdough loaf with the addition of coconut oil and baking soda, but at least it didn’t end up in the bin. The top was horrendous because it was well and truly stuck on the lining I’d put in the bowl.

I decided to go back to Trevor’s original hydration of 65%. Something went wrong – it was still terribly sticky and difficult to handle, and then, when I took it out of the oven, it was completely stuck onto the bottom of the Dutch oven, and I had a terrible job the next day, to prise it out, using my flexible metal spatula. It was a bit overdone, but it tasted OK. 21st August.

That brings us up to the latest one, made on Saturday 25th August, with the 50-50 mix of white and whole wheat flours.

Definitely a success.

I now need to find out if I can still use Trevor’s method and then divide the dough so I can make two small loaves. If not, then I can no longer use the small bannetons I bought, which will be a shame. I haven’t got a big one, and the loaves made with Trevor’s method were all given their final proving in a bowl.

I have also had awful problems with the dough sticking in the bowl/banneton, and the top being ruined. I’ve tried with and without a liner, with the same result. It seemed impossible to get the flour to stick on the sides of the bowl/banneton. This last one was better, though. I lightly spritzed the bowl with water and sprinkled semolina all over it (found out online that semolina is pretty good because it’s gluten-free, and it’s the gluten in normal wheat flour that turns to glue and you can’t get the bread out). I did this in advance, and then just before putting the dough in, sprinkled it again with more semolina. My hubby went out and bought me some rice flour and I am going to use that next time – even better, I’ve been led to understand, and a better colour too – white, so should make better patterns. If I can’t divide the dough without spoiling the structure, I am going to have to try and get a bigger banneton if I want the nice spiral ridges so characteristic of traditional sourdough.

If I can get just a little more oven spring, I shall be well satisfied. I’m definitely getting there now, though, and it’s thanks to Trevor and his brilliant method.

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