Such Joy There Is…

January 21, 2007 @ 10:06 am | Filed under:

…in baking a really fine loaf of sourdough bread.

It isn’t a perfect loaf, but it’s a vast improvement upon our first two attempts with sourdough, and it tastes really, really good. The crust has a nutty flavor so delicious we can’t stop breaking off little bits for "just one more" taste.

The recipe we used calls for a starter at 166% hydration, which is to say: maintained with one part flour, two parts water. We had to figure out how to adjust it for a 100% hydration starter (maintained with equal parts flour and water) because—and I know this is a little silly but we don’t care—it is such fun to have a nice thick starter bubbling in the crock a little too vigorously so there’s always that danger it will overflow. For the same reason, I don’t want to keep the crock in the fridge even though we aren’t yet baking enough to justify feeding a starter daily. We don’t care. Flour is cheap. We’re having fun.

Jane says she still likes baking yeast breads best, because there is so much more kneading. We’re going to shoot for one sourdough baking and one yeast bread baking each week. I’m so grateful to JoVE, whose post inspired us to start!

Things we need to figure out:

• The recipe said to proof the dough in a bowl lined with a proofing cloth sprinkled with flour. No problem there, but how do you then transfer the dough to your baking stone without deflating it? Ours was a pretty oozy dough (don’t know the right terminology)—not firm like our honey wheat yeast bread dough has been—and by the time I got it onto the stone, it was a big flat blob and I was sure it was going to be a complete flop. It did rise more in the oven, though, so we wound up with a nice big round loaf, a little dense but not a bad texture at all. But still, there has got to be a better way to make the switch. I wish I could watch a real baker do it. I have no technique.

• The slashing! Why can’t I get this right? I even got the special bread slashing tool. I’m too timid with my cuts. I don’t go deep enough. Again, I think it would help to see someone do it. But I guess I just  need to cut deeper, with less hesitation.

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5 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Teresa says:

    Hi Melissa,
    166% hydration is equal “volume” of flour to water,(1 cup flour, 1 cup water) so that may be why your dough was too “wet”. 100% hydration is equal “weight” of flour and water which is different than equal “volume” (8 oz flour,8 oz water – would be equal weight).
    Happy Baking,

  2. Lissa says:

    Aha! Now I understand. That makes sense. Thanks so much, Teresa. We are loving your starter!

  3. Stef says:

    Hi Lissa. I was timid about slashing too and then one day I just decided to go for it and slashed it so deep (like an inch or more) and spread the dough apart with my fingers a bit. Voila! My baguette was a bit out of shape though as it had bulges on the side. I think DEEP, but not too wide, is the trick.

  4. Wendy says:

    Hi! I’m a bit late to the discussion, but…
    The “wetness” of the dough is called “slack.” A slack dough gives you the larger irregular holes and a more open texture (“crumb”), very desirable in an artisan bread and fabulous for toast.
    I’ve been baking our bread about twice a week for almost 10 years. The KitchenAid is gold!!! Do you know that you can get a grain mill attatchment? (And a pasta attatchment, and… that way lies madness!)
    Regarding the slashing, try dusting with flour and then cut deep(an inch or so -when in doubt do more) at a 45 degree angle -lovely!
    The book “Crust and Crumb” was the big eye opener for me about the why of breadmaking. It really takes it to another level and gives you both the art and the science. It actually explains how and why bread goes stale and how to avoid this (you need some oil in the bread, but it explains what the oil is doing to the flour) and why heating stale bread restores moisture to it. Lots of pictures, too. A fabulous book!
    I love your blogs: the concept of tidal homeschooling made me yell, “Yes! This is what we do, we aren’t just periodically lazy!!!”
    An idea if you are still into breadmaking: when my 2nd child was getting ready for First Communion, we grew bread from scratch. A patch of wheat does not take up much space and we discussed all the farming parables in a new way (if you toss some seed on the sidewalk the birds really do come and eat it up)! Since wheat is a grass, any sunny patch of yard will do. Here in Maryland we planted hard winter wheat (high gluten for bread flour)in mid-October and harvested in early July. You can call your County Extension Office to see what would work for you.
    We went through a Midieval thing during this and spent some time as serfs, then knights, then religious, then nobles. Eye opening! Lots of possibilities for interesting “strewing.”
    The only downside was that the wheat had been bred for combine harvesting and was hard to thresh by hand.

  5. Erik Parsons says:

    Great conversation piece! I found the other comments to be very informative. I really enjoy this blog.