Saturday, March 6, 2010

Basic Whole Wheat Sourdough Boule: Isolating the Variables

The following recipe is an The Upper Yeast Side original with inspiration from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion (as always).  It takes a full 24 hours.

Basic Whole Wheat Sourdough Boule
(Printable Recipe)

Baking time: 40 minutes     Yield: One medium-sized boule.

2 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup rye flour
¼ cup bread flour
¾ cup water
¼ cup oil
1 cup sourdough starter
A little semolina flour for dusting

  1. Combine flour.  Reserve ½ cup whole wheat for kneading.
  2. To the flour, add liquid and starter (straight from the fridge)
  3. Stir well.  Get your hand in there until it’s all combined.
  4. Autolyse.  Let it be for 20 – 30 minutes.
  5. Then, knead in salt and an additional flour (as needed).  The proportion ends up being 2.5 cups flour:1 cup liquid (water+oil):1 cup starter
  6.  Let it rise, covered, for 2 hours.
  7. After a couple hours, move it to the fridge.  Retard over night.
  8. First thing the following morning, remove dough from fridge.  Allow it to warm at room temperature for at least an hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 450°F with cast iron pan and dutch oven inside.  At the same time, boil water on the stove top.  Let your dough be on the stove top so it can warm up slowly with the oven.  
  10. Dust pan and boule lightly with semolina flour.  
  11. Cook in a steamy oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  For details on how to turn your oven into a sauna, click here and scroll toward bottom of post.   After 15 minutes, open oven door and let steam escape.  Quickly (and carefully), remove cast iron pan.  Lower oven temperature to 375°F and bake for an additional 25 minutes, covered.  
  12. Turn off oven and open oven door.  Allow bread ten more minutes just where it is, door open and all.  
  13. Remove dutch oven from oven.  Remove bread from dutch oven.  You can close the oven door now.  Let cool.  Enjoy!
My boule came out with a moist crumb and a soft crust.  It rose slowly, but surely -- whole grains slow leavening.

Variables:  So, this week in my Science for Teachers class we had an open-ended, free investigation of pendulums.  Without any explicit instruction we encountered all the different variables affecting the path of our bobs.  Granted, we are graduate students.  The idea is that this happens when you allow third graders free exploration as well.  It got me thinking on the crosstown bus ride home: What variables have Lil and I discovered that affect bread-baking in our kitchen?

Hydration of Starter
The hydration of starter refers to the consistency (thickness/thinness) of your batter.  My batter is 100% hydration because I add equal parts (by weight) of flour and water.  Every week when I use starter in a recipe and then feed it I add 8oz. (1 cup) water and 8oz. (2 cups) all purpose flour.  This makes a wet, dough-like consistency.  Some recipes I have read call for a wetter starter and others a drier starter.  In both cases, I would modify the liquid in the recipe rather than worry about disrupting my happy, established starter.  It's really matured since the days when it was exploding all over our apartment.

Wild Yeast: Let's rage!
Wild yeast is mysterious.  Wild yeast is…
…the bread knowing that other bread has been baked here before.  Areas that bake bread regularly have a high level of wild yeast in the air.  Bread knows when other bread is around.  The more bread you bake the more wild yeast lives in your kitchen.
…the difference between rotting and fermenting.  Wild yeast is what keeps our sourdough starter from becoming infested with strange mold and bacteria.  Wild yeast brings starter to life, in a good way not a scary way.  
...the reason we can bake a delicious sourdough bread without "domestic yeast" (instant or dry active packets).  

Forecast and Elevation of Bakery: What’s in the air?
Location affects bread.  Bread depends on the interactions of flour, leavening agents, and liquid to do it’s thing.  Throwing atmospheric pressure into the mix is not in the recipe.  Bread and different baked goods require different types of adjustments.   For yeast breads, The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion says:
·      Decrease the amount of yeast in the recipe by 25% and use your own judgment to make (slow, careful) water/flour proportion adjustments to get your dough to be the right “tacky” texture. 
·      Allow your dough a longer, slower rise. 
·      If you have sourdough starter, supplement a small amount in place of the liquid in your recipe.
Beside elevation, the weather also affects bread.  The Breadcast: Moisture in the air affects dry ingredients.  On humid days, flour will want to absorb less water than on hot, dry days.  It’s not as thirsty because there is already water in the air.  In addition, yeast loves a warm, wet day.  Rainy days are perfect for baking! When it’s wet outside, your flour will want a little less water so just be aware of the texture of your dough.  

Crust and crumb shot:

After having just tasted it, I feel this bread would be delicious with some extra-sharp cheddar Cabot cheese.  When I meet my parents in Larchmont later tonight, I will barter with them -- trading this loaf for replenishing our cheese.  Fair trade.

- Sarah

1 comment:

  1. Very nice pictures to go along with your very interesting recipes. Thank you for sharing this one from King Arthur Flour. Also the information about hydration is great! Joan @KAF