21 March, 2015

Sourdough everyday

It's been over a year since I posted on this blog. A year of sourdough baking. My leaven is still alive and bubbling and producing lovely loaves. I have gone from novice obsessive through frustration to baking, every couple of days, loaves which are quite beautiful and tasty. I'm not quite sure where I went from the obsessive to the relaxed taking it all for granted stage, and every now and again I think I ought to go back and check I'm "doing it right" and then I remind myself there isn't really a right way. There's just good or bad bread and that's the test.

The first step on the journey - starting the leaven - was handled by Dan Lepard and The Handmade Loaf. The next step - understanding the process of making sourdough and baking a beautiful loaf was in the hands of Chad Robertson and Tartine Bread. I bought the book last spring and read the first section on making a good loaf - 27 pages for one recipe! I read it and read it and read it (this was the novice obsessive phase obviously). And started following it to the letter. And bought extra equipment. And slowly adapted the technique to work for me. Some things have stuck - float that starter to see if it's lively enough - and others have somewhat disappeared - folding every half an hour for how ever many hours sometimes just doesn't happen. I'm not sure I could say when I changed things. And no day of baking is exactly the same - schedules, temperatures, flour mixes, all change.

My beloved Dutch Oven by Lodge
One thing I do consistently is use a Dutch Oven to bake my loaves. The one I have has a shallow lid/skillet which is easy to flip loaves onto, and then the deep casserole goes on top. If you've never tried baking a loaf in a casserole you won't believe the difference. For half the baking time the loaf is sealed in, in a moist atmosphere, allowing the loaf to spring beautifully upward before the crust sets. And then half way through the lid comes off and you end with a crunchy shiny crust on the outside.

I may blog more about other changes and techniques another day. But here is a loaf I baked today.

Cherry and fennel bread - makes two loaves
(based on a recipe from The Handmade Loaf but using proportions and techniques from Tartine Bread.)

200g leaven
700g warm water

mixed together and to which I added

200g unsweetened dried cherries

300g swiss dark flour from Shipton Mill
700g organic strong white flour also from Shipton Mill
1tbsp fennel seeds
20g salt

Below is a picture of the dough just mixed together.

And this is the dough after half an hour, and then stretched and folded and popped into its box. I started using a box because it keeps in the moisture better, and I can see what is going on easily. It's not glamourous but it works.

After several stretch and folds, and a good few hours of abandonment it looked like this.

Shaped into a boule. It's amazing how doing this every couple of days has improved my technique. Well not really, but I am still amazed.

And the final baked loaf!

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