Monday, October 02, 2006

Flour and Water – Sourdough Experiment Part II

That’s all. No yeast. No oil. No salt. No anything but flour and water. As simple a recipe as can be.

And it still turned into a loaf of rye and spelt sourdough bread.

Everyone loved it. It was all gone in a day.

I’ve already blogged about the rye starter. That also is just rye flour and water, set out in a warm room.

I took some of the starter, and added additional flour (half rye, half spelt) and water, and kneaded it up into an elastic dough.

Because it only contained flour and water, no oils, it was a sticky jpb kneading it. But seemed to get elastic just the same after about 15 minutes of kneading.

Then I let it rise. In a large ceramic bowl, that I had lightly oiled and dusted with flour (so the dough would come out again, I hoped).

It took another 5-6 hours or so to get this dough to rise to what seemed like double its original volume.

Here’s where I made my mistake. I tried to remove the risen dough from ceramic bowl onto a baking pan. And of course it stuck badly to the bowl. So pretty much all the rise was lost getting it out of the bowl.

But, as I mentioned a few posts ago, age brings patience, if not always wisdom.

So I reformed the dough, this time into a sort of brick shape, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. And let it rise some more. Over night, plus some. And it slowly, very slowly, rose. Like lifting the titanic. But eventually, after almost an additional day of rising, it was clearly at least twice it’s original size. It never got as light and fluffy looking as the initial rise in the ceramic bowl, though.

And hop it went into the oven.

Not an ideal recipe if you are in the process of starving or in a hurry. I hope to reduce the time required to get a loaf baked by a few days in subsequent trials!

Not too much additional rising occurred in the oven. I baked it at 425ºF for 10 minutes, and then reduced the temperature to 400ºF. And baked it, and baked it.

Along with the loaf, I placed a ceramic bowl of hot water in the oven as well, as this is supposed to keep the crust soft. After all, this is rye bread, not a baguette.

Finally, at about 50 to 60 minutes, we felt pretty confident it was baked through. I was, as always, worried about taking it out too soon and having uncooked dough in the center.

After taking it out of the oven, and letting it sit for half an hour, we finally cut it open.

Bear in mind again that this is a rye bread. And is not expected to be light and fluffy like wonder bread. I expected a boat anchor.

What came out had definitely risen. And was baked through. There is a definite structure of tight air pockets throughout the bread.

And I think, if not perfect, it is definitely bread. By any definition.

And flavorful!

Wow. Thick, smoky, nutty, deep, intense flavor. Even without salt, oil or anything else. You can’t get flavor like that from a store. The sourdough flavor very clearly evident in every bite. Harmonizing nicely with the nutty spelt and rye flavors.

In every bite, you can just feel yourself transported back to an open hearth, family huddled around for light and warmth, enjoying food delicious because the simple pure flavors come out so clearly.

So, a qualified success. Very tasty bread, but could have had a better rise.

I think the key improvement for the next one will be to let the kneaded dough rise in a baking vessel. Something ceramic bowl that is intended for bread baking. Because I think that this will help the dough keep its initial rise and form without having to transfer it to something else.

But we have some time to contemplate this. As the next sourdough loaf is going to be 9 grain whole wheat, with a rough ground 9 grain mixture going in with the whole wheat and the sourdough starter. I think this one will rise better in general, and will not have the problem of ‘running out’ during rising and baking.

We’ll see!

Rye and Spelt Sourdough Bread
Recipe by surfindaave
Makes 1 loaf

Rye flour – have 800 grams available
Spelt flour – have 500 grams available

Make the starter:
Mix 100 grams of rye flour with enough water to make a thick paste. Cover it lightly, and leave it in a warm (75 to 85 ºF) place for 24 hours, undisturbed.

After 24 hours, stir in another 100 grams of rye flour and sufficient water to make a thick paste. Let it sit, covered, for another 24 hours.

As the starter begins to bubble up, you may need to move it to a larger container.

After another 24 hours, you should see some bubbles forming. And some increase in volume. Add another 100 grams of rye flour, and sufficient water to make a thick paste. Let it sit again, covered, in a warm place.

The starter is ready when it is full of bubbles, and has puffed up significantly. If you push a spoon down into it, it will have the consistency of a thick meringue. A sour smell will be very noticeable. And after adding additional flour and water, the bubbling action will start up almost immediately.

It can take anywhere from 2 to 5 days to get the starter to this point. Patience! The bacteria are everywhere, and will fond your starter too!

Basically at that point, your bacteria colony has increased in size to the point that it can create enough gas quickly enough to raise a loaf of bread.

Make the bread:
Take most of the starter, placing it in a large mixing bowl. Save the remaining starter, covered and placed in the fridge, for the next loaf.

Assuming you have used the 300 grams of rye flour per the Starter recipe above, mix together about 300 grams of rye flour and 300 grams of spelt flour.

Add most of the flour to the bowl, reserving some for flouring the kneading board.

Stir in enough water, a little at a time, mixing the dough with your hand, to incorporate all the flour into a ball.

Move the ball of dough to a floured kneading board. Knead the dough vigorously until smooth and elastic in texture (I kneaded for 15 minutes), adding additional flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the board.

Transfer the dough to a well greased ceramic baking vessel, or form the dough into a desired shape on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (for example into a round shape, a brick shape). I cut thin lines into the dough, about 1 cm deep, as this is how I’ve always seen these loafs, and some hints indicated this aided in the rising.

Let the dough rise until at least doubled in size in a warm place, covered with a towel. This could take from 4 to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place an ovenproof bowl of hot water in the oven (helps keep the crust soft, as the crust will be more than firm when done)..

Bake the bread for 10 minutes at 425ºF, and then reduce the temperature to 400ºF. Bake form an additional 40 minutes, or until done (the usual tests – sounds hollow when tapped, browned crust, toothpick comes out clean, etc.). I tend to err on the side of caution and bake longer if in doubt.

Remove from oven, and let cool. Slice thickly. Serve with everything! Enjoy!

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Anonymous Lynn D. said...

The bread looks lovely just as is. Perhaps a bit of salt would help the rise. Another trick I learned from James Beard's cuban bread recipe is to put the loaf in a cold oven and then set the temperature. I think your adventures in healthful eating sound exciting!

9:14 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...


Thanks for the complement, as well as the tips!

I actually left the salt out as I had read that the salt can cause the sourdough to not rise well.

Next time I'm going to use some salt, we'll see what happens!

7:34 PM  
Blogger ejm said...

You say a "qualified" success? I beg to differ; I'd say "unqualified" success! Bravissimo!


P.S. I still haven't got up the nerve to try capturing my own yeast - heading to your search engine to find the post on the rye starter. (Just discovered your blog via Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging)

P.P.S. I'd be inclined to add a little salt just for flavour.

10:30 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...


Thanks! The taste was certainly bravissimo!

I kept the rye starter going, and it is growing again. I have also started a pure whole wheat starter, and it is bubbling already as well. So I hope you have similar success!

11:21 PM  
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