Monday, October 23, 2006

The Sourdough Experiment Part IV – And It from the Ashes arose like a Phoenix

As promised, it rose. And rose. And then it a-rose some more.

Maybe not exactly from actual ashes, more like the ashes of the last disaster. Into a veritable tower of a loaf of bread.

This is without a doubt one of the best rising breads I have ever made. All sourdough starter, no yeast.

The sourdough starter took longer than last time. Which I attribute to the somewhat lower daily temperatures, what with fall being in full swing. But eventually, it started bubbling up like crazy.

This starter was again 100% whole grain rye flour and water. It took about 5 days of ‘feeding’ and being placed in the warmest room during the day to get it up to full strength. I could tell it was ready as after ‘feeding’ it, it would start bubbling immediately and double in bulk within an hour or two. It deflated during the cool nights, but was back to work as the day heated up.

For this loaf of bread, I used the 100% rye starter, and mixed in an equal mixture of whole wheat flour and white flour to make the final dough. Ending up with roughly 50% rye, 25% whole wheat and 25% white flours in the final dough.

I did this for two reasons. One, to give the rye flour, which is inherently poorer at holding the trapped air in the dough bubbles, some reinforcement. Secondly, just to see how the whole wheat did in general. And it did great!

I also added a pinch of salt to the dough, as well as a few tablespoons of olive oil.

The resultant bread has a wonderful texture. A nice light, soft, fine grained crumb. And an incredibly tasty sourdough flavor. Not at all heavy. The rye and sourdough flavors are very dominant. Despite the giant size, very suitable for sandwiches. And with a flavor able to stand up to the heartiest of soups, stews, lunch meats, cheeses or mustards.

I baked the bread in an old ceramic baking dish that I have had for years and years. It is not designed for bread by any means. It is more intended for braising stews and Oso Bucco in the oven. But the size seemed like a good fit, and I wanted to see if preventing the dreaded ‘run out’, i.e. the bread rising in a horizontal direction due to lack of containment, would allow it to rise better vertically. And it did. So, despite the odd shape of the resulting loaf, I think I have found my bread pan.

Rye and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Recipe by surfindaave
Makes one humongous loaf, or maybe two medium loafs

Rye Sourdough Starter (recipe follows)
600 grams whole wheat flour (includes extra for kneading)
600 grams white flour (includes extra for kneading)
dash of salt
2-3 tbsp olive oil

In a large ceramic bowl, combine starter and about ½ of the whole wheat and white flours, the salt, and the olive oil. Combine, adding enough additional flours until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball.

Move the dough to a floured kneading board. Knead the dough vigorously, adding additional flour as necessary to prevent sticking in the first 5 to 10 minutes of kneading, and adding as little as possible in the last 5 to 10 minutes of kneading, for at least 15 minutes. I put a 10 pound weight on my kneading board to help stabilize it (this helps a lot), and scrape the dough that sticks to the board away every few minutes with a pancake turner. Both these tricks help reduce the amount of extra flour that has to be used, especially in the last few minutes of kneading.

Move the dough to a well oiled (I used olive oil) ceramic baking dish that is at least twice as big as the initial dough, shaping the dough to fit in the bottom of the dish. Let the dough rise, lightly covered, in a warm place, until it is two to three times its initial size. This took about 2 to 2 ½ hours for mine.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Place the bread in the middle of the oven, and bake for 45 to 60 minutes (I baked mine for 1 hour, as I am always concerned that it bakes all the way through). Remove from oven, and let cool. Slice. Enjoy!

Rye Sourdough Starter
Recipe by surfindaave
Makes starter for one loaf

600 grams whole grain rye flour
Lukearm water

In a non-metallic bowl, combine 100 grams of flour, and 150 grams of lukewarm water. Stir. Cover lightly – ensure plenty of air can get to the mixture. Let sit in a warm place to 24 hours.

Add 100 grams of flour and 100 to 150 grams of lukewarm water. Combine well. The mixture should be like a thick pancake batter. Cover loosely, ensuring plenty of air can get to the mixture. Let sit in a warm place for 24 hours.

Repeat this procedure for another day or so. You should see the mixture start to bubble a little bit after the second day. By day three or four, it should be clearly bubbling and smelling sour. The mixture is ready to use when it bubbles up to at least twice its volume within a few hours of sitting in a warm room. Note – mine deflated a lot a night (cool), but perked right back up as the day warmed up.

To use – reserve ¼ to ½ cup of the mixture for the next starter. Place this in the fridge. It keeps for a week or so. Use the entire rest of the starter mixture for the recipe above.

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