Sourdough Roundup

I mentioned the other day I was working on my sourdough skills. 

Loaf #3 looked like it was going to be a complete failure (no rising action, so I feared for the denouement…) so while I didn’t completely abandon it, I decided to start a new levain so I could try again on Sunday morning. Upon waking Sunday am, the first batch had risen magnificently so I shoved it in a hot oven and 40 minutes later I produced this:

But that left me with a fresh levain all puffed up and ready to go. So I decided to go ahead and make another loaf.

So I suppose a bit of background info and vocab is in order. Sourdough is made from a sourdough starter which is just flour and water that has been left out and fed regularly with more flour and water until it attracts enough of the natural yeasts in the air to start reacting without additional yeast. Once you have a good starter going you can store it in the fridge and feed it once a week or so (with flour and water) indefintiely. 

When you decide to make bread, you take the starter out, feed it up for a day or two or three (again, flour and water…getting the trend here?) to make sure it’s going again. Then take a tablespoon or two, add more flour and water and let it sit overnight. This gives you a levain which is what will go on to form your bread dough. The starter just goes back in the fridge until next time. The levain is then used, with even more flour and water, to form a wet dough which you allow to rise (this stage is called autolyse) for an hour or so. Then you add salt and go on to make the bread in a fairly traditional manner. It kills me that this stuff is, other than a tablespoon of salt, completely 100% just flour and water. Ain’t science cool.

The first loaf was a boule (round, french-type, bread thing) which I made in a preheated dutch oven, but for the second loaf I wanted to try something different. I decided to form it while it was rising and then stuffed it into my oven  — on parchment paper — using the proofing setting with a bunch of boiling water in pans. What do you know, 4 hours later the loaf had risen fairly well. I then moved it to a Staub casserole, scored the top (to let out the steam that causes a quick rise in the initial part of the baking) and popped it back into the oven at 475° or so.

 

Voila. The temps and cooking times varied and I will have to experiment a bit more to nail down the process but they both turned out fine. Loaf #1 had a bit more “sour” to the sourdough, but they say that happens when you let it rise longer.