It is finally time to bake this dough and then wait ever so patiently for it be be done and cooled so I can try it!!! And let me tell you it was worth the wait! YUM! There is something so satisfying about this process, I’m sure I’ll be doing it much more frequently now. I have a lot to learn still though and a lot of work to do on my technique but I don’t think this was too bad for a first attempt! These are far from uniform but I think it’s a beautiful thing to behold, none-the-less. 🙂
The first two loaves that I baked were the ones made with all-purpose and bread flour, remember, the batch where I felt it was too sticky? And as I suspected the loaves from this batch didn’t look quite right even after baking! One of them mushroomed a bit on the bottom and I’m pretty sure it’s because I didn’t cut the slit in the top of it big enough or deep enough so the dough expanded downward instead. The other loaf from this batch tried to go up but also spread out so it ended up being a very odd oblong shape but was so delicious nonetheless.
The second two loaves I baked were from the impromptu batch of dough I made up with only all purpose flour (because that’s all I had left). The dough from this batch was much firmer and easier to work with (not because it was made with all AP but because I changed the ratio of water to flour so it would be a bit drier) so I suspected these ones would bake up the best. They did look the prettiest of the bunch but still managed to push out on the bottom more than I would have liked. So I have learned that it’s very important to make large enough slashes across the top of the bread. Somehow this was a very difficult step for me because I felt like the knife was dragging through the dough. I stopped and sharpened my knife and tried again and ran into the same thing. I wonder if I didn’t create enough surface tension on my bread or if my knife was still in fact, quite dull.
So besides the fact that I had some dough issues and some issues slashing the dough I also had a difficult time transferring my formed bread to the pizza stone in my oven. I suppose I should have placed the dough on something dusted with cornmeal or semolina so I could have slid it off easier. Or placed it on smaller pieces of parchment paper so that it could be transferred directly to the stone, paper and all. I transferred two of my loaves to the stone by hand and I think I deflated them a bit. I tried baking one right on the silpat and I transferred one to a piece of parchment. With the sil-pat and parchment loaf, I pushed the loaf off of the sheet about half way through so that it would rest directly on the stone. I think I will stick to this method, with sheets of parchment paper next time. These cooked up fairly nicely.
I also like a crusty loaf of bread so I chose to add steam to the equation when baking my sourdough. To do this, I preheated my oven to 450 degrees F with my stone on the center rack and a 1-2″ deep roasting pan beneath it (empty). I allowed my oven to preheat this way for about 45 minutes. Then I transferred my bread to the stone (in one of the ways described above) and immediately poured a small amount of water into the pan beneath the stone. I shut the oven and let the steam and heat do it’s work. You don’t want to add too much steam as this will create a tough, potentially leathery crust. Just enough for the first few minutes. There are many ways to use steam in bread baking but this seemed like the most accessible method for me and my kitchen. (You can also spray our loaf or hook up a tube that will pump steam into the oven when you wish. My dad at one point had a steam-cleaner hooked up to one of his ovens, with the tube inside the oven so he could turn it on and pump steam in when he wanted. This is very clever but I decided to go the easy way, lol).
So if you’ve been paying attention you know that I still have two formed loaves of bread that I haven’t mentioned: the ones composed of all-purpose and whole wheat flour. I am going to bake these in a day or so to see how the flavor is affected. I suppose this won’t be a very “scientific” test since the ingredients in these loaves are different which will also affect the taste but I’m going for it anyway. Also, I don’t need 6 fresh loaves of bread at once. It will be nice to have more fresh bread in a couple of days.
So far, I think my favorite flavor has come from the loaves composed mostly of bread flour. No surprise there. I wanted to do most of these initial loaves with AP (all-purpose flour) so that I wouldn’t be “wasting” more expensive flour. Next time I’ll make sure to have a large supply of bread flour on hand and do my loaves with that.
So here is the recipe I think I will use next time, the best of the ones I used this time. This will create a slightly drier dough (like my third batch from this time) but I will be using bread flour instead of AP.
A note of warning: having fresh bread like this around will spoil you and is also addicting! I think I could eat a whole loaf of the stuff right now!!! (I am going to try to freeze some of it most likely but we’ll see.) This bread is so much better than most of your standard grocery store breads.
I would like to give a big thank you to my dad for his help in teaching me how to do this and in developing a basic recipe for me to use! My bread is far from as good as his but with a little practice and some coaching I hope to get close!
This will make two small (approximately 1 lb. boules or one large boule)
- 560 g. unbleached bread flour (you can experiment here and substitute in partial amounts of other flours)
- 280 g. room temperature water
- 330 g. levain (aka starter or pre-ferment: in this recipe I assume that it is 100%, meaning that it contains equal parts flour and water- see “Sourdough #1” for more on this)
- 15 g. kosher salt
for more on this see “Sourdough #2“
- Mix the flour and water in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer on speed one until combined and allow to sit (autolyse) for approx. 20 minutes with the paddle attachment
- Switch to the dough hook and add levain and salt and mix on speed 2 until fully incorporated and pulls away from the side of the bowl
- Remove dough from the bowl to a very lightly floured bowl and knead until the gulten is 75% developed. It should be tacky still at this point but not overly sticky
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap
- After 45 minutes fold and stretch the dough, right in the bowl. Replace the plastic wrap
- Repeat after another 45 minutes have passed
- After an additional 45 minutes fermentation should be done, although you could repeat if needed.
- Divide the dough into two equal pieces
- Form into two boules. It is useful to spray your hands lightly with cooking spray if needed to prevent sticking. You can use a small amount of flour but you really don’t want to work more flour into the dough if you don’t have to.
- Place on two squares of parchment (each a bit bigger than each loaf). Place these on a baking sheet, lightly mist the dough with cooking spray, and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature 2-3 hours
- Preheat the oven with a baking or pizza stone in it on the center rack and a 1-2” deep empty roasting pan underneath it to 475 degrees F
- Score each loaf with a very sharp knife just before placing in the oven directly on it’s square of parchment. Ensure that this slash is at least ¼ inch deep and should be 4-6 inches long, or in an “X” across the top
- Immediately pour ¼ cup of water into the roasting pan and close the oven door
- Reduce heat to 435 degrees F and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned on top and 190-200 degree F internally (use an instant read thermometer to check for this by sticking it in one side or into the bottom)
- Allow to cool on a rack to room temperature before slicing. This waiting will be difficult but is very important!
- When slicing a loaf use a sharp bread knife and if not all of a loaf is used at one, place it cut side down on your board until ready for more. Covering a crusty bread like this will cause it to get soggy
I will update this once I bake the last two loaves which are composed of AP and WW flour! I so badly want to cut open my other loaves to see what they look like but I am being patient! Check back and I will add those pictures over the next few days! (If I can wait that long, haha)