simple sourdough loaf

simple sourdough loaf

I got back in the country from my Spring break trip already almost 2 weeks, but I haven’t yet baked any bread.  As soon as  I arrived  2 Saturdays ago, I only had enough time to distribute the gifts, straightened out my luggage, got a few hours of sleep and left the very next day heading up to the mountains –without forgetting to feed my two starters (white and rye)–.

I created this white starter last September and it has since risen consistently many loaves of bread.

white starter

white starter, 2 hours away before feeding time

Before I set up the oven with baking tiles & lava rocks for steam I used to bake all my bread in lidded cast-iron & lidded Pyrex pots.

baking vessels

baking vessels

In the beginning of my baking adventure and out of curiosity, I’d tried all sorts of suggested baking method,  including this fairly dangerous one but it worked quite well –I believe by Susan of San Diego posted on The Fresh Loaf –a pre-heated inverted Pyrex bowl over the loaf–.

inverted Pyrex baking method

inverted Pyrex baking method

I am visiting at 7200 feet above sea level so I won’t even attempt to bake any bread even one with commercial yeast; although I must confess  I thought about bread baking quite a bit in the past few days.  To relieve my hunger for baking I am going to post this Simple Sourdough also by Susan SD (stands for San Diego) whose recipe I’d made a number of times and liked it very much.

What appeals to me is its simplicity, from 4 simple & basic ingredients: sourdough starter, white flour, a small percentage of rye/whole wheat flour, salt and water to its flexible mixing, shaping & baking method.  And it tastes delicious.

Of course you can mix in seeds if you know what you are doing and don’t have to bake in a lidded pot.  For this particular loaf I threw in about 3 Tablespoons of ground flax seed and dried blueberry — purchased from Trader Joe’s– for some color as well as taste.

Simple Sourdough Loaf with ground flax seed and dried blueberry

Simple Sourdough Loaf with ground flax seed and dried blueberry

Dough

50 g firm starter,  I use 65%-hydration starter

204 g water

275 g strong bread flour

25 g white whole wheat flour, I use whole rye flour

6 g sea salt

3 Tablespoons blueberry ground flax seed (from Trader Joe’s), optional

Method

Mixed all ingredients minimally by hand and let it rest for 30 minutes.  Do 1 Stretch & Fold, then 2 more S&F at 1-hour interval.

Let it rise at room temperature 70°-72° F until double.  Pre-shape, rest loaf 15-20 minutes, then shape it into tight boule.  Place the loaf in a linen-lined container about 2.5 times larger than its size.  Cover it well with quick saran wrap, and place in the fridge overnight.

Take it out the next day & warm it up for 2 hours at room temperature.  Pre-heat oven with a closed lid cast-iron pot at 475 ° F, at least 45 minutes before baking.  Score the loaf, place it in the pre-heated pot, close the lid and bake for 20 minutes at 450° F.  Remove lid and bake for another 20 minutes.  I take the loaf out of the pot and bake it in the oven for the required amount of time & turning it 180 degrees half way into baking for an even bake.  Turn the oven off, crack the oven door open and leave the loaf in for another 5-10 minutes more.  Cool it on rack for 1 plus hour or so before cutting it.  Enjoy.

Simple Sourdough Loaf: Crumb & Crust

Simple Sourdough Loaf: Crumb & Crust

I am sending this bread to this week’s Yeast Spotting.  Go visit the site, even if you don’t bake bread, it’s a feast for the eyes, and maybe you would change your mind afterward.

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rye bread

800 g whole rye flour, 200 g strong flour, 18 g salt, water & seeds

A little over a month into my bread baking adventure I received  The Bread Builder: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens as Xmas gift from Birgit and Bob.  I read the book in its entirety, pored over all the charts digesting a huge amount of information on flours, water, salt, temperature, yeast, lactic acid,  acetic acid, and eventual natural starter —the soul of sourdough— that raises beautiful artisan bread.  Apparently I had learned all sourdough-baking essentials from my very first bread book and gotten enamored with the knowledge that I came away with.

rye bread

1000 g whole rye flour, 16g salt, and water (original recipe & photo)

Continued baking with commercial yeast over the following few months I kept contemplating more and more about sourdough and in particular rye flour and rye bread because when we talked bread Birgit often reminisced the kind of rye bread she grew up with and how much she had enjoyed it.  You see Birgit is not only from East Germany, she happens to be a bread person who knows good bread and often seeks out bakery in every locale that she travels to; furthermore if someone who Fed Exed pain Poilâne across the Atlantic to New York she is definitely serious about bread.

For Birgit’s fondness of bread and myself feeling quite educated about rye and sourdough starter (no, I had not actually ventured into sourdough territory yet)  I set out to search for a recipe that would produce the rye bread that Birgit loves and appreciates but could not find in the US.

I came across and studied many rye bread recipes and somehow stumbled upon this.   How I love its simplicity: 1000 g whole rye flour, 16 g salt, and water!  Inspected closely its  method, description and yes, its photograph I decided to settle upon it because it is quite clear to me that this recipe would produce the kind of rye bread that I was after.

So the birth of my very first natural starter –a whole rye–  was born and my first loaf of sourdough bread was this Detmold 3-stage-process rye bread baked in a closed-lid pot as it was the only choice available for steam producing during my first year of artisan bread baking.

first loaf of rye bread

my first loaf of rye bread baked in an enamel cast-iron pot

It’s a tough love if you are accustomed to  fluffier texture and well-risen loaf of its cousin wheat (are they related?  one is wheat grain and the other is actually grain from hardy cereal grass) but it makes up for in  rich & hearty taste, resistance to stalling, and many health benefits.  So I encourage you to try it out to see if you like it and you never know you might fall for it after all.

And if you already like rye bread but dreaded the finicky & temperamental characteristic of rye dough (a gooey mass when you mix rye flour with water; and if you over-kneaded it pentosan gum would leach out of rye granules and turn the dough into a giant sticky mess at which point you would never be able to fix it) ;  but fear not, give this 3-stage-method recipe a try to see for yourself it’s not that difficult to arrive at a risen, moist,  hearty and beautiful bread.

It’s important that you know a few things uniquely rye (read: pentosan, pentosan gum, gliadin and glutelin, amylase) and how each stage of this method brings out rye’s unique quality to produce a good risen loaf.  I’ll delve into that at the end of this post or perhaps devote another separated post about rye, for now enjoy this funky picture of amylase knowing that sourdough and rye is a perfect union to deliver quality rye bread so a mature rye starter is strongly desirable.

alpha-link alamyse molecule

α-amylase molecule

So I digress, let’s move on to create the dough and bake some bread, shall we?

What follows is how I have done it a few dozen times as closely as possible to the original recipe accompanied with pictures as it is my wish that  you successfully create this wonderful bread.

Preparing the rye sourdough leaven

  1. Begin at noon by mixing about 30 g of rye sourdough** with 50 g of flour and 55 g of lukewarm water. Place this mixture into a jar that keeps the temperature and humidity, and sprinkle flour on it. Cover the jar with a towel and leave it for 6 hours at 25° C (77° F). (As a result of the fermentation, the temperature inside the jar will be slightly higher.)** If you do not yet have any sourdough, use the following procedure to make it yourself from microorganisms (lactobacilli and yeasts) found in the flour and in the air (the weather should not be hot): Mix 60 g of flour with 85 g of water and leave it covered with a towel for 1 or 2 days (stir it gently once or twice during that time) at 25° C (77° F), until bubbles appear at the surface and it smells a little sour. Refresh this starter sourdough a couple of times according to steps 1 to 3 to get a strong sourdough leaven, the first time using slightly higher temperatures.
  2. Add 150 g of flour and 90 g of water and mix everything. Sprinkle flour on it and leave it covered for 14 hours at 20° C (68° F).
  3. Add 300 g of flour and 320 g of lukewarm water. Mix it and sprinkle flour on it. Leave it covered for another 4 hours at 28° C (82° F). (The jar should be large enough for the dough to rise to twice its original volume.
  4. 3-stage-process rye dough
    You now have a large amount of fresh rye sourdough*.  Take 30 g of it and store it in the refrigerator for the next time.

    **There are several methods of preparing rye sourdough. The three-stage progress described here (beginning with a humid stage to increase the yeasts and a cool stage to generate acetic acid) is based on the traditional German method of making sourdough.

    Making the bread

  5. Put 400 g of flour into a bowl, add the sourdough, 285 g of warm water and 16 g of salt.  Knead strongly by hand for 10 minutes.
  6. I use a sturdy spatula to fold the dough over itself about 50-75 strokes or until the dough is smooth.  You should see  gluten development.

    kneading rye dough

    gluten development

    Then leave the dough covered for 30 minutes at 27° C (81° F).  Prepare a linen couche dusted heavily with white flour.

    cover dough & prepare floured linen-couche

  7. Sprinkle a small amount of the remaining 95 g of flour on a baking pan, and pour the rest on a work surface. Put the soft, sticky dough on top of it, cover your hands with flour, and put the dough in the shape of a ball by pressing one side of it from the top to the inside and then rotating the dough a little, repeating this several times, until most of the flour is in the dough.
    fold dough in rye flour - final shaping

    folding rye flour into dough

    Finally, cover the dough with the small amount of flour that remains, turn it (so the closure is at the bottom), and place it in the prepared couche. Then allow it to rise for 1 hour at 27° C (81° F).

    before and after a short 1 hour bulk proofing

    (You can also let the bread rise in a special dough rising basket, which should be well dusted with flour. In this case the amount of water in step 4 can be increased by 15 g.  Since you do not need the baking pan to let the bread rise, you can further improve the bread by baking it on a baking stone, which you put in the oven during preheating.  It is not necessary to sprinkle flour on the stone.)

  8. Pre-heat the oven to 240° C (465° F).
    loaf ready to bake

    ready to bake

    Invert the dough onto parchment-line peel/inverted baking sheet, carefully peel off the linen and quickly load the dough, parchment and all  into the oven heated with a baking stone and bake it for a total of 90 minutes, of which time the first 20 minutes with a lot of steam. Reduce the heat to 160° C (320° F) after that time.

  9. Put the bread on a rack to cool until the next morning. The weight of the bread is about 1400 g. To eat, cut 1 cm slices and spread butter on them, for example. Only cut as many slices as you want to eat at a time. Keep the bread in a dry place (not in the refrigerator, and not sealed) with the edge you cut from down. The bread stays fresh for about a week.  Enjoy the taste of rye!
    slicing bread

    slicing a boule-shaped bread

    crumb

Modify this recipe to match your taste. Here are some ideas:

Mixed flour bread: Replace some or all the rye flour in steps 4 and 5 with the same amount of wheat flour (bread flour / strong flour / type 55 / type 550). For every 100 g of wheat flour reduce the amount of water (in step 4) by 10 g and the baking time (in step 6) by 5 minutes. You can cut slashes on the top just before baking to increase the amount of crust. If you use a high amount of wheat flour it may be necessary to use a lower baking temperature in the beginning or to turn it down earlier. The bread stays fresh for a couple of days.

Seasoning: In step 4 add a small amount of some of the following ingredients to the dough: coriander, caraway seeds, fennel, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. (Adjust the amount of flour and water if necessary). Or put caraway seeds, rolled oats, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds or poppy seeds on the top of the bread in step 5.

I am delighted to send this bread to Susan of Wild Yeast Blog who generously hosts the wonderful weekly Yeast Spotting which features collections of yeasted baked goods from amateur bakers, bread enthusiasts  and yeast lovers around the world.