I have been experimenting with sourdough.
This one is entirely and completely my co-worker’s fault. He introduced me to Geek & Sundry, which is how I ended up watching Felicia Day make bread. She got her recipe from the Wild Yeast Blog. From there I went looking for Graham Flour recipes and stumbled across the Bread Baking Babes making Brunkans Långa. (I’ve put a bunch of links at the end of the post.)
I am a sucker for a good story, and every one of these bakers tell a good one.
There’s the blogger who put in walnuts. Another one who put in too much water. Every last bread was beautiful. I took the recipe and followed it. Or so I thought.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the bread I got was the bread I was expecting – dark and heavy and flavorful. But I didn’t follow the recipe as closely as I thought I had. I did know I didn’t have muscovado sugar, and settled for my brown sugar. I probably didn’t let it rise long enough (overnight worked out to a little more than 6 hours). I cut it into 4 instead of 2 pieces and stuck it in bread pans so my loaves turned out a rather strange semi-rectangular/oblong shape.
As it baked, I was transported to England. Seriously. The house filled with the scent of my favorite Hovis Granary loaf. It was the most disorienting experience. The bread came out nothing like the Hovis loaf. But it was difficult to convince my nose I wasn’t toasting a slice of granary bread somewhere in the house.
But now I had a problem – sourdough starter. “Keep it in the fridge and feed it twice a week and it should stay alive for you,” seemed at odds with other advice that a refrigerator starter has to sit for 4 hours at room temperature before you can use it. I really can’t control my life that well. I lose 4 hours in front of the computer watching Derren Brown videos without even noticing any time has passed.
So I started playing with the recipe. I got rid of the sugar, doubled the honey, and only made a third of the recipe. It came out just fine. A little sour, like I had expected in the first place. Nice and dense, fitting nicely in my bread pan and in my fridge. I actually got a picture of this one before we finished it off.
Then I decided I wanted to convert it to a bread machine recipe. I adjusted Richard’s always-perfect bread machine recipe, which he uses the chant, “one three one three one and a-half” to remember. That’s One cup water, Three tablespoons oil, One teaspoon salt, Three cups flour (can be up to 1/3 whole wheat), One and A-Half teaspoons dry yeast.
I erroneously assumed 100 g sourdough starter was equivalent to 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour, so I did this:
1/2 cup water
20 g honey by weight
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
100 g starter by weight
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1 1/2 tsp yeast
I used the white setting on the bread machine, and when I couldn’t get the flour to all incorporate, I added water until it was sort of the right consistency. I weighed the water so I wouldn’t use more than 50 g, but I used considerably less than that, though I can’t tell you exactly what I used.
The loaf came out just right. I couldn’t have been happier.
After this I spent some more time on-line with the recipe and it finally dawned on me that I had completely messed up the recipe. The recipe calls for “high protein wheat flour” not “whole wheat flour.” This is why the YouTube video I came across (I have no idea where I found it) used white flour, and the photos in the blog posts tended to show a much, much fluffier loaf than my dense loaf.
So I made it with white flour, reduced the brown sugar by 30 grams and added 30 grams of molasses to try to more closely fake the sugar, and then got it in my head to braid it. In order to remind myself to watch a lot of videos before attempting to braid again, I am showing the very successful bread but the least-successful braid here.
I will not be making this bread for the household again. It’s much too sweet for us. As a 100% whole wheat loaf, the sweetness was just bearable. But as a white loaf, it’s a lovely, chewy dessert bread that doesn’t really have a niche to fill in our dietary habits.
But now I have a sourdough starter and I’ve started making sourdough English muffins. And I have a recipe for … get this … sourdough brownies. This is going to be an interesting ride.
References for the recipe, instructions, and lots of good photos of how it’s supposed to turn out: