Boring Bread

I’m experimenting ! Yesterday I tried two things – I added ascorbic acid to the dough, plus I baked one of the two loaves in a pot. Ascorbic acid is a common bread additive, used to “age” young flour. Unlike many of the diehard purists, I have no angst at all about adding it to my sourdough, but I won’t be using it again for one reason – it produced an extremely boring loaf. The loaves looked great – browned evenly, rose well, but the texture of the bread was unexciting – no big holes, all even, looks and tastes like commercial sandwich bread. Shame, as it really DID look promising – the rising dough was extremely elastic and robust looking, and the oven spring was impressive.

Secondly, the pot baking. This was something raised on the Sourdough Forum recently and I wanted to give it another try, especially since I’m baking in a fan forced oven. Again, it’s not something I’ll do again, simply because the end result wasn’t really much better than the loaf I baked on the stone. The loaf in the pot spread more and cracked more on top, but the loaf on the stone actually rose higher and kept its shape.

Ah well, lessons learnt, and boring bread to eat…sigh…

Baked on a stone

This loaf was baked on a pizza stone.

This loaf was baked in a cast iron pot. Both loaves had the same temperatures and times, and weighed the same. Same rising times, same dough.

Boring bread – so much for the ascorbic acid experiment !

Talking to your bread..

Some people talk to their plants, I talk to my bread. I honestly believe it makes a difference. My husband caught me chatting to some proving baguettes half an hour ago, crooning…”ooh, you’re a lovely dough, you’re going to get all brown and crunchy for me, aren’t you ?”. This, of course, he found hysterically funny, but all I know is that when I praise the dough, I get good bread. Call me superstitious.

Not only do I talk to my doughs, but I regularly chat to my sourdough starters. I have two starters, both purchased from Northwest Sourdough, and they have very distinct personalities. Starter T, better known as “Theme Park T” is just the most gorgeous girl, she’s bouncy and enthusiastic and always willing to try something new. She’s consistent and predictable, and ever so reliable, especially as she’s maturing (she was less consistent as a baby). She’ll do whatever I ask her to these days, and bubbles away happily with even the smallest feed. She’s the starter from which Chris’ T2 (“The Rise of the Dough”) is budded off.

Starter M is a completely different kettle of fish. He’s a cheeky little monkey, with a streak of pure genius. Some of the very best bread I’ve ever made has been created by him. But he can also be moody and surly, and sometimes uncooperative. Case in point – I recently fed M on some organic flour instead of the usual bakers flour. You should have seen the tanty he threw ! It was like..”Pfft! No..not that one! I want my regular flour, and I’m going to hold my breath until you give it to me..” And that’s exactly what he did, he sat there all night, flat and unbubbling, until I gave in and fed him his regular flour. I could almost feel him grinning with satisfaction…

Sigh. Is there such a thing as a super nanny for sourdough starters ?

So this is how I spend my Saturday’s

I remembered the malt this time, and I also did a slow knead/rest/fold cycle (although I went running for a while in between) .  I don’t think the dough had as good a rise, but it was beautiful and smooth and stretchy, amazingly smooth like the videos.  Here’s the pics (my camera is hopeless in low light, I took some on my film camera that I might remember to post at some stage).

And, of course, the crumb shot.

I’m pretty happy with that!  Best crumb yet.

Ageing Bread Flour

I’ve been struggling to get my flours to perform recently, and today a miller friend told me that flours need to age for about six weeks after milling to be at their best.  This would make sense, as the flours I’ve been using are all newly milled (within the last month or so) and I’m hoping to see an improvement in rise over the next few weeks.  A Google search turned up this article, which said :

Another handy thing to know is that flour benefits from ageing, when used in bread making. This is where a lot of home bakers go wrong.

It is known that over the first 12 months of storage hard flour improves dramatically and produces a loaf with a lighter texture and a finer crumb. It also increases the yield of bread per kilo of flour.

The process is explained by Tom Coultate (1989): autoxidation of the polyunsaturated fatty acids of flour lipids results in the formation of hydro peroxides which are powerful oxidising agents. One consequence is the bleaching of the carotenoids in the flour, giving the bread a more attractive, whiter crumb.

Food for thought !

Chocolate Spelt Sweet Buns

“Look at my buns, they’re spectacular ! ”

It was probably not the right thing to say as I was crouched unflatteringly in front of my oven, gazing in. But the buns were truly fine, and I’m really very happy with them. They’re based on a yeasted sweet dough recipe that I modified to use a sourdough starter, and include eggs, butter and milk, as well as a vein of dark Belgian chocolate. Don’t they look like baked potatoes ? Here are the crumbshots:

Work ‘n’ Bake

I feed T2 Tuesday night, then got up Wednesday morning and made dough. After going to work for the day I came home to the wonderful smell of rising bread. The first rise was about ten hours, but the dough was in great shape. I shaped it and left it one hour for the second rise. Epi without scissors doesn’t really work, there’s a bad photo I won’t post, but tasted great. Here’s the morning after photo’s.

Crumb shot.

Now I have fresh bread rolls for lunch!

I really need a better camera. Actually I’ll just take the bread pro photographer Dan.

Okay here’s “Lumpi” (my name for my Epi).  Ugly but crunchy!

Life is Good

Sometimes people shy away from making their own breads out of a preconceived notion that it’s a difficult process. This is particularly so in the case of sourdough, but it really shouldn’t be. If you can get the timing figured out, it’s actually easier to incorporate baking sourdough breads into a daily routine than it is to bake yeasted bread.

For example, last night, at 8pm, I kneaded up two batches of sourdough – one using organic wheat flour, and one using regular bakers flour. Both were kneaded in a very short time – I was finished by 8.30pm (and that included cleaning up). I gave both doughs a fold before going to bed last night at 10pm. They were then left to rise on the kitchen bench overnight. This morning at 6am, I shaped both doughs into three loaves each, and left them for an hour. At 7am I put four loaves in to bake, took them out at 7.30am, then put the other two in until 8am. It’s now not quite 9am, and we’ve all had fresh bread for breakfast. Life is good…