Feed Me, Seymour!

image post

About ten days after baking my first batch of sourdough bread I’m still going strong. I’ve made another few batches, including another round of sourdough boules. While it’s gaining in flavor profile – slightly more sour and complex – I screwed up the other night’s batch by not measuring and failing to add enough salt. The result was bland bread with a dense crumb. The texture of the dough was too dry and it tore when I tried to stretch it. This likely comes from too little kneading and the wrong ratio of flour to water.

Fortunately, I was masking the imperfections by ladling homemade clam chowder into the hollowed-out boules. Way too much food. I should have made much smaller boules.

I’ve gotten a bit arrogant with my baking by not measuring ingredients, but that’s because I’m focusing on developing my intuition for texture, balance, and the health of the starter. I’ve been approaching my starter very casually – after all, people have been using starters and baking bread for thousands of years, and they weren’t measuring down to the gram, right?

My guess is it’s the recipe – the ratios of ingredients, the rise times, and the baking environment. Sadly, my baking stone broke last week. It was less than a year old and not even a dozen uses – but I think a little bit of the water from the bread (I’d lightly sprinkled to help form the crust) dripped down and hit the hot stone.

Today, I started early and put together a large batch (so I could do two loaves and take one into work). Instead of the usual hour and a half, I wanted these to rise as much as possible. It took three hours, but the dough rose very well and formed a much better texture.

As you can see from some of the pictures below, they’re not pretty and smooth crusts but this batch of bread is excellent. The sour is starting to come through nicely, and the texture is more chewy and webbed. The crust is hard and crunchy (I like it, but it’s kind of excessive to some people).

While I’m still developing the starter and perfecting my recipe, I’m going to work on some new loaves (a blog about my failings with sourdough wouldn’t be terribly interesting to write or read). I bought some good hummus, so I’m knocking out some pita bread. I also picked up some ingredients to make curry so I’m also planning on naan (Indian flat-bread). No shortage of ideas.