Sourdough Review : Mix - Wait- Bake. Are these three simple steps to great sourdough?
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This is part of a series of 'worked examples'. I've taken a particularly interesting recipe, either from YouTube© or from a printed source and worked it through. Hopefully, you'll see any 'pressure points' where I've had to consider alternatives or make some sort of allowance for factors that were not immediately apparent.
This is Sourdough - Mix, Wait and Bake. Three simple steps to great sourdough.
I have to thank Michiel Leijnse for this recipe. I want to sincerely thank him.
Why? Because he's made me stop and think.
For many months now, I've been having all manner of conflicting feelings about the way we approach the making of sourdough and, for the inexperienced baker, how easily it is to be intimidated by science and very experienced fellow bakers.
Let's go back to basics. Sourdough is the oldest form of leavened bread. Our first recordings of it being made by a civilisation go back to the Egyptians of around 1500BC; although the oldest piece of sourdough dates back to 3700 BC and was 'excavated' in Switzerland.
This is ancient bread. You can't imagine that a Neanderthal in Neuchâtel threw a chunk of sourdough bread out bcause the he had had problems with his lamination and coil-folding at the back of a draughty cave or because he couldn't remember where he'd put his aliquot jar!
The more I read, the more I find myself resisting the hype, the smoke and the mirrors that exists alongside the genuine search for further enlightenment but only seves to intimidate those starting out on their own sourdough baking journeys.
People worry about how their loaves look....why are they that shape or this....should they be this colour or that....what about the starter...or is it a levain..or a poolish...or a biga?
They go out and buy a large hard-covered book and read recipes where techniques abound that may well be on a par with delicate key-hole surgery or rocket science.
Then, they open the oven door, or lift off the lid of a very expensive Dutch Oven or ceramic cloche and can be, too often, faced with the disappointment of a charred frisbee.
I'd imagine that most home bakers only want to be able to look at a half-decent loaf that tastes lovely and find themselves with the skills to deliver the same quality over and over again.
Come on...this is but bread, after all.
When I set up BreadClub20 I wanted to try and encourage people to start baking or to get back into baking. I wanted to do what I could to support people's well-being. Complicated recipes or procedures don't exactly make this easy.
And then, I came across Michiel Leijnse. The baker with the 42 word recipe. The baker with a three word slogan.
Mix - Wait - Bake.
We've had a lot of three word slogans this year: Hands, Face, Space; Cook, Eat, Repeat.....
But I'm signed up to this one.....Mix - Wait - Bake.
Here is the video that inspired me to write this post and to add my contributions to Michiels's recipe:
A word before we start. I'd advise you to watch the YouTube© video a couple of times or so. I have. Then I have adapted what I've seen to suit my own circumstances. Of course, you're free to do the same. Hopefully, my experience will help you form your own way through what is to come.
You'll see he has a limited range of equipment:
A mixing bowl - I use a large plastic Addis bowl - one with nice smooth interior.
A suitable lid - I discovered an Ebay site that sold XL showercaps - designed for people with dreadlocks. They're big enough to cover the bowl and substantial enough to last a long, long time.
A set of scales - try and find ones that have a TARE setting (it goes back to zero even when there's already a bowl and ingredients on it)
A spatula - I'd buy two....one to use and one with which to to clean the other one!
Flour - I use strong white bread flour. You can add wholemeal, spelt, rye....whatever you want...as you'll see below. Also, buy some rice flour - it's the Teflon of flours - nothing sticks to it!
A Banneton - the banneton serves a different purpose in Michiel's recipe. Usually, the dough is allowed to rise in the banneton, so it has to be large enough to hold the dough at its fullness. In Michiel's recipe, it is simply a container in which to temporarily hold the dough on its journey from the worktop to the oven. Yes, the dough benefits from the patterns, so it's handy to have. For those of us in the UK, there used to be good financial reasons to source bannetons from beyond these shores, but sadly, those days seem to have gone.
A Dutch oven of Ceramic cloche - both Dutch Ovens and ceramic cloches are things of beauty. Buy them if you are committed to bread making. If you can't afford them or want to 'see how it goes', fair enough. You can more than get by with a standard pizza stone and a stainless steel mixing bowl, inverted to form a cover. It will work perfectly well to retain the steam and to help the oven spring.
Parchment Paper- there's nothing better for helping dough our of something and into something else. Mind you, in saying that, i have now fashioned bread slings out of silicone baking mats, cut to shape and size. They work extremely well and will last for many years.
I'd also advise buying a cooking thermometer.
And that's it. Now let's move on.
First of all, let's take the ingredients.
I'm doubling Michiel's original recipe as I want TWO loaves but you can scale up or down to suit yourself. remember HALF of everything will make ONE loaf and then just scale up accordingly.
1000 gms of bread flour. (For one loaf - always make sure you have at least 350 gms of strong white and then make up the remaining 150 gms with equal proportions of other flours. Or, simply use 500 gms of white bread flour. A happy medium and a starting point might be 400 gms of white and 100 gms of wholemeal? To double up....double up! ))
750 gms of water (I always use tepid, filtered water or own-brand bottled still water. Try and avoid one that has been 'treated' by the water board)
20 gms of salt. (this is 2% of the total weight of flour)
150 gms of active starter (you will need to remember to refresh your starter by feeding it and give it enough time before baking to make sure it's active. I always feed mine about 8 hours before I need it. I feed it with equal portions of flour and iced water....it slows down the yeat activity nicely so I can get a night's sleep....100 gms old starter to 100 gms of rye flour to 100 mls of water : ratio 1:1:1)
Don't forget....keep some starter back to put into the fridge for the next bake.
OK that's the end of the ingredients.
Into a large mixing bowl, add the starter and the water. Give it a stir.
Add the flour and the salt.
Bring everything together into a sticky clump.
Cover the bowl with a cloth, a shower cap or a lid and leave it alone for 60 minutes.
Why? Because this is what is referred to as 'autolysing', The flour and the water absorb and the yeast cells and the bacteria in the starter settle in and begin to do their job.
Over the course of the next few hours, the yeast and bacteria in the starter has to 'eat' its way through the flour mix to turn this claggy clump into beautiful silky dough. It will do it on its own, but it never hurts to give it a little hand once in a while.
And that's why we STRETCH AND FOLD.
Now, I know Michiel builds his routine so that he bakes in the evening. It doesn't suit me. I start at around 8 a.m.
So....the night before (let's call that Day 1), - before I go to bed, I'll take the starter out of the fridge, tip some into a pot and add water and flour as outlined above. Give it a stir with a passing chopstick, cover and leave it alone.
|Starter fed at 8 p.m. - this was taken at 6 a.m. |
You'll notice the Kilner seal is in place and the jar is locked down....and we haven't had to evacuate the neighbourhood!
Next morning, (let's call that Day 2), at about 9 a.m. I'll mix everything and then leave it for an hour.
Then at around 10.30 I'll stretch and fold it for the first time
At 11.30, I'll stretch and fold it for the second time
At 12.15, I'll stretch and fold it for the third time.
What's stretch and fold? Stretch and fold is a way of helping the dough to develop gluten. These are the strands that make bread what it is. Michiel demonstrates how to stretch and fold. Above all, do it gently and don't do too many. Maybe twenty for the first set, then a dozen for the second and half a dozen for the third.
And that's it - the MIX stage is over.
You'll see that Michiel makes a firm point about Bulk Fermentation - the time it takes for all the dough to be processed by the starter and for it to come to a point where it is ready for the next stage.
This is the WAIT stage. Remember it's Mix-Wait-Bake.
The chart that follows is another item I've borrowed from Michiel. Let me explain how it works. Down the vertical column is the % of starter you've added. We added 150 grams for 1kg of flour, or 15%. Across the top is the ambient temperature of your kitchen. Draw the points together and you have the time in hours and minutes that should elapse from the end of the resting stage of your dough to it being ready for the next stage (including the time taken for stretch and folding).
I find it works remarkably well. Our kitchen is always between 19 - 21 degrees Centigrade.
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