Friday, September 9, 2011

Sourdough bread on the Big Green Egg - Part 2

Gave it another whirl yesterday.  Bottom line:  the last loaves turned out better than these... but - here's the good news - I know why!

I didn't have enough King Arthur All Purpose Flour for the recipe, so I experimented with using other types of flour.  See my previous post for the original recipe.  In this post, I'll explain what I did differently... and I'll post more photos illustrating various aspects of the process.

Instead of using 1 cup King Arthur whole wheat flour and 8 cups King Arthur all purpose flour, I used 1 cup King Arthur whole wheat flour, 2 cups King Arthur white whole wheat flour, 1.75 cups King Arthur all purpose flour, and 4.25 cups Gold Medal bread flour (I usually use King Arthur flours only, but I only had the Gold Medal flour on hand for a non-whole wheat flour).  

Bad idea using all the whole wheat and bread flours.  I could tell as soon as I put the watered-down Levain slop into the flour and started combining it with my hands that the flour was absorbing the liquid pretty aggressively.  I should have added more water right then and there, but being so inexperienced, I didn't.  Live and learn!!

So, I let the mixture sit for 25 or 30 minutes, then dumped it out and started trying to knead it.  Then I really knew something waren't right!  It was a tough old lump of dough that did not want to play with me!  No stickiness at all... not soft, in the least.  It was very difficult to knead.  I added a couple of tablespoons of water... that helped.  Every few minutes I would add a couple more tablespoons of water.  I probably added about a 1/2 cup more water during the kneading process.  And I kneaded for a long time... instead of the 10 - 12 minutes for the initial kneading that I did last time, this time I'll bet I did the initial kneading for 25 minutes or so.  The feel of the dough did improve, but it never got as soft and sticky as I wanted.  If I were to do this over again, I would have added water when first combining the levain/water to the flours.  No... actually... if I were to do this over again, I would not be so lazy and instead drive to the store to buy some KA APF!!!

Anyway, I put the dough in an oiled bowl, covered with a wet dishtowel, and let it sit for about 3 hours... maybe a bit more.  After 30, 60, and 90 minutes, I did the "business letter" folding thing, just like last time.  This time though, the dough didn't "melt" together during the 30 minutes between foldings...  what I mean is that at 60 and 90 minutes, I could still distinctly see the folds I had done the previous time.  Not sure if I'm being clear...  but I can tell you this, I was pretty sure things weren't going my way when I saw that!

So, after about 3 hours, I cut the dough in two and shaped each into boules using my favorite method.  Then I covered them with a damp dishtowel and let them sit for 10 minutes or so.

After I had spun the dough into boule rounds... ready to go into the bannetons

After a 10 minute rest, I put the loaves into my homemade bannetons - top-side down.  Then pinched any seams that had been created by the shaping routine.  Here are my homemade bannetons... just bowls with a white linen dinner napkin that had lots of flour rubbed into them.  This time I used a lot more flour... and actually had a light coating of flour in the bottom in addition to the rubbed-in flour.  I did this because last time the napkin stuck a bit to the loaves when I removed them... I didn't want that to happen again.  I'm happy to report that the added sprinkling of flour did the trick!
My Homemade "Bannetons"
I covered the loaves in the bannetons with a damp dishtowel and let them sit for a good 4 1/2 or 5 hours.  The loaves didn't rise as quickly as last time...  maybe because of the larger quantity of whole wheat flour (although I kinda thought the additional gluten in the bread flour would counteract that)... but more likely I think because it's starting to get colder up here in the Maine mountains.  I put the bannetons in the oven with the light on and also put a bowl of boiling water in the over to provide additional heat.  I freshened up the hot water every so often to try to keep it warm in there.

After 4 1/2 or 5 hours, I followed the same process as last time to bake the loaves.  

I could tell just by looking at these loaves that the crumb wasn't going to be as "holey" as I like...  they're just too "smooth" looking.

Much denser than I like for a sourdough bread, but the flavor was great!  Really good sourdough flavor.

Bottom line:  really good flavor, but the texture and crumb just aren't what I wanted (although a crumb this dense is really good for sandwiches!).  I learned that I really have to stick with the 1 cup whole wheat flour and the rest using all purpose flour (although next time I think I'll cut back to, say, 7 or 7 1/2 cups of APF to try to get a sticker dough).  I got some KA APF today so I'll try again in a couple weeks, after these loaves are gone*.  In the meantime, I'll probably post about a different project, so stay tuned!

*By the way, since there are just two of us here, and we can't eat both loaves quickly enough, we slice the loaves and keep in the freezer.  Then each day, we just take out what we need for that day.  Works really well.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sourdough bread on the Big Green Egg

Made my first pure sourdough bread (no added yeast) on the Big Green Egg last night!  Came out better than I ever expected.  Check out the photos... the loaf on the right looks a little funny 'cause we had already eaten some of it -- YUMMY!

A couple hours after the loaves came out of the Big Green Egg (BGE), the crust was kind of crunchy and chewy... the next day the crust wasn't crunchy anymore, but still nice and chewy.  The inside ("crumb") is soft and kind of chewy... has a really nice texture to it.  I was going for more "holey-ness" than I got... I'm not sure why it's not as holey as I wanted, but it gives me something to keep working toward!  See this recipe, which was the basis for my bread... Thom got a much holey-er crumb than I did.  I think maybe I need a wetter dough than I had... I'll try that next time.  [NOTE: The second loaf was much holey-er than this one was.  I think it might be because I had trouble getting the first one off the peel (I used too little cornmeal on the first loaf).  I'm totally pleased with the second loaf!!]

This is what they call the "crumb".  The texture and flavor of this was just wonderful.  Next time I'm going to try for a "holey-er" crumb.

Just in case anyone is interested, here's how I did this.  First, I started with this recipe:

Step 1:  Fed my starter.  
Took about a cup of my sourdough starter and fed it a cup of rye flour and about 3/4 cup warm water.  Stirred it up, covered the bowl with a towel, and left it sitting on the kitchen table.  Usually I would only feed it 1/2 cup water with a cup of flour, but my starter had gotten a bit thicker than I wanted.  Thom's recipe mentioned that he uses a batter-like starter, so I wanted mine a bit thinner than I had.

Step 2:  Made the "Levain".  
About 8 hours after feeding the starter, it was looking good and active... this was at about 9PM.  I took about .25 cup of my fed starter and put it into a small bowl.  I added .5 cup warm water and about a cup (maybe just a touch over a cup)* of King Arthur all-purpose flour, stirred it up real good, covered the bowl with a towel, and left it sitting on the kitchen table.  

*Just an aside... one thing I really like about playing around with breads is that they are very forgiving...  the measurements don't have to be exact.  You end up making adjustments (more or less flour or water) in the end anyway to get the texture of the dough right.  Or maybe the measurements do have to be exact and that's why my crumb wasn't as holey as I wanted!!!  Nah... that can't be it!  I think the problem with my crumb is that I'm just learning about what a "very wet, soft dough" (to use Thom's words) really means and feels like.  

Step 3:  Made the bread dough.  
The next morning, I checked the Levain and was THRILLED to see that it actually had doubled!!  What fun!  At about noon, I started making the bread dough.  

First I combined 1 cup King Arthur whole wheat flour and 8 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour in a big bowl.  Make sure your bowl is big enough... that's a lot of flour!   

Then I poured 2 3/4 cups warm water into the bowl containing the Levain, and gave it a little stir.

Then I poured the water/Levain slop into the bowl with the flours and used my hands to mix it all up.  Thom's recipe said to mix just until combined, so I really didn't mix it up very well (I was afraid that over-mixing at this point might screw up the dough... making it tough or something)... there were still pockets of flour in my mixture that weren't combined in very well.  When I got to the kneading step, I noticed there were little hard pellets of flour in the dough which I am thinking it because I hadn't mixed the flour in enough.  Next time I'll mix it up better to make sure all the flour is more thoroughly mixed in.  

I covered the bowl with a wet kitchen towel and let it sit on the counter for 25 minutes or so.  Thom's recipe says to cover with plastic wrap, but I just don't like to use too much plastic stuff if I can help it.  By using a towel instead of plastic wrap, that's at least one little thing I can do to minimize my contribution to the "plastic soup" in our oceans.  

After 25 minutes I dumped the dough onto a lightly floured counter and started kneading.  In the beginning, I could feel the little hard nubbies that I think were the flour pockets that hadn't been mixed in well enough, but the kneading broke these down and everything was fine.  I kneaded the dough for 10 or 12 minutes, then I kind of patted the dough gently to flatten it out some... then I sprinkled about 2 teaspoons of sea salt onto the dough, then kneaded that in for about 20 seconds... then I sprinkled another 1 3/4 teaspoons of sea salt onto the dough and kneaded the dough for another 5 or 6 minutes.  The dough definitely felt "soft and stretchy, and slightly sticky" (again, in Thom's words).

Couple of notes about the kneading.  I was afraid that the dough was going to be so sticky that it would be difficult to work with.  It was sticky, but I was able to knead it without having to add more flour.  It would stick a bit to my counter (which is made of concrete), but as I kept kneading it would work itself free.  If I just let it sit on the counter, it definitely would stick.  I suspect that to get the holey crumb I'm looking for, I'm going to have to go with a stickier dough (less flour or more water).  I'll give it a try in a couple weeks and will report on my findings.

Step 4:  Initial Rising.  
I put the dough in a big bowl, lightly oiled and covered with a damp kitchen towel, and left it sitting on the kitchen table.  After 30 minutes, I dumped the dough onto the counter and folded it into thirds, "like a business letter"... then picked it up, turned it upside down, and put it back into the bowl.  I did this again at 60 and 90 minutes.  Now here's the thing about this... it seemed weird trying to fold a basically round blob of dough like a business letter.  A business letter is rectangular, not round.  And I didn't want to flatten the dough because I didn't want to press any of the air out of the dough.  So I just gently stretched the dough (just a wee bit) and tried my best to fold it into thirds.  I'm thinking, though, that this is a clue that my dough wasn't as soft as it should have been.  I think a softer dough would have kind of "poured" out of the bowl as opposed to plunking out.... and it would have been more pliable and stretchy.

Anyway, after the 3rd folding, I then let the dough sit for another 90 minutes.  The dough was looking good.  It hadn't doubled, but it was expanding.

Step 5:  Shaping.  
I dumped the dough onto a wooden breadboard and cut the dough in two.  Then, I shaped each half into a boule.  I used a different method for the shaping than I had before and I liked the results much better... it didn't require much pinching or clamping of the underside which results in losing air.  I covered the boules with a kitchen towel and let them sit for 10 minutes or so.

Step 6:  Proofing.  
I don't own a banneton, so I rigged up my own.  I used the inside of a salad spinner as one banneton, and a medium sized bowl as another.  I took two linen napkins and heavily dusted with all-purpose flour, then I rubbed that flour into the napkins as much as I could.  I lined my "bannetons" with these napkins -- flour-side up, of course.  Then, I spun each loaf just one or two more turns and put into the banneton with the top of the loaf facing down.  I pinched the bottoms a bit where it looked like there was a seam from the shaping process, but there wasn't much pinching required at all.  Love that boule shaping method!

I covered each "banneton" with a damp kitchen towel and let them sit on the counter for about 4 1/2 hours or so...  peeking every so often!  One thing I noticed is that since this recipe doesn't call for added yeast, the rising takes longer.  But the result is worth it!  

At about 3 1/2 hours or so, I started getting the Big Green Egg ready.

Step 7:  Getting the BGE ready.  
I used my ash rake thingy to swirl around the old charcoal sitting in the BGE firebox.  I  really wanted to make sure that the holes in the firebox bottom and sides were clear so air could get through... and I didn't want a lot of old ash clogging things up in the firebox.  Also, I made sure the ash area (this is the area below the firebox, accessible from the little sliding door at the bottom of the BGE) was cleared out.  Again, I didn't want a lot of ash blocking air from flowing freely.  

Next I put enough fresh charcoal in the firebox to fill up to a couple inches above the air-holes in the side of the firebox.  I opened the sliding doorway at the bottom of the BGE all the way, and took the top cover thingy off the "chimney" of the BGE.  

I use BGE fire-starters and love them.  I put one in the middle of the charcoal and lit it up, leaving the BGE lid open.  After 5 or 10 minutes, when there were enough charcoal pieces going that I knew that it wouldn't go out, I put the plate-setter in with the legs facing up, then I put a medium-sized cast iron skillet on the plate-setter, then I put the grill rack on, then I put the pizza stone on the grill rack.  Finally I closed the lid of the BGE and waited until it got up to temperature (500 degrees Fahrenheit).  Note about the cast iron skillet:  this is placed off-center so that it is not totally covered by the pizza stone.  You need to be able to pour water into the skillet after you put the loaf on the pizza stone.  

I stabilized the temperature around the 500 degree mark by using the daisy-wheel cover that goes on the BGE "chimney" thingy and by adjusting the sliding door at the bottom of the BGE.

Step 8:  Bake 'em up!  
Alrighty then, here we go...  The loaves were now doubled (or more) in size.  I have some really nice old, thin cookie sheets that have one end "open"... i.e. with no lip.  I use one of these cookie sheets as a peel.  I dusted my "peel" with a fine cornmeal, but I found that I hadn't dusted it as heavily as I should have because the dough didn't slide off easily onto the pizza stone (that got a little messy, but it wasn't disastrous).  Learned my lesson... on the next loaf, I used a lot of cornmeal. 

I turned the banneton upside down so the boule plopped onto the cornmeal-dusted peel... I did this in one quick movement, which seemed to work well.  The napkin stuck a wee bit to the top of the boule, but I was able to gently persuade it to let go without damaging the boule at all.  Then I slashed the loaf (I like using the # pattern) using a very sharp knife and spritzed the loaf pretty heavily with water.

I had some water boiling in a teapot.  I took the teapot and the peel with the boule on it out to the BGE, shimmied the boule off the peel onto the pizza stone (as mentioned above, on the first boule this wasn't as graceful as I would have liked and I had to manhandle it a bit with a spatula), then poured about a cup of boiling water into the skillet... be careful, the water will pop and spray and steam like crazy when it hits that hot skillet!  I closed the lid, then made adjustments to the BGE daisy-wheel chimney cover thingy and to the sliding door at the bottom to try to get the temperature down to 400 degrees.  Obviously this didn't happen immediately, but the goal is to try to get the BGE down to the 400 degree area. 

I let the BGE do its thing for 20 minutes, using a flashlight many times to peek down through the chimney (very carefully so I wouldn't burn myself!).  It's so exciting to see the loaf do its "bounce" thing through the first 15 or 20 minutes!!  

Anyway, after 20 minutes I carefully opened the lid (remember, always "burp" it first so you don't lose your eyebrows -- seriously!) and used a spatula to turn the loaf around so it would brown evenly.  Then I let the BGE do its thing for another 20 minutes or so... until the loaf was good and brown.  During this time, I got the next boule ready for baking.  After 20 minutes (total of 40 minutes or so in the BGE), I removed the first loaf from the BGE and put it on a rack to cool.  Then I baked the second loaf.  

After about 45 minutes of cooling, I couldn't wait any longer...  cut into the first loaf and was it good!  It had the sourdough flavor I was going for but hadn't been able to achieve before using recipes that included sourdough starter AND added yeast.  And the texture of the crust and crumb was so good... crust was both crunchy and chewy... crumb was so soft yet also with a good chewy sort of texture.  Fantastic!  Just have to figure out how to get a "holey-er" crumb... but I have thoughts on how to do that!  More about that after I make another attempt!