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: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/1806/thom-leonard-country-french-boule-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.
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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 oh...my...gosh 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!