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.