posts tagged: bread

sourdough loaves 2 and 3

Puffed with confidence after my first loaf, I decided to alter the recipe. I did some research about baker’s percentages and was able to scale the recipe down just a bit, so as to make an ever-so-slightly smaller loaf that might fit better in my Dutch oven. My new version of the Hobb’s House Bakery No-Knead Bread has the following ingredients:

240 g starter, at its peak
272 g water*
80 g King Arthur Flour Whole Wheat Flour
320 g King Arthur Flour Bread Flour
8 g salt

* I’ve since read Flour Water Salt Yeast, and that book details at length that final dough temperature is the most important thing; he alters the temperature of the water to achieve the right final temp. I used room-temp water and had great results. Then I tried using slightly hotter tap water to see what would happen, and the final dough temp was much higher than he detailed and the final loaves were, to my mind, not as great—perhaps because I used water straight from the tap?

I set out to make my second and third loaves because, so pumped up with my achievements as I was, I determined to make a loaf as a host gift for my friend’s parents, who were hosting us the coming weekend. While I know that the Tartine recipe calls for mixing up the dough and then splitting it into two loaves, and thus I knew that doubling it would have been straightforward, I was feeling tentative and decided to mix each loaf up separately. This meant I could do more stretch-and-folds, though, so I was not complaining; I love that part of the process!


I started the process around 9 am that day, feeding Constance a huge meal so that I would have at least 480 g of starter to use at the end. Around 2 she was more than doubled (I’d had an unexpected work call that meant I couldn’t check on her at 1), so I started the autolyse. I let bulk fermentation go for about 3 hours, and had no issues forming the loaves to put into the vessels for proofing.

Back when our starters were just wee babes, I bought Caro and me matching cane bannetons. I liked the longer shape and figured it would fit more nicely in my oval Dutch oven. After my shall-not-be-named disaster with a loaf sticking to the banneton, I did some research and settled on using a tea towel dusted with a 50/50 mix of bread flour and rice flour to prevent sticking. That has definitely done the trick; I’ve had no issues peeling the tea towel off after inverting. With two loaves in the mix and only one banneton, I employed just a normal ceramic bowl from Ikea for the second loaf. I’d give a round one in the DO a try.

I spent the evening once the loaves were in the fridge (they went in around 7) debating on my cutting patterns. I scanned Instagram and decided leafy shapes, rather than the stalks of wheat, would be what I’d try. The next morning I got one loaf out of the fridge around 8 and let it sit for 2 hours; for the last half hour I preheated the oven with my DO inside. Using a technique that was detailed in a cookbook I recently edited, I balled up my parchment paper 5 times or so in order to soften it a bit. This helped a lot for the parchment not interfering with the bread’s shape. Once I put the loaf in the oven I took out the second to come to room temp. For both, I remembered to sprinkle with flour before cutting. Cutting was not very easy; the lame dragged. But I persisted.

And I was decently pleased.

sourdough bread | pepperknit

sourdough bread | pepperknit

The long one was baked first, and the moment it came out I realized I needed to score more deeply, so I attempted that on the second. I love the rich dark color they got. The crumb was generally nice but maybe slightly “wet” feeling? And whoa talk about a big bubble. It was in the DO for 25, uncovered for 20 or 25.

sourdough bread | pepperknit

Cutting the loaf straight out of the oven is like cutting down a tree with a switchblade—my serrated knife is clearly not up to the task. The next day the crust has softened enough that it’s not such an aerobic effort. We gave the round loaf away and it was much appreciated!

post-script: Jason helped me document the whole process, and Google later made me a video of it! It’s too big to upload, sadly, but you can see it here.


sourdough adventures

A while back, I was browsing the “Explore” tab of Instagram and happened upon a bunch of gorgeous loaves of bread. I followed the account and started swooning over the beautiful slashing and enticing crumb shots I saw. Turns out that IG account is by a woman who wrote a James Beard-award winning book on sourdough. She lives in Brooklyn and in April mentioned workshops, so I took a look to see if I should try it out. Well, the 3-day intensive was $950 without lodging, and I thought, hmm, I could try it myself first, invest in a few $5 bags of flour instead, and see what happens.

I mentioned this to Caro, who has baked a lot of Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread. I said, “I think I’m going to try starting my own sourdough starter this week.” I included a link to the King Arthur Flour guide. She replied, “If you start one, I will too”; turned out she’d been reading up on this on her own. And so the #breadalong was born. Once we posted our initial shots, a friend revealed she, too, had started a sourdough starter that day!

And then we waited.

sourdough starter | pepperknit

And waited.

sourdough starter | pepperknit

And waited.

sourdough starter | pepperknit

I went through at least 2 whole bags of KAF All-Purpose Flour. I named my starter Constance Stein, after a woman who continues to get mail here even though I’ve lived in this apartment for 9 years. After 3+ weeks I broke down and called the King Arthur Flour hotline. I felt sheepish, and it was certainly one of the sillier things I’ve ever done, but I figured, they’re there for this, they’re the experts. (Cut to Jed Bartlet calling the Butterball Hotline.) Constance wasn’t doubling at all, and they’d indicated it would happen after 1 week. My apartment is generally warm, but it was April and the temp outside was fluctuating quite a bit. The mildly amused woman on the KAF hotline suggested I put the starter in the fridge and feed every 3 days, and promised doubling would happen in due time. I followed her advice.

I continued to feed Constance, and I continued to experiment with sourdough english muffins, sourdough waffles, sourdough sandwich bread (that also uses commercial yeast), sourdough pretzels, sourdough pizzas, and sourdough crackers. I put the discard to many delicious uses.

sourdough discard | pepperknit

And then one day in early June I left Constance on the counter all day as a test, and she doubled, or nearly did. I had my suspicions that she was not ready but I forged ahead. I made a mess. The loaf stuck in the banneton and was just so, so ugly. It will not be shown; I do not count this loaf as an actual loaf in my bread-making journey. I continued to babble to Caro about the starter’s progress. On June 14 I declared, “Constance doubled in 7 hours today!” and then there is silence until on June 18 I follow up with, “Constance doubled in 6 hours today!!!”

I spent all my time not making bread watching bread videos on YouTube, reading blogs, and scrolling hashtags on Instagram. And on June 19, one month and 5 days after I mixed up the first portion of flour and water, I started the process, having picked for no discernable reason to follow the Hobbs House Bakery No-Knead Recipe. The recipe uses a large amount of starter, which seemed odd, but I figured, let’s give it all the help it can get for rising. It turned out a beaut, though perhaps a bit lumpy.

sourdough bread | pepperknit

I followed the recipe with the exception of leaving out the sesame seeds and placing the proofed loaf on a piece of parchment to make slashing as well as putting into the Dutch oven easier. I was using my Le Creuset oval 6-quart. I don’t recall now the timing, but I used the video as my guide. The parchment paper bunched up in the DO and that’s why there’s those large indentations along the bottom edge.

Next up, more loaves.