Monday, July 12, 2010

buckwheat sourdough

Thought I'd follow a formula this time and see how it goes. I went with Susan's sourdough from her inspiring blog, since people on Fresh Loaf have such high praise for it. Susan notes that it's an adaptation of Jeffrey Hamelman's Vermont Sourdough, in his book Bread: A Baker's Techniques and Recipes. The bread turned out interesting and surprising. And good.

Try as I might, though, I didn't/couldn't follow her directions exactly. First, I halved the ingredients:

450 g KAF all purpose flour
60 g buckwheat flour
300 g water
180 g sourdough starter
11 g salt

Susan's formula calls for rye flour, but I didn't have any. I'd gone to the store to get it, but once there, I was completely distracted by cherries, sea bass, etc. I had buckwheat flour at home, which I was planning on experimenting with, so that's what I substituted.

I mixed it all in the stand mixer for about a minute, maybe less. Then let it rest for 30 minutes. 

Added the salt and mixed for about 3 minutes. It didn't look like it needed more mixing; it was beautifully smooth and stretchy.

Then I was supposed to fold it after 50 minutes. I don't have a good sense of time (meaning I usually disregard it), and the timer doesn't always help (because I disregard that too, to the dogs' distress). I have a feeling it was more like 70 minutes before the first fold.

Now the folding schedule was off, so I did the second fold a bit earlier, in another 30 minutes.

Yet another 30 minutes, and the fermentation seemed to be enough.  I didn't want to let it go for the suggested 2.5 hours, because I'm trying to correct a recurrent mistake, over-fermentation.

At that point the dough looked different from any dough I worked with before. Incredibly stretchy, but not many holes and no big holes. It had definitely risen some, and you could also tell by how it felt when you touched it, but I started worrying about how subdued the holes were. Maybe my starter wasn't vigourous enough? I had been sure that it was - was I wrong? Or maybe the culprit was the buckwheat. Buckwheat has no gluten. I hadn't added any high-gluten flour to compensate. Was it going to work?

On the other hand, there were reasons to think everything was going fine. The stretchiness of the dough meant that there wasn't a gluten problem. And when you gently placed your palm on the dough, it felt right - good resistance, beautifully smooth, etc.

Not like I had options at this point. There was nothing to do except to go on.

I had thrown out my bannetons some years back and haven't replaced them. What do I use for proofing? The dough was very soft so I knew it was going to spread a lot. Bite the bullet, I thought, make it a big ciabatta. I gave it a couple of gentle folds and let it proof right on the peel. I really don't know how long it proofed, but I think it was about an hour, at most an hour and a half.

In the meantime, the oven had been preheated to 500 F, with the baking stone in it. I slid the loaf onto the stone, with a sigh of relief when it actually did slide off the peel. Turned the oven down to 450 F and baked for 15 minutes. Dying of curiousity, I opened the oven door and peeked in. Hey! It had risen beautifully! I turned the oven to 425 F, and baked another 15 minutes. Then turned the oven off and was going to let the bread sit there for 5 minutes, when my time handicap struck again and I left it there for half an hour. Way too long. The crust got too thick and too brown for my taste. 

I let it cool completely, and cut off a slice before I went to bed. Ugh. The buckwheat was overwhelmingly strong. Disappointed, I went to bed debating how to choose between love of experimentation and enjoying a predictably good result. 

Next morning (yesterday), I gave it another try. Surprise! It had mellowed beautifully and tasted great. The buckwheat taste was there, of course, but it was not overwhelming and it was not too 'strong' to have for breakfast before your mind and your body readjusted to life. And this morning, it was even better.

So it's true, bread develops better taste after a day or two. I guess I didn't want to believe it because it would mean that I couldn't tear off a piece right out of the oven. But really, isn't that one of the main reasons we bake bread? To get to it while it's warm? I refuse to give that up. The solution is to bake at least two loaves, one to attack right away and one to let rest for a day. Then we can have our bread and eat it too. (Groan! I know, but I couldn't resist it.)

I loved the consistency of this dough when I was working with it, and the end result, so this formula will be repeated. The sourness was just right, the crumb had great texture, and it was moist and chewy.

I prefer a bit less salt, so I'll reduce the amount next time. Also next time, I won't screw up the crust by overbaking.