The Fermented Loaf

Conceived: 1/1/16;  Born: 1/21/16

Conceived: 1/1/16;  Born: 1/21/16

Like any bun in the oven, this baby took time and like any expectant mother, I have dreamed about this moment for months.  Well, really just one month 'cause this is just the beginning of my fermented adventures but there is nothing like observing growth and development happening before your very eyes. When a bread pops out of the oven, it's nothing short of a bundle of joy! Occasionally, I even swaddle it and parade it around the house like it's "show and tell". What can I say? It's a mother's love...

For me, bread equals passion and reminds me that Grain & Grain, my bread baking and spoon carving workshops, will likely exist again sometime in the future because it's hard to put passion to rest.  So, kneadless to say (see what I did there?!), bread and I have a bond that cannot be broken.  True love will pass the test of time and I am learning that time is for the taking, aging is not for the faint of heart, and old is equal to gold.  Fermentation is age-related glory and this little loaf gets a gold star for sure!

For the "how-to" back story I encourage you to start here.  It provides all the details on how to capture wild yeast and is an introduction to the world of sourdough.  Once your starter reaches maturity and the wild bacteria has true leavening potential, you will have bread beyond your wildest dreams.

Prep

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup starter (recipe here)

In a large bowl mix the above ingredients making a levain then cover and let sit for an hour or two allowing the yeast to acclimate.

Make

  • 3 cups flour (and then more for dusting as needed)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/8 cup of molasses (honey or maple syrup also work)

Directions

  1. In the bowl with the starter, add the flour and the salt. (Do not stir).
  2. In a separate bowl combine the water and molasses and stir thoroughly.
  3. Add the water/molasses mixture to the bowl with the flour and mix with a wooden spoon till the dough starts to pull away from the bowl.
  4. As the dough starts to come together, begin to knead it slightly with your hand and encourage it along.
  5. Once you have a rough dough ball formed you can dump it onto a floured surface and continue kneading. (Note: if your dough is stiff and on the dryer side you may not require much surface flour but if it feels wet, more flour is necessary to keep it from sticking to your hands and your counter top).
  6. Knead for a good 10 to 15 minutes to help develop the gluten.
  7. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside, giving it a little toss to slightly coat all sides. Lay it to rest with the seam side down. Cover it with plastic wrap and leave to rest for 6-8 hours. (The wild yeast is less potent than commercial yeast, so time is truly necessary to allow the dough to double in size. I typically make this dough in the evening so I can let it rest overnight and bake it in the morning).

Bake

  1. After the dough has doubled, remove it from the bowl and knead it again to degas the dough slightly, dusting with flour as necessary.
  2. Shape the dough and place it on an inverted lid of a flat-top dutch oven (something like this). If you don't have this type of dutch oven you can place the dough in a greased bread pan or sheet pan alternatively without a "top".
  3. Let it rise covered for another hour or until it doubles in size.
  4. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees along with the bottom of your dutch oven which in this case will serve as your "top".
  5. When the oven is up to temperature, score your loaf with afew decrative slashes then carefully remove the dutch oven "top" and place it over the dough so the loaf is now inside the dutch oven.
  6. Carefully place the inverted pot into the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  7. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 450 degrees, remove the "top" and continue baking for more 15 minutes uncovered, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.
  8. Cool on a rack for an hour before slicing.

*Note: If you are using a bread or sheet pan, you can mimic these results by preheating a baking pan on the lowest oven rack. After you score the bread, place it immediately in the oven and add two inches of water to the baking pan. This will create steam which helps contribute to the crispy crust. Bake for 10 minutes then remove the pan of water and lower the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches somewhere between 180-190 degrees.

As a final addition I like to brush the top with butter.  This brings out the sheen in the crust and also adds a little flavor.  I mean, you can't go wrong with butter right?