This is a new bread recipe I am trying out from The Forgotten Skills of Cooking (a fantastic cook book by the way, my absolute favorite!). The process takes two days, and you need to already have a sourdough starter made. This is the first time we are using our new starter :)
Making the sponge
2 cups sourdough starter
2 cups Luke warm spring water
4 cups flour ( recipe says bread flour, but we are using spelt)
-Put sourdough in a large bowl (Don’t worry if this uses all the starter you have, this recipe will replace it later on). Add 1cup water and 2 cups flour. Mix until incorporated, but don’t over do it.
-Cover tightly and let sit in a warmish place for 10-12 hrs (overnight is good).
-Add another cup of warmish water and 2 cups flour. I used white bread flour because we’re low on spelt. Make sure the container is big enough for it to rise. Cover and let sit 5-6 hours. ***after it has risen, make sure to take out two cups of dough and keep in a jar as your starter for the next bread you make***
Side note on rising time for sourdough: rising time is more of a suggestion of minimum time. My house is colder than the average persons, so my dough always takes longer to rise. Also, the suggested rising time may not work with your schedule, so don’t be afraid to let it sit longer. I often let dough sit much longer than it needs to and do the next step when I have time. For example, for this bread, I let it sit overnight again instead of 5-6 hours because I mixed it before going to bed. Also, later in this recipe you are supposed to let it sit 20 min, well I let it sit two hours because I left the house to go get some groceries, and was hungry when I got back so I made some food (delicious spelt pancakes by the way, I’ll put the recipe up:) ). With sourdough, the longer you let it sit, the more sour and flavorful it becomes. However, it can become too sour. One time I kept not having time to bake, so I let it sit two days longer than it should… now that was some sour bread. But some people may like it like that :)
Mixing The Bread Dough
3/4 cup warm water
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tbs wheat germ
1 tbs rye flour
2 1/2 tsp salt
-After saving 2 cups for your sourdough, mix in all these ingredients but the salt and let sit for 20 min.
Side note on how much flour to use: When following a recipe, always use your own judgement on how much flour to add. A friend of mine who is a great chef once explained to me that, depending on how your flour was stored and/or the dryness of your climate, flour can have different amounts of moisture. This means you may need more or less flour than the recipe calls for. This recipe called for 5 1/2 cups, but I added only 4 1/2 and thought that was plenty. The cookbook I am using does come from Ireland, a moist country to say the least, which means that bakers there can use a higher flour to water ratio and still have a moist dough.
Well, this is the reason i have come up with to explain the discrepancy. I also may have just made the dough wetter than it is intended to be. Just remember to be careful, don’t add all the flour at once.
-Sprinkle some flour onto a nice surface for kneading. Knead the salt into the dough and continue kneading for 15+ min. If it is sticking a lot, keep putting flour on the table, but don’t add too much (<1/2 cup total). I often just accept that the dough will stick to the surface and deal with it because I want to have a moist bread. If you do this, having a bench scraper or a knife to periodically get the dough off the counter and into a ball is very helpful. Also, cooling the dough makes it less stretchy and easier to work with.
a good test to see if you have developed enough gluten is to stretch a piece of dough and make a “window”. If light comes through without the dough tearing, you have probably kneaded enough. I learned this trick from Daniel Leader’s book Local Breads
I let the dough sit for a bit in a cool place, and it became much more manageable (actually, I discovered this because I forgot to add salt. It was already rising, so I got it down to knead the salt in, and it was much easier to deal with. The place I left it was obviously too cold, but it turned out to be a useful mistake:) )
-Lightly oil a bowl, put the dough in it, cover it, and put it in a warm place to rise for 6-9 hours.
-Punch down the dough and knead it a few times. Divide it in two equal pieces.
-Heavily! flour two bannetons (or two large bowls lined with a kitchen cloth). I had trouble with the dough sticking when I tried to take it out, so don’t skimp here. And the four makes the loaves look rustic :)
-Shape the dough into two round loaves. Put them into the bannetons/bowls with the smooth side of the loaf facing down. Dust the top with flour.
Shaped loaves ready to rise :)
-Put the bowls in large plastic bags and let rise in a cold room (or the fridge) overnight. The loaves should about double in volume.
-Check on the loaves. If they have risen enough, put them in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours to bring them back to room temperature before baking. If they are still a bit small, leave them in a warm place for longer.
-At least 30 min before baking, put a bread stone and cast iron pan in the oven and preheat to 450f.
-Ease the dough onto a floured bakers peel (or some parchment paper) and make slashes on the top with a serrated knife. I only have room for one loaf on my baking stone, so I could only bake one at a time. Meanwhile, let the other rise longer. It will make it a bit more sour, but, having German roots, Rosie and I agreed that we like it better that way :)
-Slide ( to the best of your ability) the loaf onto the hot baking stone in the oven and pour 1 cup water into the cast iron pan. Immediately close the door to trap in the steam.
-Bake for 30-40 min depending on how high your bread rose (more time for thicker bread).
-Take out the bread and test if done by thumping on the bottom to see if it sounds hollow.
-Bake second loaf end enjoy the fruits of your labor!
The second loaf had some trouble in the process (apart from its looks), so it rose for 4 hours longer and was considerably more sour, almost like a pure rye. Delicious to me! But maybe not for everyone…
The bread came out flatter than i hoped it would, which may have been because i added leas flour. I could also have not kneaded it long enough, but i don’t think that is the case. Any other ideas why? Anyways, I’ll just keep practicing and see if I can make it rise more!
Congratulate yourself on a job well done! I know I am :)