For my fourth recipe test, I decided to showcase a recipe that I’ve been trying and testing and adjusting since Gloria became a full-fledged starter.
You can find the recipe here, at King Arthur Flour’s website, and the name is pretty descriptive: Artisan Sourdough Bread made with a Stiff Starter.
Real quick, I want to address a question that some of you, dear readers, might have had. Since you cook with recipes as “suggestions”, can’t you do the same for baking?
Yes and no. Like, 10% Yes and 90% no. Baking is a delicate, beautiful science, so you need to follow the recipe. Seriously. Things can go south very quickly. Don’t be a doofus and decide you want to use sugar instead of salt. But but but: there are times you can improvise with baking. It just helps, generally, to have a solid understanding of all the chemistry happening and which ingredients do what. I won’t get into all of it right here, but Shirley O. Corriher’s BakeWise is an awesome, scientastic resource, Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for More Food made an impact in my life, and America’s Test Kitchen is generally super helpful with their explanations. But also check out my last post on Baker’s Percentage.
Over the past year, I have allowed myself more wiggle room with baking. Much of that is thanks to this recipe and humidity. I live in a region that experience >75% humidity on a regular basis between April and November. Yeah, it’s super gross, I tried to explain it to a man in Ireland this summer and he gasped, quite loudly. The second time I made this recipe, I followed it with precision, and the result was way over hydrated and pretty unpalatable. That’s because flour slurps up moisture like a sponge, and the combination of 17 oz of water and 90% humidity meant way, way, way too much hydration. Behold:
Part of the problem might have been the fact that I baked this loaf as a desperate, last-ditch effort to procrastinate on an assignment. What can ya do. (Your work. You can do your work.)
Anyway. Without further ado, the recipe!
*Just a heads up, you’ll need to be close to your bread for about 5 hours for this recipe.*
- 2 1/8 cups (17 oz) water, room-temperature
- ½ cup (4 oz) fed stiff sourdough starter
- 4 ¾ cups (20 oz) All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup (4 oz) Whole Wheat Flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons salt
- (Optional) Seeds or bread topping of your choice
– First, you might notice the background looks different, do not be alarmed, I was housesitting.
– That thing in the front is the stiff starter after I squeezed it for no good reason other than to feel the air escape. A “fed” starter is one that has received fresh water and flour within the last few hours and has expanded a lot. It’s expanding because there’s a lot of happy yeast activity happening. Yay yeast!
– I used to make this bread with 12 oz of WW flour and 12 oz of AP flour to make up for the insane hydration problem I was having. The result was tasty, but once it dawned on me that I could decrease the water, I started using 6 oz whole wheat and 18 oz all-purpose. Everyone gave me compliments. Lots of happiness was spread.
First, gather your shiznit all together. Take a deep breath. Off we go.
KAF instructs you to measure out the water first, put it in a big bowl, and then tear off bits of the starter and toss ’em right in there. Maybe make a few wishes? Can’t hurt.
This first pic is just to show you how much water I decided to use (in ounces). I like to be conservative at first and just add more water if the dough feels dry. It’s not really necessary to continue measuring the water, I tend to just add water a few drops at a time. One “method” is to stick your hand under a running faucet or like, dunk it in some water, and then go back to kneading. Usually, that’s about enough water to get things sorted.
Of course, if you feel the dough is too wet, add flour bit by bit. Easy Peasy.
*Fun fact, this bowl I’m using is a Polly the Potter creation. She’s an Atlanta-based potter and she made an appearance at my Harry Potter-themed 10th (?) birthday party. We made goblets of fire. She rocks.*
So after throwing all your starter into the water, add everything else and mix it around until it looks shaggy. I kinda chop and twist with my bowl scraper.
Dump the shaggy stuff on to the counter and smear it. Swear to goodness, this is my favorite process because it feels so great. It might be my main reason for making this recipe. I’ll upload a video next time, but you’ll smear for a minute or two, just to make sure all the flour is hydrated.
Gather all that goodness and place it in a bowl for 30 minutes.
Nothing visible will happen, the 30 minute rest is mostly to ensure everything is hydrated. You’ll need to flour your workspace before plopping that dough out for the kneading.
I added a little extra flour to the top because things were feeling a little too sticky. I might’ve misjudged the situation, but life happens.
Knead for not a long time, 2 minutes or something.
Then, stick that sucker in a bowl or a similar container and cover that baby up. Walk away for about an hour. (If it’s super chilly where you are, KAF suggests 15-30 extra minutes)
Next comes the folding. Pretend the dough is in a square, and get under one side (a bowl scraper helps here) and stretch the dough gently. Repeat on the other 3 sides. Flip the doohickey over so the seams are to the ground.
This takes some practice. KAF suggests dumping the whole thing out, but I’m more comfortable performing the folds in the bowl. With my container this time, that was impossible, but if you were smart and used a bowl, go you.
The photo on the left is my dough after the first rise. On the right, you see the dough after the 1st fold.
Leave the dough alone for another hour. Fold again.
Give it some space for 90 minutes.
After 2nd rise. After 3rd rise
Guys, I’m feeling a bit over writing about this because, well, everyone dies at the end.
Not really! But the bread turns out meh. I’ll let the pics speak for themselves. Mostly.
These loaves tasted ok, kinda undercooked even though I baked them FOREVER. I’m sure I could come up with a reason for the failure, but I frankly don’t want to think about this batch anymore.
There you have it! The Participation Trophy Winners!
Check in next week for ciabatta. I already know how it ends, and I promise it’s not sad.