Sourdough Times

Breadcraft is coming along.  Experience has led me to some definite guidelines:

  1.  Starter must be strong, i.e. recently fed. What seems to work well is to feed about 50g of refrigerated starter in the evening with 100-125 g flour (mix white and whole wheat and or rye) and similar amount water.  Let sit at kitchen room temp (17-20C) overnight and put in “proofing box” (see # 4) in the morning for a few hours until significant expansion is evident (50-100% increase). I am experimenting with amounts of starter and baking cycle with the goal of not making more than I can use (and ending up with four jars in the fridge).
  2. Flour protein content  should be 12% +.  “Bread” flour has higher protein content 12-14%.  Plain flour might be as low as 11%, not good for sourdough.  Mills in Canada don’t’ seem as diligent as US companies such as King Arthur at specifying protein content.  Rogers Bread flour does list the protein content at 13-14%.  I have been using some of that with Rogers unbleached flour as well as Anita’s white flour, Anitas 50-50 bread flour blend and Anita’s whole wheat.  All these Anita flours say they are good for sourdough but do not specify the exact protein content on package.   I have also tried adding small amounts of “Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Gluten Flour”.  I am still undecided which protein level is optimal.  I need to try some Antia’s “Sprouted High Protein Flour” listed at 16% protein.
    Possibly my favourite bread so far is from the recipe for Anita’s Buckwheat Sourdough.   Delicious flavour.  If I can make that recipe perfectly with some added figs I might morph from Mole to the Cheshire Cat.
  3. “Autolysing” seems to help bread rise.   Autolysing just means mixing the flour with the water before adding the starter and salt and letting it sit for 1 or more hours.
  4. Proofing temperature is major factor with sourdough.  Most recipes give wait times assuming 25C.  Things move significantly slower at 17C, maybe half the speed.  My “proofing box”:  I discovered that the oven with a 50W incandescent light bulb on is about 25C- perfect rising temp and stable.
  5. Don’t over proof.  What is working well is a first proof (“bulk fermentation”) of 4-5 hours and the final proof after shaping of 2 hours.  When I let it sit longer the bread did not rise as well.
  6. “Retarding” the dough by putting it in refrigerator overnight works well.  Big advantage is that  bread can be baked in the morning at whatever time you want, also, the cold dough is much easier to handle and score.
  7. For optimal “Oven Lift” – The best baking method has been to preheat cast iron “Crueset” pot, drop the bread into it on some parchment paper and bake with the lid closed @450C for 20 minutes for “oven lift” then uncovering and lowering the heat to 375C for another 1/2 hour.

Crunchy crust, chewy inside, yummy all over. Too soon et.