Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sourdough, Josey Baker, & Peter Reinhart

I've been making lots of different kinds of breads lately, driven by two factors:
  • Borrowed bread books
  • Newly obtained starters (thanks, Lee & Andrew!)
The borrowed bread books are Josey Baker Bread (JBB) and Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads (PRWGB). I've met Baker in person (before I started baking bread) when he was dropping off loaves at my office in San Francisco. He seems the same in real life as he does in the book—super enthusiastic and energetic. Reinhart also has bay area ties, but he doesn't live here any more.

I borrowed JBB first, after I happened to notice it in the Mountain View library's bookmobile. JBB takes the approach of teaching you through a series of recipes. I skipped recipe #1 and made #2, "A two-part mix". It turned out fine, although I don't remember much about it; it's a pretty plain loaf. I made a couple of changes, using graham flour for the pre-ferment (since I was out of regular whole-wheat flour) and halving the salt.

JBB: A two-part mix (recipe #2)

Reading ahead in JBB, I saw that most of the recipes called for sourdough starter. I'd already wanted to make breads from real, time-tested sourdough starters, so I decided to use Facebook and Google+ to ask for starters.

Lee's starter (found via the Facebook post) is a white sourdough starter derived from Goldrush Sourdough Starter, which doesn't have a great reputation. Lee said that the first time he tried a Goldrush starter, it failed completely. The second time, however, it took. He has used this starter for years, even taking it on week-long scout camping trips.

Andrew's starter (found via the Google shuttle) is a whole-wheat "mother starter" from PRWGB. Andrew didn't happen to need PRWGB for the next week, which is how I ended up borrowing it. (Thanks, Andrew!)

There I was, with a bunch of starter and two books I had to return soon. It was time to start baking. However, I didn't have much time, given work and my commute, and most of the recipes in both JBB and PRWGB take multiple days to make. I was able to refresh both starters during the week, but I couldn't make most of the recipes.

So that we'd have bread during the week, I used Lee's starter to make sourdough buckwheat bread from Ruth Hensperger's The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook (TBLBMC). Sourdough buckwheat bread is a really nice loaf of sandwich bread, with flavor from buckwheat, whole wheat, and orange zest. It's not the heart-healthiest recipe (mostly white flour, with an egg and some butter), but I might well make it again.

TBLBMC: Sourdough buckwheat bread

Changes I made to the recipe include halving the salt, halving the yeast, and using buttermilk powder & water instead of buttermilk. I might've also used a little less butter than the recipe called for, thanks to spillage.

Next, I made another relatively quick recipe: JBB's adventure bread, which is made almost entirely of seeds—no gluten, and no flour. It's held together mainly by chia and psyllium. You can see the recipe on David Leibovitz's blog. I wasn't crazy about this bread, and my husband hated it, but it's certainly interesting, and it holds its shape amazingly well. If you try adventure bread, I recommend eating it warm, preferably toasted, so it isn't clammy. I omitted the salt entirely, but it'd probably taste better with salt.

JBB: Adventure bread

Finally the weekend came, and I could prepare two-day recipes from JBB and PRWGB. Saturday I started JBB's sesame bread and PRWGB's whole wheat sandwich bread. The sesame bread isn't a sourdough bread, but I'd been wanting to make it ever since getting the book, and I'd recently found the brown, unhulled sesame seeds it called for. I started a little late in the day (after noon), so I ended up staying up very late, so that after the 12 hour pre-ferment, the mixed sesame bread could rise for 3 hours before I stuck it in the fridge for up to 3 days.

The PRWGB recipe is 100% whole grain. It uses a soaker (salted, soaked whole wheat) along with a bunch of starter. I made the soaker Saturday morning, so that it'd be ready to mix with the starter and bake Sunday. Even though PRWGB featured this recipe in its "Master Formula" section, it was sufficiently complex that I wrote a 9-step timeline of what I needed to do. It felt like Thanksgiving, with less risk of food poisoning.

Timeline for PRWGB's master formula

When I started prepping to make the dough, I remembered a big pastry board I'd given my daughter. It's a beauty, but I don't think we'd used it before.

Pastry board with ingredients ready to mix

I tried using the stand mixer to mix the dough, but it didn't seem to be working, so I ended up mixing by hand. Then I kneaded for what was supposed to be under 5 minutes but went much longer, until the dough got close to passing the windowpane test—stretchy enough that a small amount you pull off can form a translucent "windowpane". Kneading must be a good core workout: the next morning my abs were a little sore!

I'm not experienced at shaping bread, so I'll spare you the pre-baking pictures of shaping the bastard, but here's the final result, which is huge, by the way.

My version of a bâtard (which means bastard in French)

The resulting bread tasted fine, but the crust was disappointingly soft. I suppose I should've expected the soft crust, since it was described as a sandwich bread, but if I'd known I would've just baked it in a pan.

I took my time with the JBB sesame bread, not baking it until Wednesday. I goofed up the flip into the Dutch oven, so it ended up folded in half. The end result looked a little weird, but it was delicious!

Not bad for a loaf that took a header

My husband and I keep eating this bread. It tastes great, it's nicely chewy, it's good in a sandwich or by itself or alongside dinner... This is a seriously yummy bread. Even though only a small percentage of it is whole wheat, I'll make it again. The sesame seeds help make up for the white flour, right?

Great by itself or with dinner

The only change I made was halving the salt. I made the pre-ferment and dough mix Saturday, shaped the dough Monday or Tuesday night, and then baked it Wednesday. (Note: Eat this bread within a day or so. By Friday evening, it tasted stale.)

The ugly side looked like a monster's face. I ate it anyway.

Both JBB and PRWGB feature whole-grain, artisanal breads. JBB is more approachable; it's breezy and doesn't require lots of reading before you get to work. On the other hand, JBB didn't answer all of my practical questions (should I cover my proofing basket? what does "fold in the sides of a circle" mean—how can circles have sides?). PRWGB is more thorough and authoritative, but you have to flip around a lot to get all the information you need.

When I started this post, I thought I'd end up buying one of the Reinhart books but probably not the JBB book. After making the bâtard and the sesame bread, I've swung the other way: the PRWGB bread was a lot of work with a disappointing outcome, and the JBB bread was delicious and easy (though not quick).

I've also discovered that I'm not really into kneading. In the future, I'll probably let the bread machine do the work.

Finally, I'm planning to buy a baking stone and a lame. Maybe a banneton basket, too. No more monster-face breads for me. 

No comments:

Post a Comment