Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Double sourdough and sesame bread

Last weekend, recovering from 1000+ miles of driving over 3 days, I made my two standby breads: Josey Baker's sourdough and Beth Hensperger's toasted sesame. I accidentally doubled the water in the JB pre-ferment, so I turned it into a double batch (something I'd been wanting to try anyway). The first half I turned into the usual boule; with the second I made a more rectangular loaf.

The boule turned out very pretty.

The crust didn't sing this time, but it looked good to me.

The white stuff is rice flour

There were a few large holes toward the top, but otherwise I was happy with the texture.

Why so holey?

Some bread and butter ended up being my lunch.


Here are the details of the timing:
  • I took the sourdough starter out of the fridge as soon as we got home Friday, shortly after noon. I did 2 refreshes (one immediately, and another at 11 pm or so).
  • The next morning, I mixed the dough, finishing at 11:30.
  • I was under time constraints, so instead of letting the dough rise at cool room temperature, I used the proofing mode of my oven for the "kneading" part (it's really stretching + time, not kneading).
  • I stretched the dough at 11:55, 12:10, 12:25, and 12:40. I then left it out until 4:40, when I returned home and put it in the fridge before leaving the house again.
  • At 6 p.m. the dough was looking pretty inflated, so I punched it down and put it back in the fridge before leaving the house yet again.
  • At 2:30 a.m. I took out half the dough and shaped it into a boule, using an unlined, rice-floured basket. I refrigerated it with plastic wrap on top.
  • The next morning, I preheated the oven and baking stone for 45 minutes.
  • At 11:10, I started baking the boule, using the usual methods. (Parchment paper, slash across the top, pan on top for the first 20 minutes.)
Here's a picture of the boule before and after the final rise:

Before the final rise

After the final rise

I used the same percentage of salt as usual. Notes:
  • The total amount of salt for the double batch was 11g (a little under 2 tsp).
  • This time I used coarse sea salt instead of fine.
I didn't keep detailed notes about the second loaf. I think I shaped it Tuesday night, leaving instructions so Nathan could bake it the next day.

Perhaps a bit overbaked
Nate slashed it nicely and baked it in the usual way, although for longer than usual. (Fortunately, I happened to call and ask him if it was out of the oven yet.)

Nice crust
I noticed no ill effects from keeping the dough around much longer than usual.

The crumb
We ate it all up, over the next few days.

The toasted sesame bread was its usual good self, although we didn't finish even half of it before it got moldy. Oops. Notes:
  • I used mostly white whole wheat flour. I didn't notice any difference.
  • The sesame seeds weren't as well integrated this time; when I took out the bread, some sesame crusts fell out (yum!). I'd almost forgotten the seeds, and then dumped them along the sides. Perhaps the Zo doesn't mix things along the sides as well as things at either end. Despite the missing seeds, the bread still tasted the same. Perhaps these seeds (Terrasoul Superfoods organic unhulled sesame seeds) are more strongly flavored than the ones I'd been using (Bob's Red Mill unhulled, or regular hulled seeds in spice jars). Or perhaps the oil adds much of the sesame flavor.
  • I need to remember to freeze a few slices after a couple of days, so it doesn't go to waste.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sourdough hamburger buns

I made the same Josey Baker sourdough recipe as I have the past couple of weeks, except I formed it into hamburger buns. It worked! These buns tasted good and stood up to some very big, juicy burgers.

The outside

I coated them with sesame seeds, but couldn't really taste the seeds. Next time I might try poppy seeds or onions. Or nothing.

The inside

I took some shortcuts with this recipe. The pre-ferment started the night before, as usual, and around 9 or 10 in the morning I mixed the dough and started the occasional gentle stretching and folding that the recipe calls for. Around 2 I formed the dough into balls. I wet the top of each ball and dunked it into a small saucepan containing fresh-toasted sesame seeds. Then I put the balls into the hamburger bun pan, squashed them, and let them sit for about an hour.

My friend Shams gave me this great hamburger pan

I tried slashing a couple of the larger buns, but they were rather wet and the shaping had been abbreviated, so slashing didn't do much. I baked the buns pretty much as normal (just 25 degrees cooler) but didn't let them get as dark as I'd let a big loaf get, since I was afraid they'd be too dry.

Despite the shortcuts, these were some darned good buns. They worked well with the delicious beef/lamb/onion burgers that our friend Johnny concocted.

PS: I also made some banana-bran nut muffins, from Bob's Red Mill Baking Book, but substituting pecans for walnuts. I used my usual sodium-free baking powder and soda. These aren't as muffiny as I expected—they're very very branny—but they grew on me. I might make them again.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Toasted sesame wheat bread and real sourdough

Over the last week or so, I've made two kinds of bread two times each, successfully.

First, I made toasted sesame whole wheat bread (Hensperger p. 113). I'd tried this before, unsuccessfully. Last time I used toasted walnut oil and dark honey; this time I used light sesame oil (as the recipe called for) and regular honey. Like last time, I reduced the salt to under 1t and the yeast to 1-1/2 t.

Toasted sesame whole wheat bread: a little lopsided but very tasty

This bread looked a little funny but tasted great and kept fresh for many days.


A week later I made another loaf. It turned out prettier, but equally tasty. I love this bread!

Less lopsided

First piece, sliced while the bread was still warm.
(I couldn't help myself.)

If you look closely, you can see the sesame seeds.

The other bread I made was my first successful, real sourdough. By "real" I mean it had no added yeast—just the wild yeast from the starter. I'd tried making a similar recipe before, but failed due to forgetting the salt. Like last time, I used a Josey Baker recipe. Unlike last time, I added 1 teaspoon of salt (half of what the recipe called for).

My first successful sourdough

Although this bread tasted great and had a nice crust, it wasn't perfect. It had a big flying roof (empty space beneath the top crust). I suspect I didn't let it rise enough before shaping it. I also wonder if slashing deeper might have helped.

Flying roof

Also, the crumb was inconsistent—it looked dense in some sections, with a different sheen.

Inconsistent crumb

Still, it was delicious!

The next two photos show the dough when first mixed and then after the final stretch-and-fold. (I suppose real kneading would be much faster, but Josey Baker calls for stretch-and-fold, and that's much less intimidating to me than kneading.)


The following two photos show the dough in the banneton, when first added and when about to be baked. Per Josey Baker's instructions, I used rice flour to keep the bread from sticking. (Actually, his instructions say to use rice flour on muslin, but I wanted to try to give the finished bread a spiral design; it didn't work.)


Finally, here's the bread just after being transferred (on parchment paper) to the heated stone.

Immediately after slashing the loaf, I put a big soup pot over the bread and closed the oven door. 20 minutes later, when I removed the soup pot, the bread hadn't risen much. I took this to mean that it wouldn't rise more, but it really really did. I wonder if I could have scored the bread again at this midway point, but I suspect it was too late.

A week later, I made the bread again.

The initial sourdough mix: whole-wheat sourdough starter, water, and salt

I followed the same process as last time, but the weather was warmer.

I marked the dough's position after the final stretch-and-fold.

It was hard to figure out when the dough had risen 150%. A straight-sided bowl or bucket might make that easier.

Ready, I guess.

I used muslin in the banneton this time, and covered the banneton with plastic instead of a paper towel when I put it in the fridge. Like last time, I wasn't sure it had risen enough when I put it in the oven, but I had a deadline. Next time I might let it rise a couple of hours before putting it into the fridge. I did let the dough sit out for 40 minutes while the oven and baking stone heated.

Bottom side up, ready to bake

I made an effort to score the loaf more deeply this time. After slashing the loaf, I found a a great page, Scoring Bread, that seemed to indicate that I did it completely wrong—that a less angled cut in a cross shape or even parallel lines might be better for a round loaf. Oh well.

Deeply scored in a curved line at an angle

Halfway through baking, as usual, I removed the pan from on top of the loaf. The loaf had risen nicely but not too much—it looked better to me than last time. Interestingly, there was no ear, but an even spread from the cut (as the page I looked at said should be the case for a cut that was perpendicular to the loaf, which I wasn't trying to do).

After 20 minutes

After 15 minutes more of baking, the bread was starting to look very dark in spots, so I took it out.

I put the bread on a rack to cool. For the first time in my short baking experience, I noticed that the bread made small crackling noises as it cooled. Apparently, that's not a bad thing.

The crust has an interesting texture, bubbly in spots and jagged in others. Some people like these crust bubbles, called bird's eyes, and some consider it a fault. The bird's eyes were probably caused by proofing the dough in the refrigerator with plastic wrap on top, so the dough stayed moister than before. Also, I'd washed the banneton, and it might have still been moist.

Bubbly crust toward the bottom of the loaf

The crust was more jagged in the slash. At least one of the dark spots was the top of a large bubble.

Jaggies in the slash, a bubble just above

The crumb was much better than last time—more consistent, and no flying roof!

The taste, like last time, was excellent.