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. 

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