Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Version of VT's Sourdough

Couldn't make it in the BreadPot because I melted the brains of my broiler, but I wanted to post the results of my version of vt's 61% hydration sourdough. A finicky formula, but the results are outstanding. Great, great crust. I baked it under a large heavy pot at the bakery, which is how I make the sourdough that we sell there. For flour, I used mostly unbleached A/P flour, but all of the sponge was made with some local 'brown' or 'half-white' flour that I bought from Cayuga Pure Organics. Vt, may I have permission to reproduce your formula and instructions (with credit) on my blog? I'd like to show this loaf off.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

it's alive!

obligatory "crumb shot"

close to good enough, i think. after the last few loaves (especially #7), this one was confirmatory. at 61% hydration, this sourdough loaf had a sticky (but not unmanageably sticky) dough, and was wet enough for a lot of oven spring without collapsing during unsupported proofing. it has great aeration. look at those lobes! marvel at the grigne (even if maybe there was a bit too much oven spring going on)! the only thing i would do now is extend the proofing time by maybe another hour.

more prosaically: the timing of various steps was convenient for work schedules. everything here was done while room temperature hovered in the 65F to 68F range. starting at 8am on monday, i got everything into the fridge by 10pm on monday and baked the bread at 3pm on tuesday.

the cloche-style breadpot continues to perform beautifully. great oven spring, mind-bendingly good crust. i think we have a winner.


  • starter (about 1 tablespoon worth)
  • 450 g flour mix (30g whole wheat pastry flour, 420g white A/P)
  • 275 g water
  • 8 g salt
  • 2.5 qt glass or metal bowl, with a cover.
  • 7 x 7 sheet parchment paper
  • peel or piece of cardboard for transferring dough
  • couple teaspoons of flour for dusting dough

stage 1 starter
  • 80 g warm water (body temperature, not much hotter than that)
  • 1 tb starter
  • 80 g flour mix
a 2.5 qt bowl is plenty, slightly smaller would work too. glass is nice so that you can see how much aeration is happening in the dough as it progresses, but metal is also fine. in this bowl, dissolve the starter in the warm water, then mix in the flour. shaggy or soupy is fine. cover and leave in a warmish place with minimal air circulation for about 8 hours until bubbly.

stage 2 first build
  • stuff from stage 1 
  • 36 g warm water (body temperature as before)
  • 110g flour mix
remove 1 tb of the stuff from stage 1 and keep as your starter. add the 36 g water to the bowl and break up the dough slurry inside with a fork or spoon. add the 110 g flour mix and stir to combine. again, shaggy is fine. the dough should be much firmer and drier compared to stage 1. cover and leave undisturbed for an hour. stir after an hour, then cover and leave undisturbed for another 2 hours. you should see lots of little bubbles where the dough touches the bottom of your glass bowl. if you used a metal bowl, tough luck.

stage 3 second build
  • stuff from stage 2
  • 159 g cold water (from the tap is fine)
  • 260 g flour mix
add the 159 g water to the stuff from stage 2, stir to break up and combine. add the 260 g flour and mix. a large wood or metal spoon is good for this. cover and allow to sit undisturbed at room temperature for an hour.

stage 4 adding salt
  • stuff from stage 3
  • 8 g salt
clean a counter space. sprinkle the 8 g salt over the stuff from stage 3 and mix with the spoon. scrape everything out of the bowl and knead to combine any dry flour scraps (squishing them against the counter with the heel of your hand is a satisfying and effective procedure known to bread nerds as fraisage) and the salt. the dough will initially be disturbingly soft and sticky. your fingers will be covered in dough. it will not be the silky bread dough you are used to. as the salt gets integrated, the dough will firm up and become much more congenial. knead on for a minute or so after everything is combined, then scrape back into the bowl and cover. leave in a draftless spot for about 30-45 minutes.

stage 5 stretching and folding, then retarding the dough
take the dough out of the bowl, do a STRETCH AND FOLD and put the dough back into the bowl. (what is a stretch and fold? this video illustrates.) repeat twice, with 30-45 minutes between stretch-and-folds, for a total of 3 stretches and folds over about 1.5 to 2 hours. after the third stretch-and-fold, replace in the bowl, cover, and put in the refrigerator for 8 hours.

stage 6 more stretching and folding
take the dough out of the bowl. surprise! it feels great, though cold. do a stretch and fold. replace in the bowl, cover, replace in the fridge. repeat twice, with an hour between stretch-and-folds (put the dough back in the fridge in between each turn).

stage 7 shaping, proofing, preheating
prepare a piece of parchment paper about 7 x 7 inches square, and a small dish with about 2 teaspoons of flour on it. shape the dough. this video is instructive. (note that she proofs in a banneton. i don't have a banneton. but, really, i don't think you need a banneton.) after shaping the boule, lay it on the parchment paper and leave to proof, covered by a large bowl. after 40 minutes, fire up the oven to 475F with the breadpot inside. (next loaf will proof for an additional 60 minutes.)

stage 8 slashing, baking
when the oven has been preheating for 20-25 minutes, uncover the dough. slide the dough on the parchment onto a peel (i use a sheet of cardboard). slash with a sharp razor blade. the cutting edge of the blade should be oriented at 45 degrees to the surface of the loaf. open the oven, remove both the breadpot base and top and place on something heatproof. close the oven door. slide the loaf off the peel into the bottom of the breadpot, then cover with the lid remembering that it is searingly hot. open the oven door, and deposit the covered loaf in the oven. close the door and set your timer for 15 minutes. remove the lid after the first 15 minute timer goes, and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes at 450F.

allow to cool completely on a rack before slicing.

[yet another guest post from vt, at the sap also rises]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Wellfleet Connection

In July, Mark Bittman spoke in Wellfleet for the Truro Center for the Arts. I gave him one of our pots and thanked him for bringing me back to bread baking by writing about Jim Lahey's no knead bread method.
Today he wrote about it in his blog!

Bittman Bakes in the Breadpot

How funny, one free spirit gets another to follow a recipe, albeit his own.
What a lovely photo. How things come around!