Sourdough bread-making methods, The Sourdough Journals
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Loaf seven tastes good but is an ugly little thing

Encouraged by the success of the last two loaves, I throw this next one together with just a little excitement. If I can maintain or improve the taste, texture, height and crumb of the last two loaves, I will feel I’m getting the hang of making a tasty, organic, whole wheat sourdough sandwich loaf.

Once more following Mike’s recipe on Sourdough Home, I begin with the usual suspects: Starter, water, olive oil, honey, flour and salt.

This time, I mix the batter using the paddle on my stand mixer. It takes just a minute or two. Then I switch out the paddle for the dough hook, knead two and a half  minutes with the speed set on 2, and let the dough rest five minutes.

I’m kneading only two minutes in this first knead because my mixer’s instruction manual says it can do the kneading in about half the time I could by hand. Will this shorter time improve the bread? Or will it make any difference at all?

While the dough rests, I clean up a bit, washing the ready bowls and dishes. I also grease my rising bowl with two teaspoons olive oil.

Two teaspoons olive oil in rising bowl

Two teaspoons olive oil in rising bowl

With the mixer speed still set on 2, I knead the dough five minutes more, then stop to do the windowpane test. The dough is too wet and sticky to stretch into a translucent film, so I add one tablespoon flour and knead four more minutes. When I stop to check it this time, the dough is tacky to the touch, not too moist, and makes a very nice windowpane.

Stretching the pliable dough long, I wrap it around itself and into a ball shape, drop it upside down in the bowl and twirl it upright, greasing the sides and top as I go. Then I set it in the oven to rise.

As soon as the rising bowl is in the oven, I refresh my starter, mark its beginning level with a blank label, and set it next to the bowl. I want to keep my starter volume at about two cups so I always have enough for another loaf of bread, muffins or pancakes when the mood strikes.

The starter doubles in volume in about an hour and forty minutes. I set it in the fridge and check the dough. It’s ready too, and since I started it rising while I fed the starter, it’s had a full two hours. Punching it down gently, I am frankly amazed at how soft and cushy it is. The scent is mildly sourdough and a little sweet. Is that a result of the yeastie beasties munching their way through all the sugars?

Two hours later, the dough is ready to shape into a loaf and set for the third and last rise. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to make a loaf from start to finish in one day.  Since I have plenty of time for the last rise and baking, I decide not to do a cold-rise in the refrigerator overnight.

The dough is sticky when I work it to shape a loaf. Did I not add enough flour? Is it too wet? The  more I work with it to get a nice, smooth loaf shape, the worse it looks. I’m afraid I will tear the long strands of gluten I need for a good rise, so I drop it in the pan as is, rub a little butter over the top to keep it moist, and set it, covered, in the oven.

After two hours, the dough has risen over the top of the pan, but one end seems to have torn and left a crooked mark. The rest of the surface is as rough as when I placed it in the pan. Nevertheless, I set the oven to preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and sit down to another project while I wait for the beep that tells me it’s ready.

Doughy loaf looks a teensy bit deflated after sitting atop the stove during my hour of neglect

Doughy loaf looks a teensy bit deflated after sitting atop the stove during my hour of neglect

Oops. An hour later, I realize I’ve become so engrossed in my project that I forgot to put the bread in the oven. Yikes! Not only have I wasted precious fossil fuel and contributed needlessly to carbon pollution and global warming, I’ve also allowed my loaf to deflate a bit. Rats.

After forty minutes baking, the bread is not quite ready. The thermometer reads  only 200 degrees. Back in the oven for another ten minutes. That last ten minutes brings the temperature to 208 degrees. Good enough. I set the loaf to cool and head for a good night’s rest. In the morning, we slice and taste.

An additional ten minutes baking brings the temp to 208 degrees

An additional ten minutes baking brings the temp to 208 degrees

At first glance, this ugly little loaf looks like a failure, but it turns out quite tasty. We all love it. While the slices are too small for sandwiches, we enjoy it just fine plain, as well as toasted with butter and honey.

I kneaded only two minutes before letting the dough rest for five. Next time, I will knead longer before the rest. I also did not give the dough a cold-rise overnight in the refrigerator. I will make sure I do that with the next loaf as well.

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