Friday, December 30, 2016

The great sourdough experiment continues

The best way to eat this stuff. Forget slicing, just tear it off the loaf.

After watching an episode of one of Andrew Zimmern's food/travel shows that spent some time inside the Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, I decided I wanted to try their method of baking sourdough bread. As you may know, this is an ongoing experiment and perhaps, obsession, with me.

First, their dough coming out of the mixer/kneader was quite stiff, which is where mine has been headed but I was pleased to see theirs, as it gave me something to aim for. This was what mine looked like this time, right out of the mixer/kneader. Still not quite as stiff as theirs, but nice and stiff and holding its shape.

I was surprised to see on the show that their machines formed the fresh dough right into balls that went into individual pans (on a long production line) that then went into cool/cold fermentation for 24 hours. They, of course, have large rooms environmentally controlled for the exact temp and humidity for this. I have a refrigerator. Initially, I put the balls on their baking sheet, covered with cloth then loose plastic wrap. After awhile, it seemed that they were spreading too much, so I removed them and put them into mixing bowls of the proper size, to stop the spreading and encourage them to grow upward. They were refrigerated for almost 24 hours and I didn't notice much real change in them. But, out of the fridge in the early morning to sit in my cool kitchen for a couple of hours to warm up. While I was moving them from pan to bowls, I kneaded them a touch to be sure the yeasties were well-distributed.

After several bits of indecision and moving the balls from bowls to the baking sheet for proofing, and after a few hours of rising, I slashed them and put them into the hot oven. As deeply as these were slashed, above, they bloomed so quickly that I think I should have slashed even more deeply.

My favorite slashing pattern -- look at all that good webbing in there!

Naturally, I let it cool a bit then sliced one loaf open. The crumb is lovely. Moist and springy and light. But, I'd like to see more and bigger holes here, from the bubbles that happen naturally as the sourdough ferments. Something to figure out for next time. The top of the proofing loaves dried out just a touch, which may have kept them from rising until I slashed them.

Whatever little criticisms I may have, I do think this is my best effort yet. This was utterly delicious and totally devourable. And I did devour it, before the day was over. They are not huge loaves. I think some  past efforts may have had more of a sour flavor, but if they did it was not much more so. I know this is lighter and fluffier and overall, better. I gave the other two loaves to a friend, who'd arranged to stop by with wine last night, possibly drawn by the promise of bread to take home.šŸ˜‰

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