Well, I can finally say, “I did it!” after several years of varied experimentation with sourdough, I have finally achieved what I was aiming for. I really can’t believe it.
I experimented with high hydration doughs, low hydration doughs, all kinds of different formulations of doughs, timing, temperatures, autolyse, no autolyse, flour blends, different starters, motherdoughs,etc. If you look back in this blog you will find so many different experiments including some that were not too successful. It is a kind of history of my love affair and addiction to sourdough baking. I was very much stuck on wet or high hydration doughs for a very long time. I experimented with lower and medium hydration doughs too, but I was pretty much stuck on high hydration doughs. Recently, I became more driven to accomplish what I have been aiming for, that is, a San Francisco style sourdough that was light, airy, sour, with a crisp, crunchy crust and the wonderful color and flavor I fantasized had to be possible. I aspired to accomplish this in a home setting with a boring, plain oven and whatever I could come up with for tools. I shared my experimentation on my blog and started a small at home business selling collected sourdough starters and sourdough baking equipment. I can tell you I have never had so much fun and experienced so much passion over something. I know a lot of you are addicted to sourdough baking and getting the elusive “perfect loaf”. I know because I have had literally hundreds of emails asking me questions and hoping for help. I started a sourdough forum for that reason.
Anyway to get back to the ultimate loaves. On the forum , we had recently been discussing the “sour” factor of sourdough bread and how difficult it was to acheive consistantly, in a white sourdough loaf. I have also been working on putting together my book on my “Sourdough Discovery” and have a group of testers working on testing the recipes. Some of the recipes dealt with my favorite “Motherdough” recipes. The flavor of motherdough sourdough so outstrips the competition, that you just can’t compare it to regular sourdough breads. But I wasn’t getting a consistant “sour.” I was doing a lot of research for my book and have Michael Suas book on “Advanced Bread and Pastry”, Raymond Calvel’s book on “The Taste of Bread” and the expensive, important book by Karel Kulp and Klaus Lorenz , “Handbook of Dough Fermentations”, which shares the work done by Frank Sugihara, and many other scientists and microbiologists, on the scientific side of fermenting dough and starters. Invaluable stuff! I learned about when the dough was capable of producing the most acetic acid, which helped me in my technique. I learned about keeping starters at the right temperature to promote the growth of the bacteria which produces the flavor in sourdough breads. I was challenged by Arthur in the forum to come up with a “sour” in sourdough bread. So I was working on lower hydration motherdoughs at 60 and 70 percent hydration. They were really beautiful loaves with great flavor:
60% Motherdough Test
60% Motherdough Test Crumb
I was close, but the sour was light to moderate and sometimes not there. No consistancy in the “sour”.
Then came this test:
Griffin’s Sourdough: (named after my grandson)
I began to experiment with higher temperatures in dough fermentation. My work in that area was confirmed when I read the book on “Handbook of Dough Fermentations” (named above). I jury rigged my dishwasher to use as a proofing cabinet. When I turned on the heating cycle for so many minutes, I was able to get a temperature between 80 -90 degrees. I added some coffee cups to the top rack to help hold in warmth and used the bottom rack to hold the proofing dough. Perfect! The humidity is also great in the dishwasher when you add a little water to the bottom.
I mixed up a motherdough at 60% hydration using my San Francisco starter and fermented it for several days.I mixed up the dough using the regular autolyse. Then I put the dough into a dough folding trough. I put the whole trough with lid into the heated dishwasher. I had a thermometer in the dishwasher and turned the heating coil back on whenever the temperature fell too low. I kept the dough warm for several hours. Mixed dough ready to bulk ferment
Motherdough fermented in the refrigerator
I mixed up the dough using the regular autolyse. Then I put the dough into a dough folding trough. I put the whole trough with lid into the heated dishwasher. I had a thermometer in the dishwasher and turned the heating coil back on whenever the temperature fell too low. I kept the dough warm for several hours.
Finished dough ready to ferment
When the dough looked like this, I folded it:
Dough ready to fold
That was around every 45 minutes or so. When the dough was done bulk fermenting, I shaped it and put it into bannetons:
dough in bannetons
I covered the dough in plastic bags and put it into the refrigerator at 44F degrees overnight. It rose slowly overnight. I have a dedicated refrigerator, you would have different results at temperatures below 40 degrees. Next day I took out the loaves one by one and put them back into the preheated dishwasher. I proofed them between 80 – 90 degrees until ready to bake. I baked in a preheated oven with the roasting pan method
. I baked at lower temperatures than I have been using. 425F to start with and then turned down to 400F degrees, I then baked longer than usual, 35 – 40 minutes depending on the size of the loaf.
The results were the lightest, fluffiest, holey, soft crumb, with a crisp thin crusty crust. The flavor and sour were so incredibly good that I had people’s eyes pop in wonder and many nice expletives spoken. Just the smell of the bread made me exclaim, “No way!”
No, I cannot do justice to this bread when I try to describe it, you had to have been there, you had to have tasted it.
Griffin's Crumb Closeup
Seeing how fluffy and light weight the crumb is:
See the thickness Sorry about the blur
This was a low hydration dough at 61 % hydration, and it achieved that holey, light fluffy crumb! These two pound loaves felt like maybe a pound each, they were so light.
So much for having to have a high hydration dough to obtain those wonderful holes! So much for low temperatures to obtain the sour! No wonder, we home bakers had a hard time obtaining a good sour, no wonder I didn’t have consistant results. Jeesh, if I could have just thought outside the box much earlier!! I wish I could bake each one of you a loaf, so you could taste it for yourself. I have the recipe and technique down pat and will continue to experiment with the timing and temperatures. I have replicated the first results with a second batch. Here is another batch of Griffen’s Sourdough Bread. San Francisco move over…. !
This is the second batch of Griffen’s Bread:
This batch was even better, it had a crisp crackly crust that shattered when I tried to take pictures, breaking off blisters:
Griffin's Sourdough Bread
Now don’t begrudge me day of happiness! I have never had any professional training(yes, I would love to have professional training but can’t afford it), I don’t have a Jenn Aire or super duper oven with steam injection, jeesh, my oven doesn’t even have digital anything or self cleaning(yes, I aspire to owning a great oven with steam injection). I am just a home baker like many of you. I started out several years ago baking bricks, just like many of you. So share in my happiness, and may all of you bake “that perfect loaf” too.