The following post, unlike usually, is not precisely a recipe.
Instead, it is a chance to show off this gorgeous sourdough bread I’ve baked a couple of days a go, and brag. Well, that and a rough sketch of the process which led to it, which is precisely what it is – a rough draft for a process that will, in the near future, become a recipe I could share with more confidence. In meantime, all this is, is a successful first try at creating my own sourdough bread recipe by eye and feel, rather than by following any precise measures or instructions from the many good sources I tend to use and like.
Since I’ve started playing around with wild yeast two months ago, I believe my sourdough-baking ability has improved sufficiently for me to want to experiment and find “the bread” recipe that would work for me and taste really, really good as everyday eating bread – and with the added benefit of the fact that long-fermented sourdough bread is scientifically shown to be lower-GI than regular yeasted bread made with the same-quality flour, and as such, of much interest to my sugar-sensitive self (and to anyone predisposed to type II diabetes).
Now, in general, I prefer strong flavors and I love cheese, herb, nut and meat breads, but for an all-round bread, those aren’t what is needed – rather, I want to develop a bread that I could happily replicate a couple of times a month and not get tired of.
With that in mind, I decided to experiment some. The starter I’ve used is my own 100% hydration Swedish-flour-grown wild yeast sourdough, which I keep in the refrigerator and feed any time I bake (which is a couple of times a month to once a week).
I refreshed the starter twice, to a total of about 300ml over a period of 24 hours (2x feedings), then added ~4 cups of high-protein wheat flour (12% protein ICA Vetemjöl special), 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, and approximately 2 cups of finger-warm water. All of the above was mixed and allowed to rest for about 10 minutes, then mixed again with dough-hook equipped hand mixer until gluten development. The result was a fairly soft dough, which I scraped onto a floured surface and kneaded a little by hand until it was silky and elastic. The dough was placed in an oiled bowl to bulk-ferment, and was taken out 3 times at 10-15 minute intervals to stretch-and-fold on an oiled surface (same countertop I’d used for kneading, but with flour cleaned off and surface washed, dried and oiled).
After this, I left the dough to ferment for approximately 3 hours until it doubled in bulk, then took it out again, cut it in half, gave it a little light kneading and shaped the two pieces into round boules, and placed them seam-side up into floured-towel lined colander and bowl (as I don’t own any banettons yet), and allowed this one to proof for 3 hours until doubled in size again (the other one got fridge-retarded overnight). (Note for the future – perhaps 1-2 hour longer bulk fermentation would benefit this. Alternatively, a longer final proof might not go amiss.)
For the baking, I preheated my oven to 230°C with my large enameled cast-iron dutch oven and its lid inside. My dutch oven has an enameled metal lid knob, but it was made by a company called Olive&Thyme, which is sadly no longer in business. However, I believe LeCreuset also offers metal knobs for their dutch ovens, and I think Chasseur do as well. Once the oven was up to the requisite temperature, I took the bloody hot dutch oven out of it (a pair of large oven mitts is a great help in manipulating the hot and heavy piece of cookware!), and placed it on a terry-towel covered sturdy naked-wood step stool – 1: it’s sturdy and thus unlikely to tip the bloody hot dutch oven onto my foot or become damaged from the heat, and 2: it placed said bloody hot dutch oven at a comfortably low height to carefully place the bread in it. I then inverted the bowl in which I was proofing my bread onto a piece of baking parchment, quickly slashed the top of it with a sharp knife, and gently lowered the baking parchment (held by its sides) into the dutch oven. I then covered it with its bloody hot lid, and popped it back into the oven.
Note: all the references to bloody hot in the above paragraph are to draw your attention to the fact that, having been preheated in a 230°C oven till shut-off, and considering the heat capacity properties of cast iron, it is something which will stay hot enough to sizzle your skin off if you touch it carelessly. So please, treat it as a caution – beware of the hot surfaces of the dutch oven and its lid, and I really, really don’t recommend doing this when small children are in the vicinity.
As per instructions from my crafty little brother, I baked it with the lid shut for 20 minutes, and then with the lid open and heat lowered to 190-200C for another 15 (though I think 10 would have sufficed as well), and cooled it on the rack. Resulting in the beautifully puffy and browned bread pictured above. The crumb was airy and light, and the crust crackled wonderfully as it cooled, resulting in what I will now strive to replicate under more controlled and measured conditions – my newly-named Stockholm Sourdough™ (recipe to follow in a week or two).