My 5th and 6th sourdough loaves were woeful. Not flat but a heavy crumb and most probably under-proven. The villain of the scene – my own impatience and ambition.
I wanted to thank a colleague for his help in carving a spurtle, a traditional Scottish tool used to stir porridge, soups and stews. With less surface area than a wooden spoon, less porridge sticks to the tool itself. Currently I use a chopstick to mix my starter and my dough for that exact same reason.
I intend to use the more sturdy, more hefty hand-crafted spurtle to incorporate the flour and water. I may even carve a mini version to mix my starter. Back to the sourdough.
Bake two, gift one
I know that my schedule of baking is steady and slow. To develop my practical craft and improve my home-baking consistency, I want to bake more, and more frequently. We have “staff bread club” coming soon and a potential evening session “An introduction to baking yeast bread” in partnership with a small local Bistro – exciting. Meantime, I am also looking to adopt a “bake two, gift one,” outline that is very much a part of the sourdough community philosophy. That good intention, to bake two sourdoughs, was my downfall.
My “bake one, gift one,” plan was scuppered by the fact I can not fit both my small oval and medium round dutch ovens side-by-side in our oven at the same time. (Back to checking the charity shops… nothing today, but I have offered a finders fee, the first sourdough loaf baked in the dish, if one is successfully found and put by). This meant, I would need to bake the sourdough loaves one after the other.
Second, having run out of flour and needing fuel, I headed to Tesco (which also has a petrol station) and not Aldi to buy my flour and fuel. I bought Tesco’s Strong Flour (11.7% protein) rather than Aldi Pantry Flour (12% protein) – a small difference that probably had little impact, but a difference nevertheless.
I fulfilled all the same steps of my home-baking schedule; feed, incorporate, autolyse, fold, bulk ferment-retard, fold-prove, retard, prove, shape and bake. However it is probably, that I returned the dough to the fridge too soon, before it had doubled in size (50-75%), when I got home from work during the fold-prove. Second, against the clock in the morning, now having to bake two sourdough one after the other, I paid the price of ambition – who it turns out is a very unforgiving teacher. The oven had barely reached it’s temperature 230C before I added the sourdough (time ticking) and I was all too eager to get the second sourdough in. Was the dutch-oven sufficiently pre-heated? Should the dutch oven have gone back in and the oven re-heated before the second loaf went in? Either way – oven temperature and pre-heating schedules may well be yet another variable.
Knowing the dough had not proved sufficiently, I should have waited, scaled back, left one dough out of the fridge to warm and prove on the side for as long as possible and put the other back in the fridge oven for baking later that day. Dough is actually reported to benefit from a long retard, in addition to flavour, reducing the phytic acid and making it better digestible – if a little less springy (10-20).
The first sourdough was heavy, had little spring and a dense almost gummy crumb.
The second sourdough, that benefited from an extra hour ambient proving whilst the first sour baked, faired only a little better. At dinner, I warmed the second sourdough and declared it a sourdough failure. What I actually said was, “It was rubbish.” Olly (8) replied, “It is not rubbish. It tastes good, but you have baked better.” Olly proceeded to pull out and eat the crumb of three thick slices. I added his unwanted crust to my salad – panzanella style.
Friday night: Home from work, I prepared my 8th sourdough mix. Same starter. A different ambient schedule; feed, incorporate, autolyse, fold, bulk ferment, retard (11pm-8am), shape and bake. (No need for a morning prove, it had proven the night before and overnight).
What a difference a little patience makes.