Earlier this week I bragged on baking a beautiful bread. Little did I know that I would eclipse that bread in so short a time. And yet, here is today’s loaf:
This enormous loaf weighs less than two pounds. It is the lightest bread I’ve ever made, one of the lightest I’ve ever eaten. Just look at the cracks in the crust where the oven spring was more than the gluten skin could handle. And check out this lovely crumb:
Good holes all the way to the bottom, no dense lower half. This bread was magnificent, and the baking accomplished with the wonderful dutch oven once again.
I can’t really give you a recipe, because I just made it up as I went along. But I started by double-feeding my sourdough starter the night before so that I use take two full cups of sourdough starter in the baking. To that I added 6 oz. water and half a teaspoon of yeast (I don’t have an issue with using yeast in my sourdough bread, because I’m raising it more for the flavor than for the rising capability). Into that went 11 oz. of King Arthur All-Purpose Flour, and then a long autolyse before adding oil and salt in the kneading.
A word about flour: if you want light bread, use King Arthur AP. It has a protein content higher than some companies’ bread flours, but not so high that the gluten gets tough. Their AP. bread, and whole wheat flours are readily available in grocery stores, but they also have a great website with lots of baking goodies, specialty flours, and recipes. Many bakers consider a visit to their Vermont headquarters a kind of voyage to Mecca.
Anyway, this dough was springy and pliant with just a few minutes of kneading, and just wouldn’t stop rising. I flattened and folded it after 20 minutes, and at 40 minutes it was already doubled in size. I gave it another 20 minutes, and it was clearly ready for shaping and proofing. After an hour it was almost too big for my dutch oven.
Not quite too big, though. The dutch oven is kind of fun, because you don’t peak for the first half hour, so discovering how much oven spring you get is like a Christmas present.
In this case, the answer was, “plenty.” And it tasted as good as it looks: crisp crust and tender crumb, a hint of sour but also plenty of wheat flavor.
Maintaining a sourdough is a bit of work, but bread like this is a definite reward.