Here we go...Charlotte and Spice is going to be a bit different this time around! I have decided to try and make bread. So chances are you will be following my progress, good or bad, as I go through the process.
For starters, I have decided not to use yeast, but my very own Levain, or Sourdough Starter. This means that it will be at least 6 days before I can even think about the actual bread.
Growing your own starter is nothing more than a chemistry experiment! You mix flour and water, keep it warm and watch the reaction!
A few words of advice...The water you use must not be chlorinated. I used the filtered water from my refrigerator. It must be lukewarm. If too cold, warm it up in the microwave for a few seconds.
The temperature of the room for the starter to grow must be between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
I am now on day 4 and all is well!
Mix 4 oz whole wheat flour with 4 oz flour in a non reactive bowl. I used a glass container.
Cover loosely with plastic film and let rest at a temperature of 68-70F.
You will have to feed the starter twice today. Try to feed at regular intervals. 9 am and 9pm seem to work well for me.
For each feeding, discard all but 4 oz starter and add 1/2 cup tepid water and 4oz flour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature.
Repeat day 2 for days 3, 4 and 5.
You only need to feed your starter once today.
After feeding the starter, let rest at room temperature for about 6 hours.
The starter should be bubbly and should have risen.
You can now keep the starter in the fridge and feed it once a week, letting it rest at room temperature for 6 hours before refrigerating it.
Now that was the easy part!!!
Making the bread however is another story. I have spent the last few weeks studying recipes from all over the web...not two are the same...!
And it takes a lot of timing...you can not just decide to bake the bread at the last minute! The starter has to be fed, the bread dough requires several steps, with hours of resting, or proofing, in between.
Patience is key!!!
My first experiment was not really a success.
I fed the starter in the morning and was going to bake the actual bread the next day. So far so good.
I went to work - I was closing the restaurant that day - and at midnight, when I got back, I realized I had to start making the dough. It had to proof overnight. Here I am kneading the dough for at least 10 minutes, shaping the dough and, as instructed, transferring it to a bowl and let to proof.
I went to bed.
In the morning, I divide the proofed dough in 3 loaves, stretch the doughs, transfer them to floured bowls and back to proof. The loaves did rise, but nothing extravagant...
Time for the oven. I transferred the loaves to sheet pans lined with parchment paper. I do not own the special bread basket that bakers use to bake their breads so i improvised.
As I transferred to loaves, they deflated. Pouf!!
I decided then to let them proof again, hoping they will rise back...well, they did but just a bit.
Never mind...I baked the loaves.
The bread came out shaped like...frisbees.
Taste was ok, texture was ok...but it was not what I had expected.
There is a lot of room for improvement!!!
A couple of months later and many loaves eaten, I can now affirm that I can bake bread!! And a pretty good one too!
I used Clothilde Dessoulier's 1-2-3 method. (author of "Chocolate and Zucchini").
200 grams starter
400 grams water
600 grams flours (75 grams rye, 225 grams whole wheat and 300 grams bread flour)
10 grams salt
The night before I plan on baking the bread, I take the starter out of the fridge, feed it as usual - equal parts starter, water and flour - and leave it out.
In the morning I start the bread by measuring 200 grams of the starter. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 400 grams of luke warm filtered water and 600 grams of flours. With the hook attachment, mix on low speed (2) for about one minute.
Let rest for about 30 minutes.
Now you add the salt. DO NOT FORGET!!! I forgot once and the bread had no taste!
Mix on med-low speed for 7 to 10 minutes. The dough should come off the sides of the bowl.
Cover with a towel and let rest for an hour or two.
After that time has elapsed, fold the dough over itself with a sturdy spoon.
Let rest for another couple of hours. If you have time and remember, repeat this last step once more.
Flour a flat surface and transfer the dough on it. With a bench scraper, pull and fold the dough like a letter, int three. Do this twice.
Oil and flour a souffle dish (round and high). Place the bread in it and cut a cross on the top, with a sharp knife.
Set the oven for 460F, with 2 racks. On the bottom rack, place a dish with water. Place the bread on the top rack.
Start the oven and bake for one hour.
The bread, when turned over, should sound hollow when tapped.
Let cool and rest over night. Enjoy at breakfast with butter and jam, or with cheese and wine!!!