Earlier this week I wrote about our venture into sourdough baking here at HA. I began growing a batch of sourdough starter, using whole wheat flour. For the first few days, the starter didn’t look like much, but I kept on feeding and stirring. By day 5, the starter was alive and bubbling. It had a yeasty, fruity aroma and was starting to develop a sour, tangy taste. It was time to start thinking about making something with it!
After consulting our library of baking books, I decided to make the Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat from King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking book. This is a basic whole wheat bread, using only the starter, flour (whole wheat and unbleached), honey, salt and water. There are lots of other sourdough recipes I am anxious to make, but for now I wanted a fairly simple and straightforward loaf of bread. This recipe also gave me a chance to use our brotforms.
Since this bread uses only the starter for leavening (no commercial yeast), a little planning ahead was necessary. I made the dough in the morning, and let it rise for about a total of 2-1/2 hours. Then I divided the dough into two pieces, shaped them and put them into the heavily floured brotforms. I covered them and let them rise for another 2-1/2 hours. Then it was time to turn them out onto a piece of parchment paper. A quick slashing of the loaves and they were in the oven and onto the hot pizza stone.
It made for some tasty bread, if I do say so myself. My wife agrees. I gave it a steam treatment which made for a nice crunchy crust. And the bread has a pleasant tangy flavor. The starter should develop even more flavor with time.
The wet, slack dough made for a great open crumb. It made also made for a couple of nice, rustic looking loaves that cost a couple of dollars or so to make. I held back a bit of the starter, fed it with whole wheat flour and water, and now it is bubbling away on the kitchen counter.
I plan on putting the starter in the refrigerator until I am ready to use it again. I’ve got my eye on several other recipes I want to try. But for now we have our daily bread, still warm from the oven, and I am happy with how our little sourdough experiment is going so far. I’ll be back with more bread tales as they develop.