Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My no-knead sourdough bread

I've now been baking bread almost every week-end for well over 3 years and have tried many different recipes, including this one or that one, but also ciabattas, lardons breads, walnut and apricots breads, etc etc etc.

I've got several books just , including the "ultimate" The Bread Bible, a very concise and good book in French called Les recettes du boulanger : Pains et viennoiseries.

My current routine is to refresh my sourdough starter which I keep in a jar in the fridge on Thursday night, mix the ingredients together on Friday and bake on Saturday. I always keep some dough if it's a white bread to make pizzas for the Sunday night.

So far, I was using the proportion that Joanna gave me:
  • 675 g strong organic white bread flour + 75g organic rye flour, or any mix I like of different flours (such as spelt, malted, buckwheat, etc...) but keeping the total at 750g
  • 270 g sourdough starter, usually using rye flour or wholemeal or white bread flour -I keep them at around 100-120% hydratation, which is same weight water and flour or a bit more water
  • 495 g water
  • 15 g salt -regular, coarse sea salt doesn't make a difference except sprinkled on the crust
  • Note that you can also add up to 20% of "whatever": dried apricots and walnuts, sunflower and other seeds, lardons (pancetta cubes) and rosemary, etc...
The rest of the recipe is:
  • Knead for 15 mn (that's a whole blog post on the subject...)
  • Leave overnight to prove on a silicon sheet on an oven tray
  • Pre-heat the oven to the max (275 Celcius for me)
  • Bake for about 50-55 mn with a metal tray and 7-10 ice cubes on the oven bottom but NOT under the bread -makes it all soggy
  • Reduce heat to about 180 degrees after 20 mn
  • Wholemeal, spelt, rye breads take more time to bake: to see if they're done, tap on the bottom to hear if it sounds hollow, if not continue for 5-10 mn.

Now, 750 + 135 = 885 g flour for 495 + 135 = 630 g water, which is about 70% hydratation or 66% if you don't account for the sourdough starter.

Over this bank holiday WE, I've tried my new toy -a very nice electronic scale and have altered the proportions to go well over 70% hydratation:
  • I've kept the flour at about 750 g (using a mix of my favourite Dove's Organic StrongWhite Bread Flour and about half of the lovely Bacheldre Smoked Malted Flour)
  • However, largely due to a handling error I've ended up with over 320 g of starter
  • Thinking back of the "no-knead" NYT article I had read some time earlier, I decided to experiment and added about 600 g of water.
  • Now, this makes a very soggy dough which you can't knead -just leave proving for about 14-18 hours or thereabouts
  • Shape as best as you can trying to to add too much flour or you'll see the seams inside the bread
  • Mark and prove for 2 hours (on the photo, I had only the time to leave it for 1h but the result is still good).
  • Bake as above (again, on the picture, I did not have time to pre-heat the oven really hot, so the bread is softer but it's still OK, kids loved it)
  • The NYT recipe suggests baking it into a cast iron pan. I've tried it and like the result but prefers my bread to be more wonky and hand shaped. The ice cubes (thanks god I have an fridge with an ice machine) seem to do the job.
  • If you use yeast, either frest or dried, you need to reduce the proportions or your dough will deflate back due to the long proving time. You can also do a biga or a starter the day before with a bit of yeast and a 100% hydratation flour-water mixture.
  • Sourdough can be started but you need a week to develop it.


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