this loaf in several words: 67% whole wheat, 80% hydration and minimal interaction
I had put together this post over the summer as I was getting very consistent results with my usual sourdough loaf (though not the loose craggy crumb I dream of!). And if I’m to continue following along current pandemic-baking trends, sourdough is up next, given that many have trouble finding yeast plus newfound time to nurse slow-growing loaves of bread.
But this is a, hmm, casual sourdough, shall we say? It was something I developed when facilitating my inattentiveness and impatience was a priority. The features: single rise and some cheating with the shaping. I really mean the “minimal interaction” part.
I titled this post, “my (current) favourite” back in the summer when I wrote it. I revived my sourdough starter recently (hello again Barty!), and the loaves that I’m making now are not this bread. I’m taking a slower pace, and a renewed interest in techniques that I generally avoided. Like practicing shaping without deflating. Oh and kneading, something I dumped as soon as I was able to in my rather tenuous and unimpressive bread-making journey.
So, my go-to loaf from a different time and a bit of a different world. Not ardently whole wheat (67%) and definitely not too serious.
Not as in solely no-knead, but also minimal interaction in the shaping and transferring to the oven too – because I find the more I handle the dough, the more deflated it gets!
I started to do this a while ago, more out of accidental laziness than anything. My first teacher of bread baking was the Fresh Loaf where I had read about autolyzing – make the dough without any salt and let it rest for a while before kneading. The dough’s little nap allows the water to become absorbed and for some of the gluten to begin developing so that the dough is already less sticky and quite soft and stretchy by the time you start kneading it. I also read about giving the dough a fold in order to develop the gluten from other sources… and well I didn’t like kneading bread because it was tiring and it seemed that the dough did just as good a job sitting on its own than when I half-heartedly kneaded it. And even if you do want to knead the dough, I still recommend letting it have a nice rest before you start – because then you start from such a nicer place in terms of gluten development, which means much less work for you.
This is also a quite handy for wet doughs, which can be a bit of a hassle to knead.
Once I started trying it, I realized that I quite like this single rise method. First of all there is practicality as sometimes my sourdough starter is terribly slow. But also the initial rise – and its role in developing flavour and gluten – is already sort of accomplished by the sourdough starter, of which I use a large percentage (33%).
After the process of gluten development is finished, I shape the dough into a ball and set it in a bowl to rise. After the dough has risen, it will still be a bit sticky, but less so – mostly tacky, which will allow you to scrape the dough out of the bowl with considerable ease. You can grease the bowl, but it’s not necessary and I don’t like the finish it gives to the crust of the bread.
The shaping technique, for a dough scraped out from a bowl, was inspired by Meyer’s Bakery by Claus Meyer.
hello sourdough starter
I keep my sourdough at 100% hydration (which means 100g water for every 100g of flour) as it’s so much easier to work with – you just need to stir in water and flour to feed it instead of kneading.
Keep in mind that because this recipes uses a lot of sourdough starter, this is a recipe for a healthy sourdough starter – happily bubbling and consistently fed (see above for Bartholomew at his finest). This is not so much for the times your sourdough starter is getting a bit funky and has broken down into a liquid sludge.
I don’t really bother with steam anymore – especially when you cover your bread, steam pans and spray bottles don’t do much! The most I’ll do is drip some water on the parchment around the bread before I cover it, though sometimes it makes splotches on the side of the bread.
- 100% flour (67% whole wheat, 33% all-purpose)
- 2% salt
- 33% sourdough starter
- 80% water
whole wheat sourdough
- 200g whole wheat flour
- 100g all-purpose flour
- 12g wheat gluten (or use bread flours)
- 6g kosher salt
- 100g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration
- 240g water
For a rather indolent sourdough starter that tends to spend its time in the fridge, feed it the night before and leave it out on the countertop overnight to bubble and rise, then make the dough in the morning.
2. Making the dough:
Whisk together the flours, salt and wheat gluten. Add the water and sourdough starter and stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Cover with a damp towel and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
3. Gluten development
Wet your hands to prevent the dough from sticking, then begin the process of developing the gluten. I don’t have a specific way of doing this – I tend to do one of the following three ways:
- Folds – these are the proper sort of folds (the follow two techniques are lazy estimations of this) where you fold the dough like an envelop first in the vertical orientation, then in the horizontal orientation.
- Fold in the bowl – or you can use a plastic dough scraper to pick up the dough from one side of the bowl and drape it over itself, turning the bowl 90 degrees and repeating a few times.
- Fold and wash the fewest dishes possible – or, what I usually do, is pick up the dough and fold it onto itself to form a ball with tight surface tension, stopping when the strands of gluten start to break.
All of these accomplish the same thing, which is to help the gluten develop.
Cover the dough again, let rest for another 15-30 minutes and repeat. I repeat this whole process anywhere from 2-4 times depending on how much time I have. As it takes a while, this also sort of functions as an initial rise. You’ll see the dough transform from shaggy to wonderfully smooth and stretchy.
For the dough’s one and only rise (or proof), fetch a clean bowl. Shape the dough into a tight ball (see below) and place seam side down in the bowl to rise. Cover with a damp towel.
I always find it hard to tell whether something has doubled, especially when its in an irregular shape like a bowl. Instead what I do is wet a finger, then poke the dough and look for the dough to spring back slowly and leave a bit of an indent. If the dough springs back right away, it is not sufficiently risen. If the dough doesn’t spring back at all, it’s risen too much – not the end of the world of course, but it may mean that the dough deflates when you try to score it and may not have very much ovenspring. I find that how long this takes depends a lot on how active the sourdough starter is – it could be a few hours or it could be 6 hours. Either way, this is the time to finally leave the house after coddling the dough for so long.
5. Oven set up
As I bake the bread with a cover (a metal bowl or something like a cloche), leave in only the bottom rack to give yourself plenty of headroom. Place a baking stone in the oven on the bottom rack.
Preheat the oven to 500F. Once heated, proceed with shaping.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a rimless baking pan and dust with flour (important so that the dough doesn’t stick so you can shape it properly with minimal interaction). Using a plastic scraper – mine is cut from a yoghurt container lid and it has the perfect degree of flexibility – to scrape the dough from the bowl onto the parchment. Try to knock minimal air out of the dough as you do so.
With fingers either sprinkled with water or dusted with flour (as either will keep your fingers from sticking), grasp one edge of the dough and fold the dough over onto itself to make an oblong form. You can lift up the parchment paper on the side of the fold to help roll the dough slightly onto the seam.
Use a sharp knife, lame or razor to score the bread at a shallow angle along the length of the loaf. I usually do a fairly deep cut and thus need to go over it a couple of times.
Pick up the tray and slide the parchment (with the dough on top of it) onto the preheat stone. Cover with a metal bowl or a cloche. Turn the temperature down to 450F.
Bake for 10 minutes covered, then remove the cover. Bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the bread is crusty and deeply browned. Check the internal temperature if you like – it should be over 190F, around 200F.
Let cool on a wire rack. Be sure to let the bread cool completely before cutting it open – I usually wait overnight.