Saturday, 29 October 2011

Today's batch

Last weekend I realised that I needed to get a new sack of strong white flour as I was scraping the bottom of the barrel with the current one. During the week I called up Shipton Mill and paid for a fresh 25kg sack, then popped up to fetch it from Frampton during my lunch break on Friday. I wobbled upstairs with it over my shoulder when I got home and stashed it in the Flour Storage Area (spare spare bedroom). As I wrestled it into position, I tried to think how long I'd had the old one, but couldn't quite remember. It was only later, when I came across the first invoice, that I realised that I'd used up 25 whole kilos in the space of eight weeks. I know I've been a busy baker but this did surprise me. Let's see how long the new one lasts...

Today I decided to go for sourdough with a vengeance, making a couple of loaves from each of my three mothers. I also chose to try out a couple of new flours from my stash.

First dough was Peter Cook's recipe for a rye-ish sourdough loaf and which I've done before. I used some Wessex Mill wholemeal rye for the first time in this. The dough was quite firm and easy to work. As with all the loaves this time, I left them to prove free form on the worktop, no bannetons this week.

Second dough used a white sourdough mother with Bacheldre Mill oak smoked. I picked this one up out of interest and wasn't at all sure how it would come out and whether the smokiness would compete with the sourdoughness or whether they'd work together. I stinted a bit on the water for this one as I've become very wary of proved loaves collapsing on turning out/slashing and this doesn't seem to happen with less-hydrated doughs. However, I've lost my lovely holes too. I think I need to be brave enough to hydrate fully and take care not to over prove.

Third dough was another white sourdough mother with half Shipton Mill Baker's No. 1 (new sack vintage) and half Wessex Mill wholemeal spelt. Again I was a bit reticent with the water.

I left all the dough to bulk ferment for five hours, then proved for an hour and a half/two hours ten minutes depending on where they were in the queue for the oven. They all proved nicely and were easy to lift onto the peel, no collapsing today. I slashed each type of dough differently so that I could identify them with confidence afterwards, and today I was really pleased with the slashing, it came out really nicely.

I baked one loaf on the top shelf with two on the bottom, and to avoid too dark a crust I tried turning the heat down by ten degrees after fifteen or twenty minutes, turning the top loaf around by a hundred and eighty degrees as I did so. The top loaf still was much darker than the bottom ones both times, and the bottoms of all the loaves were quite soft. I don't know if this was because of the lowering of the temperature, or because I chucked a thick layer of semolina on the worktop when I left them proving so they wouldn't stick, and this got in the way of the dough making proper contact with the granite in the oven. More tweaking required...

As you'll see in the pictures, there were no proper sourdoughy holes in the loaves, so although they looked great on the outside (and they are yummy), there is still work to be done. And I'm not getting the temperature/length of bake quite right. I'd like them to be beautifully done but not so dark. I wonder is this the penalty you get with a fan oven?

The rye-ish one is delish - that recipe is a reliable one for producing a tasty loaf. The oaky smoky one tastes very smoky to me, but not at all to Tallboy. It's not an unpleasant taste, but it's a bit of a surprise. I think it would work best in a bread that you'd eat with some strong cheese or a hearty soup. The spelt loaf is very tasty indeed, although I chickened out and went down the half and half route. I'll have a go at a 100% one again at some point. Probably.

My day's work

Oaky smoky sourdough

Rye-ish sourdough

Half spelt, half not spelt sourdough

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