Friday, June 27, 2008

Five Minute Sourdough Bread: An Experiment

Of course any sourdough bread is going to take more than five minutes. But it is an attempt to convert the basic recipe for Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (ABI5MAD) into sourdough and that is the best title I could come up with. It kicks the butt of "ABI5MAD Sourdough".

I am using this starter. When I feed it, I feed it with 125g King Arthur all purpose flour and 1/2 cup of bottled spring water (or multiples thereof). If for some reason you felt compelled to attempt to repeat this experiment and you use a starter with different ratios of flour to water you may need to adjust the recipe. My starter lives in this crock, because my starter is cool. I need to get my starter some sunglasses.

The flour proportions were easy to calculate, but I had to make some guesses when it came to yeast. I decided that adding yeast was good because the real magic of ABI5MAD is that I can grab a handful of dough out of the fridge and have a fresh loaf in an hour and a half (most of that time unattended). I want that dependability. But I decreased the yeast a little because the sourdough culture already has a bunch. It was a total shot in the dark, really.

I used tepid water for the rise to avoid heat shocking the sourdough culture. I don't care so much if this rise takes longer as long as I don't have to wait years to proof the loaves when it comes time to bake. Plus this will theoretically allow more flavor to develop. Will it be too much flavor?

Took 238g starter from the fridge and added half a cup of water in the bottom of my 6qt plastic container. Stirred to dissolve, then mixed in 125g of all purpose flour. Fermented overnight, about 10 hours. (did the same to my starter and put it back in the fridge in the morning)

In the morning, added 2 cups of tepid water (room temperature plus a tiny bit) that had 1T granulated yeast and 1 1/2T kosher salt dissolved in it. Stirred to mix. Then added 533g of King Arthur bread flour (all purpose is probably fine too). Mixed with a wooden spoon until everything was completely wet and there were no dry spots.

Allowed to proof until the dough started to collapse. Since the water was cooler than normally used for ABI5MAD, this took longer than usual. I let it go around 4 hours.

Then I used the dough as I would the basic boule dough from ABI5MAD.

Day 0 - a mini boule.

I felt the need to test the dough right away. As usual with ABI5MAD doughs the fresh dough was wicked wet and sticky. I managed to form a fairly rustic looking boule. It came out prettier than I deserved. It was a fairly flat loaf, again like most of my ABI5MAD loaves. It tastes great. Lovely crisp crust with a moist chewy/creamy crumb that I associate with sourdough. But it isn't at all sour despite being almost 1/3 starter culture by weight. It doesn't really taste like "sourdough". It is moister and creamier than the standard ABI5MAD boule. It is much less resilient and much less sour than say, a Bodin loaf. And a LOT less round. :-)

Still, a very satisfying result for a first try. It's tasty.

Day 1 - A classic sourdough

Today we are going to take a break from the experiment. Sort of. I decided that I need a more classic sourdough to compare the ABI5MAD loaves to, so I baked one. We also had sourdough pancakes for breakfast. Yum.

By the way, what's the deal with all of the "classic sourdough bread" recipes on the 'net that have baking soda in them? Yikes. This has none of that. Flour. Water. Salt.

The classic bread is pure sourdough (no commercial yeast), about 6 1/2 cups of flour , 2 cups of water (both including the starter contents) and a tablespoon of kosher salt, for a single large round loaf. I took my time with it. Refreshed the starter overnight, then built it up with a couple cups of the flour for 8 hours. Then the usual (mixed ingredients, kneaded, raised, punched, formed loaf, raised, slashed, spritzed (the loaf rising was long enough that I wanted to make sure that the crust had a moist start in the oven), and baked with steam). It took all day. Most of it unattended, but still much more effort than ABI5MAD.

As would be expected, the dough was much more manageable than the ABI5MAD dough. It was easy to knead (thank you Kitchen Aide), easy to form, and shockingly easy to slash well (the sticky dough for ABI5MAD is kind of hard to slash and I have gotten used to it).

The loaf is pretty and almost perfectly formed, despite the fact that Deb almost leaned on it. The crumb is dense and moist and chewy, much more like a Boudin loaf. Sour enough to know for sure that you are eating sourdough, but not overwhelming. A highly pleasing bread.

I would happily munch on either of these loaves, but the classic would be my choice if I wanted to make sandwiches. Or an impression. It is a fine bread. It wins for eating, no doubt.

But the ABI5MAD dough is still in the fridge. I can bake more fresh tomorrow. Or the next day. It wins by a lot in the flexibility category. And being less perfect it has more character, I suppose.

The photos may not do the classic loaf justice. I finished it so late that natural light wasn't an option without a tripod and the flash and angle of the shot make it look a bit flat and misshapen. It was neither.

Day 2

Breakfast was a big slab of sourdough bread with butter. Well, OK, two big slabs. I couldn't help it. And a latte, of course. It occurred to me while munching on this lovely fresh bread that shelf life is something I should consider when evaluating the ABI5MAD dough. Sourdough and poolish made breads tend to keep longer, so will the ABI5MAD sourdough keep well? To test this, I'll have to bake a loaf big enough to last for a couple days. But not until we eat most of the giant classic loaf. So not today.

Day 3

No baking today. Leave me alone.

(Well, OK, I made pizza dough, but that has nothing to do with this experiment. It's not even sourdough. Go away.)

Day 4

I took 2/3 of the remaining dough out to form a largish loaf. Right away I noticed that the dough was even wetter and stickier than usual. I managed to form a relatively attractive loaf. But as the loaf sat waiting to be baked, it started to "melt". It just oozed itself away. I dusted, slashed, and baked the puddle anyway. The slashes completely disappeared, sealed back into the gooey dough.

When I cut into it, it seemed surprisingly like normal bread. A decent cell structure. It smelled nice and "sourdoughy". It tasted OK too - at first. But the aftertaste is a sour that just won't go away. I really like sour sourdough, but this was way too much.

This is what a completely failed experiment looks like:

Even if I could solve the structural problems by adding more flour or something, I think the flavor problem makes this a lost cause. No five minute sourdough, sorry.

But if you have the time, classic sourdough isn't all that hard and it is delicious and the basic ABI5MAD is very good and very flexible. I wanted to demonstrate how flexible by making sourdough pita tonight, but I won't be doing that with this dough.


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