Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fundamental Seeds

I've been thinking about my path in life more than usual these past odd days. I blame it on the fact that my hands have been plunged into buckets of dough. There is something about its coolness, perhaps the alchemical quality of flour meets water, that urges one into meditative efforts to excavate the crags of the spirit and somehow shed light over the lesser traversed areas. It's almost like descending into a root cellar armed with a nothing more than a flickering candle and an objective curiosity. There are cobwebs, to be sure, but mostly there is a wholly open space, dark, with a perfume that suggests that it has been overlooked, or simply not yet discovered. Regardless the murky quality, it is peopled with small creatures that have kept it energized, spiders and such, benign spirits whose soft footfall remind that though bleak, it is a space that can indeed foster life. More than that, it is a place where life flourishes, even if quietly and most primally. This undercurrent of subterraneous activity constantly in flux, awaiting an ignition so that its powerful essence can be pulled to the forefront instead of remaining shadow to more familiar constructs. Perhaps the descent into this place will augment  one's self-understanding and lead to a more informed brand of life. For, when our personal landscape broadens, a certain fear diminishes. We become more competently ourselves and increase the capacity to live a life that is most intrinsically our own.

I do not profess to be meditatively advanced. Au contraire, I have struggled with meditation over the years because I do not have a confident relationship with subtlety. I confess that my character is largely boorish and unrefined, and so the more ethereal aspects of my own life escape me. My basement life. I do recognize the value of being attuned to the more finespun levels of being, but I have all but tiptoed around them because I am afraid that my crude habits and tendency to ham-handle will bring them crashing down around me, and then no amount of time or spiritual glue will be able to put it all back together again. My root cellar littered with shards of the unfamiliar. What's more, I have convinced myself that an alignment with subtlety will somehow cause me to vanish, or worse, lose my grip. This variety of spirit I've become, you know, if it is replaced with something more delicate, more abstract, my essence may somehow dissolve into this universal salinity that I imagine, my definition bleeding out into the endless black. A darkness that I have yet to hold my candle to. I have so much invested in being a primal beast with obvious and unmistakable forms of energy. I box things. I grab things. I need things clearly defined. If I agree to investigate nuances and ways of being that lack the concreteness that I am accustom to, can I trust that I will continue to recognize myself or remain characteristically substantive? There is a reason, then, that I have been drawn here by these few elements: wheat, my crude self, water the illuminative conduit that sets to path a fundamental growth, the candle if you will; this procured yeast a burgeoning subtlety that when trusted in steadfast patience can transmute these familiar elements into fathomless sustenance for the soul.

Bread.

Today I've made four boules...

These four cleaved from two carefully manipulated slabs of energized flour and water. The first duo arrives as whole wheat sourdough with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, a fairly generous addition.

The second, a lovely rye with black, oil cured olives.

I wish I'd had more on hand, it would have made for more of an olive bomb.

I used a rye levain for the rye loaves. My starter is a 100% hydration starter. I am less embarrassed about the number of starters that I have, and more appreciative that I can pull the most appropriate starter for the bread that it suits best.

And Tartine's 50/50 whole wheat/all purpose flour levain for the whole wheat. The starter for this levain is at 100% hydration.

Both breads are made using Tartine's formulae but with my adaptations: For the whole wheat, I added the toasted seeds,

I also used 225g of levain instead of 200g (for both loaves) as the formula directs just to see what would happen. I don't regret it. For the whole wheat, instead of the additional 50g of water that is added to facilitate salt distribution after autolyse, I used Eden's organic barley malt syrup, this worked out quite well.

For the rye, I found the dough unpleasantly sticky, to the point where it was almost like a batter.

I had this same issue with the last rye that I made using Tartine's formula. I know that rye is notoriously tricky to work with, but this was unbearable. Even I, the most novice of them all (these four make a mere 15 sourdough loaves in my bread career), knew that there was no way that that pancake batter was going to form any kind of boule, so I added 35g more white flour to the formula, not early on, but toward the end of a sequence of turns when it was evident that the ooziness of it all was not going to develop appropriate gluten structure. This definitely shaped things up a bit, and it was still a very wet, very unruly piece of dough. As well, the olives, though they have low moisture content, probably added to the hydration percentage a bit. Even with the addition of extra flour I had to get the boules into the combo cooker at lightening speed or the dough would have bled out into that universal abyss that I was blathering on about somewhere in the earlier part of this post.

I am really interested in working more with rye, just for sheer desire to conquer the beast. If anyone has any pointers, please feel free to lend me your words of wisdom.

Here are the formulae for the two loaves which include my timing and alterations to the originals. They both make two loaves:

TARTINE WHOLE WHEAT SOURDOUGH
with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds

For the levain:
200g h2o
200g of 50/50 whole wheat all purpose flours mixed
1 TB of a 100% hydration starter. I used the Tartine starter which is a 50/50 whole wheat/all purpose starter.

Mix the components and let ferment overnight.

For the dough:
225g levain. (The original formula calls for 200g)
800g h2o
700g whole wheat flour
300g all purpose flour
20g salt
50g barley malt syrup
Toasted sunflower and pumkin seeds, about 2 cups

Mix the levain, the 800g water and the flours. Autolyse for 40 minutes. Add the salt and 50g additional water. NOTE: I used barley malt syrup in place of the water with excellent results.

For the bulk fermentation:
The bulk fermentation will take about 3 or 4 hours. I ran the full 4. During the first 2 hours is a series of turns in the container, one turn per half hour. I usually turn the dough about 4x in the container which equals one turn. By the third turn, I am more delicate with the dough, so I don't knock out the gas. I added the seeds during the second turn so they would be fully incorporated by the last. Let the dough rest for the remaining time, and I suggest allowing it do rest in a warm place. I turn on the oven to warm the room, and place the container in a cabinet near the oven, up high, so that when the heat rises it turns it into the perfect proofing box. This is incidentally where I store my starters. The temperature is perfect for them, and for proofing/fermenting.

For the bench rest and proof:
Pour the dough onto a lightly floured container. Divide. Shape into tight balls, carefully. Bench rest 30 minutes. Reshape into les boules. Place into your banneton, or whatever vessel you're using, one that has been lined with flour dusted linen, seam side UP. Here's a tip: remember that dented old flour shaker your mom used that you never seem to find a use for?

It lightly and evenly distributes the dusting flour over linen. Yeah.

Proof your dough for 2-4 hours room temp, or retard the rest for up to 12 in the fridge. My kitchen was toasty, so the dough proofed quickly and nicely at 2 hours. I'm not sure if the tighter crumb is due to the abundance of nuts or the fact that it could have proofed a little longer. My last whole wheat loaves came out with very nice open crumb, and I let it proof for 4 hours.

A half hour before you are set to bake, preheat your oven to 500 degrees with the combo cooker (lid and bottom) and your stone in the oven.

Bake:
Cut out a round of parchment. Place over the dough. Place your peel on top of this and carefully invert the dough. Sprinkle the top of the dough with rice flour and score in some nifty pattern. Now you can safely and gently slide the dough into the hot combo cooker. Turn the oven down to 450 degrees. Bake in your combo cooker, covered, 20 minutes. Remove the lid. Leave the parchment. It's fine and will not affect the color of your bottom crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes more, or until your dough is baked out 'strong', meaning, fairly dark. The bottom crust should be good and dark as well. The internal temperature of my loaves was at least 200 degrees, and I would say more. But it must be at least that.

Cool on wire racks, and resist eating till several hours later, better yet, the next day toasted and slathered with olive oil and honey.


TARTINE SOURDOUGH RYE
with black oil-cured olives


For the levain:
200g h2o
200g of 50/50 whole wheat all purpose flours mixed
1 TB of a 100% hydration starter.
(I used my rye starter, which is one that I got from wildyeastblog.com. Susan, the author, calls to transform the formula into a white starter after it becomes reliable, I have kept mine as a rye starter with great results).

Mix the components and let ferment overnight.

For the dough:
225g levain (The original formula calls for 200g)
800g h2o
170g medium-fine rye flour
865g white bread flour (The original formula calls for 830g)
20g salt
50g additional water
Black oil cured olives I only had about 1 cup, I would aim for 3 next time

Mix the levain, the 800g water and the flours. Autolyse for 40 - 60 minutes. I autolysed for 45 minutes. The next time I will try 60 to see if that helps tighten up the consistency.

Add the salt and 50g additional water.

For the bulk fermentation:
The bulk fermentation will take about 3 or 4 hours. I ran the full 4. During the first 2 hours is a series of turns in the container, one turn per half hour. I usually turn the dough about 4x in the container which equals one turn. By the third turn, I am more delicate with the dough, so I don't knock out the gas. I added the olives during the second turn so they would be fully incorporated by the last. Let the dough rest for the remaining time, and I suggest allowing it do rest in a warm place. I turn on the oven to warm the room, and place the container in a cabinet near the oven, up high, so that when the heat rises it turns it into the perfect proofing box. This is incidentally where I store my starters. The temperature is perfect for them, and for proofing/fermenting.

For the bench rest and proof:
Pour the dough onto a lightly floured container. Divide. Shape into taut rounds, carefully. Bench rest 30 minutes. Reshape into les boules. Place into your banneton, or whatever vessel you're using, one that has been lined with flour dusted linen, seam side UP.

Proof your dough for 2-4 hours room temp, or retard the rest for up to 12 in the fridge. My kitchen was toasty, so the dough proofed quickly and nicely at 2 hours.

A half hour before you are set to bake, preheat your oven to 500 degrees with the combo cooker (lid and bottom) and your stone in the oven.

Bake:
Cut out a round of parchment. Place over the dough. Place your peel on top of this and carefully invert the dough. Sprinkle the top of the dough with rice flour and score in some nifty pattern. Now you can safely and gently slide the dough into the hot combo cooker. Be warned, this is a very loose dough, and it will spread like nobodies business, so make sure your combo cooker is ready to receive it.

Turn the oven down to 450 degrees. Bake in your combo cooker, covered, 20 minutes. Remove the lid. Leave the parchment. It's fine and will not affect the color of your bottom crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes more, or until your dough is baked out 'strong', meaning, fairly dark. The bottom crust should be good and dark as well. The internal temperature of my loaves was at least 200 degrees, and I would say more. But it must be at least that.

Cool on wire racks, and resist eating till several hours later, better yet, the next day toasted and drizzled with olive oil.


As I write this, my bread is crackling on the counter. As Chad Robertson says, 'the song of bread', they are indeed singing, and so am I.


Verdict:

Flavor: amazing. Crust: brittle. Aroma: outstanding. Dough temperament: The whole wheat was easy, the rye was a little more challenging, but nothing unmanageable. Worry factor when fermenting: Almost nil - it expanded visibly and steadily. But my Tartine levain is always a little slow at coming to fruition given the float factor. The rye floats readily.



To the staff of life.


I happily submit this post to wildyeastblog.com's 
YeastSpotting.


All formulas and techniques are adapted from Tartine Bread. I urge you to buy the book.

8 comments:

  1. The song of bread is lovely, and so are your loaves.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for both your thoughtful words. At 40, it's lovely and surprising to find new facets of yourself. Finding bread, for me, feels like I just got my first bike, and I've pedaled all by myself for the first time. You start with stints around the block, with dreams of cross-country trips on the horizon. And Susan, thank you once again for being my blog mentor. You are my go-to gal for bread advice!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post! I love your writing, your clear explanation of surprises found and changes made as you work through the recipes, and your clear and illuminating photos. Keep it up! Eager minds are paying attention.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you Bethini. I am in the middle of a new post, and your encouraging words came just in time ; )

    ReplyDelete
  5. I can attest your sourdough rye is possibly the best bread I have ever had! No kidding! Last night's addition to dinner was so incredibly sweet of you....thank you

    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  6. It was so lovely to see you all Karen. What a wonderful comment! I bake because I love giving it away and seeing the expression on my friends faces. I plan to do more posts on food52, and you can also find my food blog at mangiatuttadimaiale.blogspot.com hopefully I will see you there!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Karen, my fregola with mussels and clams recipe photo made it to the 'feast with your eyes' page of food 52! have a look:

    http://www.food52.com/blog/2107_feast_your_eyes

    ReplyDelete

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