Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Her highness, Chanterelle

Chanterelle. She is like no other fungus. Actually, no other fungus is quite like Madame chanterelle. Contemptuous, the candle that tries to weigh her worth.

Such an elegant name befitting the queen of the forest jewels. Her essence, reminiscent of the silver mists that perfume the forest floor, and her taste, of cedar and spicy nosegay, maybe of violet and the wild mint that grows in the shadows at garden's edge. There is nothing more arresting than her golden bloom. And for her, I would spend my final dime.

Leek & chanterelle, an artisan pie

Has the moment in your life arrived when your purpose lays its hand on your shoulder and whispers, 'it is time'? Today was such a moment for me, though this time was not the first, and I suspect that it won't be the last that I feel its touch. It was a relief, I must say. I could not ignore it one moment more.

I was a chef in some previous life, and I left it, for what, I still don't entirely know. It is an illusion that one will understand the self in its entirety, after all. A rather long sabbatical its been, one that I recall was ignited by the desire to find some purpose. This, a noble pursuit, though at the time it resembled folly. Alas, when the torch is set, there is nothing more to do but honor the ensuing blaze.

I could not go on any further, this much is clear, without understanding precisely what that purpose was. There is a private part of me, perhaps that what is vain, that wishes then that I had simply asked myself and intuited the answer, instead of roaming the crevices of world questioning the places and outside things that could never tell me who I was meant to be. Though when looked upon through pragmatic eyes, the experiences lent some indispensable clues. One thing that I have learned without uncertainty: No matter how heavy the stone overturned, there will always be another with yet deeper anchor that will eagerly test your might, and one is rarely ever fully prepared for the discovery awaiting in the hollow.

I do not regret the path that I chose, earnestly, I know that I would not have discovered the qualities that I did otherwise. For, one's path holds an absolution, even if to the wanderer the passage seems narrow or utterly arcane, and it is wholly compulsory that one must in their own life question that which is lain before, one is a fool if one chooses otherwise. To be sure, it is not until one wears through the soles of one's shoes that the nature of the path be revealed.

I love to write. Always have. It's like breath for me. It is the one thing in my life that I do not judge. I never have, and I don't think that I possibly could. I write to discover who I am, and how can that ever be wrong. Writing for me is something that cannot be avoided, and I had always thought that this was my sole calling. I had no idea, truly, that there could ever be more. Even though it was right before me. And it is cooking that has pulled me back into its arms, home again. Oh lucky day that the two can be so blissfully wed, as I believe we are all aware. I wonder, how many cookbooks do you have? And are you captivated by the food? Or is it about the voice of the author, her path, his view? I don't think that the two could ever be divorced. Because then, where would that leave either of the two, one without the other, lost, without momentum, without purpose.

But back to the chanterelle.

This day I had a few, just a small parchment, perfect they were, and so deeply hued that they veritably smoldered when I opened the package to investigate their elegance. I set out to make a pizza, and for this pie I made my own dough. A light wheat, based partially upon the Tartine country loaf, and partially on my sleepy eye: I was not quite awake when I weighed out the components that by now I know by heart; too little bread flour, a bit too much wheat. The result was a dough that I understood would become a regular guest in my kitchen, and one all too welcome. I am excited to try it out as a boule, and as soon as I do, you will be the first to know.

Here is the larder and process that arrived at my chanterelle pie.

- 1/3 pound of chanterelles
- 2 leeks
- Fresh herbs, I used marjoram and a few leaves of sage
- Olive oil, of course
- Salt, I use kosher, I like its hand
- Demi-wheat dough, as outlined below


700g KA bread flour
300g whole wheat flour
200g freshly made levain
750g + 50g h2o
20g salt

I made the levain with my active rye starter. 1 TB dissolved in 100g h2o, then mixed with 50g each all purpose and whole wheat flour. I let it ferment overnight, countertop.

The next day I mixed the levain, a hair over 200g really, with 750g h2o and the flours. I left it to autolyse for 1.5 hours.

I performed a series of turns at 30 minute intervals, this represented 2 hours of fermentation time at room temp. Just after the last turn, I popped the dough in the fridge and fermented it for 3 hours longer.

After fermentation, I divided the dough into 400g pieces, let them rest for 15 minutes on the bench. It was too hot here for a longer bench rest. I then shaped the portions into rounds, popped them into bowls lined with rice flour-dusted linens, and into the fridge they went to proof for 2 hours.

When the rounds were done proofing and ready to be stretched into pies, I preheated the oven to 550 degrees, of course my baking stone is in there heating up as well.


I sliced my leeks into small flags, rinsed them well, then sweated them over medium heat until they were very soft. Of course, this i seasoned with salt.

Just a note, a cast iron pan is best for this, as I believe it is for most things.

While the leeks were sweating, I cleaned the chanterelle using the brush that you see below, though they were nearly pristine.

Here's a very serious consideration: NEVER ever wash your chanterelle with water. This is a crime against humanity and the gods.

I sliced the chanterelle...

Then sauteed them, seasoned with salt, of course, in the same pan used for the leeks. The leeks were cooled quickly in the fridge, so you know. You can't put warm toppings on cold dough.

When the chanterelle were lightly sauteed, I rough chopped the herbs, marjoram and sage.

I sprinkled the herbs over the mushrooms then spooned the mushrooms onto a plate and cooled them in the fridge along with the leeks while I worked the dough.

I took out a ball of dough, smeared my workspace with flour, and pressed the dough outward to form a flat disc, flouring the dough if it felt like it was sticking. I Didn't worry about keeping it round. Rustic shapes are all the rage right now, and match nicely with the earthy ingredients.

Sprinkled an awaiting peel with semolina, liberally, so the dough would not stick when it came time to be slid into the oven. Liberal here is crucial, I cannot stress this enough.

Transfered the stretched dough onto the peel and reshaped.

Brushed the dough with olive oil, liberally.

Then topped with the cooled leeks and chanterelle.

Sprinkled the finished pie with a handful of rough chopped herbs, and sprinkled with salt.

With a quick jerk of the peel, I transferred the pie onto the hot baking stone and baked it until the edges of the dough were golden. I think it took 10 minutes or so.

Sprinkled with chili flake, and enjoyed warm with an earthy glass of red wine.

To the staff of life.

This post was shuttled off to Wild Yeast Blog.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sourdough Starter, Demystified UPDATED AS OF FEB. 2013

UPDATE (added February 13, 2013)
Please read my current (February 2013) post, which actually outlines, photographically and written, how to begin a rye starter that is wholly 'guaranteed' to be issue free. If you are having problems with your whole wheat/AP flour starter, this may shed some light for you and help you realize a viable starter more successfully in just 9 days.

After a few emails from people feeling daunted about spawning their own sourdough cultures, I created a simple photographic summary which you can follow. I included, along with the photos, an in-depth outline to clarify any obscurities that you might encounter.

I encourage you to start your culture now. Follow the directions below, and in about a week, you should be well on your way to the fabulous world of wild yeast risen bread. It's not difficult, costly or time consuming. For now, all you need is flour, water, and a reliable scale.

Have a look:

- Bottled spring water
- Dark rye flour
- All purpose flour, I use King Arthur

UPDATE: I actually use all rye flour to maintain my starter, and I would not go back to adding white flour. Rye flour has an abundance of nutrients that make maintaining your starter foolproof. I will keep the instructions as is, because rye flour can be admittedly expensive, and you may want to keep costs lower by using a mix of rye and all purpose. Just know that you CAN use all rye flour for your new starter, and to maintain one. And it will be easier for your starter to grab hold if you do go this route. The options are endless. You can make an all white starter from this new starter once it grabs hold, you can keep doing a blend of rye and white, you can do all rye, you can do a blend of whole wheat and white, you can do all whole wheat. I just wanted to update you and let you know what I personally do for my own starter. And just a reminder, every detail in my posts outline exactly what brand and type of flour I use, exact ratios and times, and what sort of starter and levain that I use.

Day one

Weigh your empty jar, write the weight on the jar with a Sharpie. You will see why we did this tomorrow.

Place the jar on the scale. Tare the scale to zero. Mix to a smooth paste: 50g h2o, 25g rye flour, 25g all purpose flour this will equal 100g of starter. Put in a warm spot in the kitchen for 24 hours.

Day two

This was my starter after a mere 17 hours, and I thought I might share. Your starter may look like this, but it's unlikely, unless you live next door to a bakery. The reason mine is already active is because I bake bread often, so the presence of wild yeast in the air is greater than the average household that does not bake bread. Your starter may not look much different than when you mixed everything together the first day. Perhaps there are a couple of air pockets in the paste, maybe it's a bit frothy. Whatever the case, you are right on track.

Before you feed your starter, there is one other thing, aside from the appearance, that you should be looking at. Smell. Have a sniff. Mine was moderately sour smelling, pleasant, and with overtones of rye. The nose of your starter is something that you should check in on regularly. It should smell crisp and vinegary, though in the beginning, there will only be hints of these notes. When your starter is mature, it can burn your nose if you take a big whiff, not gravely, but like vinegar might if you shove your nose in it. It should not smell foul or funky or unpleasant at all. Remember, this is a fermented food, so it should smell pickled and sour. But there is a difference between sour and just plain gross.

OK. Its been 24 hours, you are ready for your first feeding. Put the jar on the scale. The number there is the weight of the jar PLUS the starter, of course.

Now you will learn why we wrote the number on the jar. The total weight of the jar plus 100g os starter should now be around 358g (100g of starter plus 258g for the jar). Pour off or scoop  out (into an awaiting container) enough culture so that the jar, with starter, weighs the gram amount of the empty jar PLUS 50g, because we want to save a total of 50g of starter to keep going with our project. For instance, my empty jar weighs 258g. I will scoop out enough culture so that my jar, with culture, will weigh 308g (258g for the jar, 50g for the starter). To make a 150g starter, I want 50g of starter to remain.

Once you make weight (50g of starter), you can safely toss the excess culture. You don't want to toss your cast-off starter directly into the trash because, well, you can't fish it out again if you accidentally remove too much.

Toss this.

Now, tare the scale to zero. To your 50g of starter, add in 50g of bottled h2o, room temp, 25g all purpose flour and 25g rye flour. This will total 150g.

Mix thoroughly and apply the lid.

Pop back into its cozy spot, and in 12 hours, you will feed the starter again as you just did.

Note: From here on out you will feed your starter every 12 hours, so pick a time when you will be awake for both feedings. i.e., 8 am and 8pm.

Here are a few more photos of my starter after just 21.5 hours. Pretty remarkable, but a little unfair. When you bake bread at home, there are more wild yeasts in the air than a home that does not bake bread, so a new starter has many more yeasts to capture in my home, which is what begins the fermentation process. Once you get your starter going and bake regularly, you will build the amount of wild yeast in the air, and this sort of crazy fermentation will happen for you quickly as well.

Notice how it is getting even more frothy than this morning, which denotes some serious fermentation happening.

OK. Enough showing off. And don't worry, yours will eventually look like this if it does not already.

Day three

You should have fed your starter twice yesterday. If you didn't, shame on you. It is crucial in the beginning stages of fermentation that you feed your starter twice daily, at 12 hours apart. Once it takes hold and predictably rises (and falls - the starter will puff up a couple of hours after you feed it and stay that way for several hours, before falling back down again), then you can play around with how often you feed it. But we will get into maintaining your culture and the options you have with that later on.

OK, today, this third day, marks our third and fourth feedings. I am going to show you what mine looked like on this third day, but go back to the photos above and keep following those feeding instructions for the next few days.

Here are the pictures after my feedings on day three:

Day 3: 6 hours after first feeding

Day 3: 10 hours after first feeding

This is what my starter looked like every day for the next six days, predictably rising and falling.

Fallen starter: this means that the culture has eaten all of the sugar in the flour. Time to feed it again.

Don't worry about the falling part, your starter is not dying, this is part of the process. It just means that the culture has eaten all of the sugars from the flour that you added, and it will patiently wait until you feed it once again. You don't have to feed your culture more than once every 12 hours, no matter how deflated it looks. I will admit, I knocked the starter down a bit so that you can see what it looks like when its thoroughly fallen. This starter is really active!

Days four through nine

Every subsequent day my starter grew more 'tangy' in the nose, and it remained as active as the photos above. It also got thicker as the days progressed, and showed a network of gluten structure. I had to eventually scoop it out, whereas the first day it was a looser consistency that was easily poured.

You can try to make bread with your starter on the 6th day, but it is wise to wait till the 9th. Why? Because your culture will gain strength, reliability and complexity with age. The stronger your starter becomes, the more reliably it will raise your dough. Your culture will develop structure and complexity as well, and you will notice that as it matures, it develops its own flavor identity.

After the 9th day of double daily feedings, provided you live in a climate of moderate temperature, you can reduce your feedings to once a day (in warmer temperatures, keep feeding the starter twice daily, or if your starter is not predictably rising and falling with every feeding). You can also refrigerate your starter at this point (see information about this just below) if you plan to bake only periodically. Again, only refrigerate if rising and falling predictably, which shows that the starter is firmly established. I personally keep my starter on the counter. I have a 'back-up' starter in the fridge just in case something goes wrong with my counter starter.

You can also change the gram ratio of flours to 1/3 rye and 2/3 white flour in your feedings, or keep going with the 50/50 ratio of white and rye flours. I personally prefer using 100% dark rye flour starters in all of my baking.

Now you see how simple it is to grow a culture. I used to share the same fear about growing and maintaining one, just like you. I had heard all of the urban legends, about how sourdough cultures were some fragile thing that would die dramatically (cue thunder and lightening) then come back to haunt you if one of multiple daily feedings was missed, or if you were one gram off in your measurements. I had also heard that you would have to spend a small fortune on flour, elevating it from a tedious to a costly pursuit. I'm happy to report that none of this is true. Bread baking and maintaining my starter, contrarily, has been one of the happiest choices I made in my cooking life, and I encourage you to start yours as soon as possible so that you can have fresh baked bread whenever your life calls for it. In my own life, that's pretty much all of the time.

A few key notes to ensure success

Begin your starter on bottled water. The wild yeast starter is very sensitive to chlorine in tap water. The chlorine can actually kill the bacteria that is required to grow your starter. I just used inexpensive Trader Joe's bottled mountain/spring water at 89 cents a jug. You don't have to use Evian. Once your starter is good and strong, you can switch to filtered tap, or even use tap water that you've let sit out for 24 hours, as this allows the chlorine to dissipate. For the record, I use water from my Brita filter with great success.

The Vessel:

Use a pint jar for this project, nothing larger. I found that when I used a really big jar, my starter did not grow as well, in fact, it didn't grow at all. It took me weeks to grow my starter, and then I started tweaking things, like, where in the kitchen I stored it (see just below), what sort of water I used (see above), and oddly, what size vessel I used. It was when I put my starter in a more appropriately-sized vessel that it began to take hold.

Where to store it:

Put it in a warm place in the kitchen. I stored my new starter in a cabinet just above the fridge. The warmth from the refrigerator's motor migrates upward and warms the interior of the cabinet. The perfect environment for my starter. I also use the cabinet as a proofing box in very cold months. If you don't have a cabinet above the fridge, ON the fridge itself is a good spot. It's pretty warm up there. Once your starter takes root, you can store it on the counter (read the section below about how to set up your starter/flour station).


I use King Arthur all purpose flour and either Bob's Red Mill dark rye flour or to your health sprouted rye flour (links above). I have also used Arrowhead Mills dark rye flour with fabulous success. Bob's is cheapest. And don't use light rye. It doesn't have enough nutrients, and the nutrients are what help your starter grow. Don't use cheap supermarket flour. It defeats the purpose of making artisan bread. Always buy the best quality flour that you can afford. King Arthur and Bob's Red Mill, which I use in the baking of my loaves as well, are inexpensive choices. I also experiment with artisan and sprouted flours with my breads which I always outline in my posts and provide links to so that you can purchase them yourself and experiment.


You don't have to maintain 150g of starter, in fact, I don't anymore. I only keep 60g of starter because I work with levains in my baking, where I only need a small amount of starter for a given formula. If I need more starter for any reason, say I am making four loaves of bread and would use up all of my starter, I just increase the total volume of it in the days before the bake. See the guidelines below for further explanation.

How to maintain your starter

You have a couple of options here in the maintenance of your starter. Here are some scenarios that will help you along.

Before I continue reading, my starter is not as active as yours, and its been a week, what should I do?

The same as you have been. Feed it every day, every 12 hours. And make sure that you 1) use bottled water to start, 2) measure things as accurately as you can 3) store the starter in a warm place 4) use an appropriately sized jar. For the amount that we are making here, I recommend using a pint jar, nothing larger.

Great, I followed your advice and it worked. Now how do I feed and maintain my starter?

I feed my starter every 24 hours when the temperature is cooler, and increase the feedings to twice a day (every 12 hours) two days to three days before I know I will bake bake bread. For example, if I know that I will bake bread on Wednesday, I will feed my starter once a day on Thursday, Friday, Saturday. On Sunday, I will begin feeding it twice a day, once in the morning, once at night, twice again Monday and on Tuesday I will start my levain,
which is the preferment for the bread I will bake Wednesday. If I don't need a preferment, I will simply feed it twice on Tuesday, and thus, my starter will be at peak strength Wednesday when I want to make bread. If you plan to bake bread a couple of times a week or more, by all means, feed it every 12 hours so that it is ready to go at a moments notice.

My Starter is rising and falling quickly when it's hot out, should I worry?
I feed my starter every 12 hours in very hot weather because when the temperature rises, the bacteria in the starter eats the sugars in the flour a lot quicker than when it's cooler. It has been hot in L.A., so, I feed it once in the morning and once at night. If it's uber hot, I will feed it 3x in a day. This is not unusual, but it is rarely the case. I live in L.A. and in the summer it can get to 100+ degrees.

Where do I store my starter?
I keep mine on the counter, next to the scale and my jugs of flour. I also keep a small 'dump container' handy, just a cheap plastic takeout container, where I scrape the exhausted starter and can easily pitch when it's full. You have to keep your setup efficient and accessible. If you have to dig out flour, scale, dump bucket and starter from a million different places, it will discourage you from keeping your bread baking endeavor alive. As well, now that my starter is powerful, I don't have to keep it in a very warm spot. When you begin your starter, keeping it in a warm place helps it to take hold.

Oh my GOD! I forgot to feed my starter for two days I think it's dead!

It's not dead. But try not to forget in the future. If you are not going to bake frequently, I encourage you to keep it in the fridge. Trust me, it likes it in there. As for your forgotten starter, just begin feeding it again as soon as possible. It will show signs of life quickly.

Geez, I added 2 grams too much water today and yesterday I added 5g too much flour, did I screw it up?

No, you didn't. This is not an exact science. Just continue to feed your starter, trying to achieve the gram weight indicated in the formula as closely as you can. If you're a gram or two off, nothing bad will happen at all.

Speaking of water, I used tap, is that OK?

In the beginning, I found that my new starter preferred bottled water. It was a baby, and more sensitive to the environment. But as your starter matures, you can use filtered tap from here on out, like, from your Brita pitcher. This is what I use. If you don't have filtered tap, use regular tap that has been sitting out for 24 hours. The chlorine will dissipate if the water is left to sit out for a few hours. And it is chlorine which challenges the growth of the bacteria in your starter. We don't want that.

Shoot, I was supposed to feed my starter at the 12 hour mark, but didn't get home in time and now its been 14. What should I do.

Just feed your starter as you normally would. I feed mine in the morning and at night, or once a day, dependent upon where I am on my bread schedule, and how hot it is. What time? Hm, who can say. The point is, it got fed. It's happy. And so is yours. Don't fret.

Help! I have travel plans! My starter will die!
Don't worry. It won't die. Your starter is resilient. This post was designed to make you realize just how so. OK, travel plans: If I plan to go out of town, I pop my culture in the fridge and there it happily awaits, unscathed, until I come back. Why? Because colder temperatures retard the starter just like proofing loaves. The slower it eats the sugars in the flour, the less often it needs to be fed. When you return, simply put it back on the counter and resume feedings as you normally would.

I don't plan to bake very often, maybe once a month.
That's fine. You can keep your starter in the fridge if you only want to bake periodically. Lets say that the last week of every month your grandmother comes to visit and she must have freshly baked bread. Fine. Just keep your starter in the fridge, and then 3 full days before she is due to arrive, take the starter out and feed it twice a day (every 12 hours) for the three consecutive days before her arrival. On the fourth day, you can bake bread with it. When granny is safely on the bus back home, feed your starter, then pop it in the fridge after a feeding. You don't have to think about it again till the week that she comes back. Just be sure that if you do plan to use the refrigeration method, you plan your baking in advance so that you have at least three full days of 12-hour spaced feedings before bake day so that the starter is running at optimum strength.

Two refrigerated starters, fed once a month...or so

I want to bake once a week like you, but damn, it's expensive to feed my starter twice a day!
It doesn't have to be costly. Remember, you only need to feed it once a day if the temperature is moderate, increasing the feedings to twice a day just two or three days before you bake bread. Aside from that, I keep a very modest amount of starter going. Did you notice the small amount in the jar pictured above? Here's what I do:

I only feed my starter(s) 20g of flour in a given feeding so that I maintain only about 60g of total starter at a given time (20g of water + 20g of flour + 20g seed starter = 60g of total starter; and just a note, I use 1/3 rye flour and 2/3 all purpose, that's 13g all purpose and 7g rye). That's only one spoonful of all purpose and one smaller spoonful of rye, once a day most months out of the year, and twice a day if its hot outside.

UPDATE: I now use ALL rye flour in my starter. No all purpose. And I still only maintain 60g of starter. So 20g of seed starter, 20g of water, 20g of rye flour. Please see my current post (CLICK HERE for the new post)

Sounds good, but I'm not only baking from the Tartine Bread book, and some bread books & websites call for more starter in the formula.

If a formula that requires a larger volume of starter piques my interest, I simply build the starter to increase its volume, instead of casting off the starter during feedings. For instance, we keep 60g of starter using the method I just explained above. If a formula calls for 100g, I would feed 40g of my starter with 40g of flour and 40g of water, which will equal 120g (40g starter + 40g water + 40g flour = 120g). Remember though, you also want to have some left over, right? You don't want to use all of your starter, then you have nothing leftover for future baking. Now you have 100g of starter for your project, and 20g is left over for you to keep feeding.

Finally, you can use this sourdough starter for any formula in any bread book that you have that calls for a 100% hydration starter, which is a common hydration percentage. Once you begin exploring wild yeast breads, there is no end to the variety of starters that you can grow, Leader's Local Breads is a fabulous and colorful resource that goes into depth about the different kinds of starters that you can achieve. And Susan, who owns Wild Yeast Blog, uses a 100% starter for most of her loaves, and she has loads of really interesting breads to add to your roster of loaves to accomplish. But you don't have to have 10 different starters for your breads. I've done just fine with one. Many artisan bakers have their favorite starters too, so don't feel obliged to keep a pantry of cultures on hand. If you require a starter with a lesser or higher percentage of water, you can certainly build a new starter, and fairly quickly, because the wild yeasts that have collected in your house from regular bread baking will allow you to conceive a new starter without too much effort, as you have seen from my starter above. You can also increase or decrease the percentage of water in your current 100% hydration starter. 

If you have any questions, or if you are nervous about your starter, please send me a note in the comments section. I check in on my blog frequently, and I am happy to help you along.

I hope this post helps to relieve you of any fears you've had around starting and maintaining a culture. I would love to know of your successes along the way!

To the staff of life!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Deserted Island Chocolate Boule

Roasted chicken is the first of my three deserted island foods. But it has to be roasted already when you drop it from the airplane. You can't expect me to bother with making fire on top of being stranded. I'm stressed out enough already trying to figure out how to crack open coconuts.

Deserted island chocolate boule

The second thing that I will require is chocolate, a ration of both dark and milk please. I'm a complex woman, I'm sure you understand, and my needs are mercurial and utterly kaleidoscopic.

The last item that I should have in abundance, for the record, is dandelion greens.

Deserted island healthy whole wheat boule

Just because one is stranded does not mean that one should neglect one's health. Words of wisdom that I am sure I will regret once I'm actually stranded.

While I'm making this list, I will also need Taye Diggs, oh, and Jude Law (for when Taye gets sleepy), a pair of hip boots (don't ask), and a lifetime supply of TP.

But enough poppycock. Lets talk bread.

I am a huge fan of variety. Probably because I'm American and I'm used to having far too much. If less is more, then dammit, too much is obviously far better.

Which is just what I needed when I turned the Tartine page.

Up next was pain integral, and I have to be honest, I am still trying to shake the solemnity of my polenta bread from two posts back. Today I needed to add a little sweet variety to all of these brass tacks breads up ahead, today I needed something a little more...blithe.

So I decided that I should cash in one of my deserted island things. No, not dandelion greens (remind me why I chose them again), but bitter chocolate,71%, and after all was baked and done, I must say, I don't think that the fellas and I are going to miss civilization at all.

Have a look.

Whole wheat sourdough boules

Gather together the usual suspects in these quantities:

200g levain
800g + 50g h2o
700g KA whole wheat flour
300g KA all purpose flour
20g salt
250g good quality dark chocolate, I used 71%, chopped into chunky pieces

Make the levain:

In a bowl, mix 1 TB of your most active sourdough starter with 100g h2o and 50g each all purpose and whole wheat flours. Leave it on the counter over night. The next morning you will awaken to 200g of a lovely levain.

Make the dough:

Mix together the levain and 800g of the h2o. Add 700g whole wheat flour and 300g all purpose and mix well. Autolyse for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

 Freshly mixed dough

Dough after 45 minute autolyse

Add the 20g of salt and additional 50g h2o to the dough and mix with your hand till fully incorporated. Let it rest for 30 minutes.

Dough is already elastic after the autolyse

After the dough rests, divide it (if you are adding chocolate to one boule), and perform 4 series of turns at 0, 30, 60, 90 minutes. This is the first 2 hours of your fermentation.

Divided dough with chocolate added. This was taken after the turns were completed

 Whole wheat dough after turns

Pop the dough in the fridge for another two hours. You don't have to refrigerate your dough at this point, but it's been sweltering here, so I have to retard the fermentation or it will over-ferment in an hour and die.

 Both doughs after final 2 hour refrigerated fermentation

Take the dough out of the fridge and scrape it onto a workspace. I don't use flour when shaping my dough into boules.

Shape the dough into nice taut boules. If you added chocolate, be sure to pinch any exposed pieces back into the boule or it will burn later when it's baked.

Chocolate boule with tucked in pieces of chocolate

Whole wheat dough shaped into boule

Get the boules into bowls or bannetons with linens that have been dusted with rice flour.

Whole wheat dough with chocolate

Whole wheat dough

Pop the dough into the fridge and proof for 4 hours. You don't have to refrigerate your dough if it's not hot where you live. But I find that retarding the dough helps build flavor aside from controlling the proofing speed.

Fully proofed whole wheat dough

About 30 minutes before you plan to bake the bread, be sure to preheat your oven to 550 degrees, with your cast iron combo cookers inside. Position your baking stone in the upper third portion of your oven. The bottoms of my loaves burn if the racks are set too low/down toward the broiler.

Invert the dough onto a paddle dusted generously with rice flour so that it does not stick.

Score the dough.

Slide them into your preheated cast iron combo cooker and affix the lid so that the loaves will steam. Turn the heat down to 450 degrees (chad bakes his at 475, but I find that too hot, either that or my oven is really off).

Remove the lids of the combo cookers after 30 minutes.

Whole wheat dough after 30 minute steam

Whole wheat chocolate dough after 30 minute steam

Bake for another 30 minutes or so, or until the internal temp reads about 210 degrees.

Whole wheat sourdough with 71% dark chocolate

Whole wheat soudough, done

After an hour and a half, the chocolate was still gooey, so it smeared the bread. But I'm not complaining.

Whole wheat sourdough with 71% dark chocolate

Whole wheat sourdough


Crust: Thin and brittle. Lovely, really. Crumb: Tender and dense. Not as open as my first whole wheat sourdough boules. Flavor: Good, strong, earthy, wheaty flavor, a lovely complement to the chocolate. This bread would be great with manchego cheese, and it paired well with a fig jam that I recently made. Dough's ease of handling: Very easy. Bench notes: I would increase the hydration of this dough. Maybe in small increments to start, if you wanted to play around with crumb openness. I don't have an issue with a tighter crumb in general, in fact, I welcome it with breads that I want to use for sandwiches or jam. This one, however, I would like to see open up a little more. I also think that the texture could have been chewier, so I think that next time I will increase the fermentation time, and quite possibly the proofing. The longer ferment/proof would probably tame the really strong wheat flavor and add a more sour flavor, which I think that this bread could handle given its high whole wheat flour content.

To the staff of life!

Now off to Wild Yeast Blog's Yeast Spotting!

These loaves were derived from the formula in Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread book which can be purchased here.


Follow My Other Blogs Too!

Popular Posts

Follow by Email

Search This Blog

get a hold of me at



Except where noted otherwise, all content within the blog posts on this site, http://tartine-bread.blogspot.com/, are the sole intellectual property of Francis-Olive Hampton and protected under United States copyright laws: Copyright protection is available for all unpublished works regardless the nationality or domicile of the author. Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.

No part of any blog post shall be duplicated or manipulated for private use without prior consent.