it's a daunting thing starting a new sourdough starter. i know firsthand because, well, my own challenge is what compelled me to start this whole experiment to begin with. my own starter has indeed evolved over time. it began as a 100% hydration 50/50 whole wheat/all purpose starter and ended up a 90.5% hydration 100% organic dark rye starter (you can use your 100% hydration starter for your all of the formulae on my blog).
my starter is 60g total: 20g of starter, 19g of h2o, 21g of dark rye (either bob's red mill or to your health sprouted rye). i like my starter a tad on the stiff side, and the extra couple of grams of flour gets it right around where i like it.
recently, one of my readers sent me pictures of his starter. he was fretting over the density of it (his was right at 100%, and he was convinced that it would not ferment properly). he figured that it needed more water. here's the thing, there are stiff starters (75% hydration), more liquid starters (my friend Joe uses a 125% hydration starter), our (more or less) 100% hydration starter and all hydrations in between. it's really up to you to decide what strikes your fancy what sort of starter you want to use, and whatever the case, you can 1) adapt the formula you are following to work with whatever hydration your starter happens to be 2) easily change the hydration of your starter if you want to adjust the starter to the formula instead by doing a little planning. just begin feeding it more or less water/flour to arrive at the called for hydration a couple of days prior to bake, and you are good to go. a stiff starter WILL ferment, if you don't believe it, i have photographed the progression of my rather stiff starter starting before feeding and the hours ensuing:
listen, i know i'm no iconoclast when it comes to my bread, in fact, i think my baking may be a little mundane. i get on kicks, see, and i run with a certain flour because i'm digging it, and i'm not ready to forge ahead with another flour because i'm also thrifty. if i have 10 pounds of rye, you all are going to see a lot of rye. this is also why i don't post weekly (i think i do every 2 weeks at this point), because you all would end up seeing the same bread over and over again. i try only to post if i have something new to show you, or else, why bother. just know that i am over here baking regularly.
so, this classic uses spelt. not white or whole like i have been using, but this 'light' spelt that seems unique to bob's red mill. i've been futzing around with it lately, so you are going to see two variations in the upcoming weeks, this one today, and one more. i have some flour to use up before i move on to something new.
i began with a moderately hydrated dough. if i added too much water in the start, all of the olive oil and liquid from my additional ingredients would have pushed it over the hydration edge. it was pretty easy to work with, this dough, despite the hefty additions. i have a habit of loading up my bread with goodies because what i don't like is some 'bready' thing that's distinctly separate from the inclusion of whatever it is that i add, in this case, leeks etcetera. my vision with this: you bite into it, see, and get a balanced mouthful of this chewy crust with a bit of bacon, cheese, and leek. which brings us to our...
verdict: this bread turned out to be AMAZING! full gelatinization and a shattery/brittle crust was realized, and i don't even have to tell you what the classic combination of leeks, bacon, and gruyere tastes like. i think you already know. but here's the thing, the crumb was so UBER TENDER that it pretty much melted in my mouth, and i am so glad that now i get to share this with all of you!
and without further blather, here are the fabulous details of our classic. please write and let me know how yours turned out for you!
make your levain:
40g 90.5%, 100% brm dark rye starter (you can use your 100% hydration starter for this)
80g brm dark rye flour
THE DAY BEFORE THE BAKE
when the levain has come to fruition, create the dough:
250g brm light spelt flour
250g ka bread flour
260g leeks (weighed uncooked)
340g thick cut, applewood smoked bacon (weighed uncooked)
140g cave aged gruyere cheese (don't get the cheap stuff)
12g good fruity olive oil, plus an additional TB for the leeks (see below)
8g kosher salt (one reader asked if he could use fine sea salt... of course you can!)
combine the levain, flour and water until you reach a shaggy mass, allow it to autolyse for a full hour. while this bit of magic is taking place, prepare the following:
slice the bacon into flags and brown over medium heat. remove from heat. with a slotted spoon, remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. pop in the fridge to cool.
pour the bacon fat from the pan and deglaze with 1/2 cup of water, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom. slice the leeks into flags, rinse and add to the pan with 1 TB of olive oil. sweat these down till soft, then spread out on a plate and cool in the fridge.
back to our dough. after autolyse, squish the salt and olive oil into the dough with your fingers until thoroughly amalgamated. the four-hour bulk fermentation begins.
for the first two hours of the bulk fermentation, perform a series of turns every half hour, and at the first turn add the bacon, cheese and leeks...
after the two hours of turns, pop the dough into the fridge to finish its ferment for its final two hours. notice the picture below how i managed to keep all the goodies in the dough after the turns.
THE DAY OF THE BAKE
preheat the oven outfitted with a combo cooker and a baking stone to 550 degrees for a full hour. after this hour, unearth the dough onto a peel, being sure that a piece of parchment has been placed over the mouth of the bowl for easy sliding; score, then slide it into the shallow end of the combo cooker. for this bread, i chose a 'bulls-eye' score.
slide it back into the oven and turn it down to 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and turn the oven down to 400 to finish baking, mine took another 15 minutes, for a total of one hour, and i did take the temp of this bread. it came out to 210 degrees. i generally do take the temp of bread that's stuffed with a lot of goodies, just to be sure it's fully baked. I know 400 degrees sounds low, but the cheese will brown the crust quickly, and that bread, as dense as it is with all of those humectant things that we added will need to bake for the full hour.
please wait at least 1 1/2 hours before slicing into this bread. it really needs time to rest so that it will completely stop baking (bread actually keeps baking for a bit when it's just pulled out of the oven), and the moisture has time to properly distribute throughout the bread. this will enhance the texture of the crumb. as well, when you slice it, a good way to store it so that that sliced end does not get hard is to store it cut side down on the counter. then, throughout the day you can take whacks from it without having to slice off a brittle bit from the cut end first. see the photo above.
this bread was classic enough to send over to wild yeast's yeast spotting for appraisal.