Monday, June 13, 2011

City Bread Take 2


My original posting times were off. I have since corrected them. The total time for these loaves turned out to be 38.5 hours, not 40+ like I had thought. So sorry about that guys. The times now are correct. I will be more fastidious about this in the future. I know that we rely on one other's posts for accuracy

After having this bread toasted and drizzled with olive oil, two days after I baked it. Oh my god, it is the best toast I have ever had! I am a convert to the 38.5 hour fermented loaf!


This past week was a little pressed for me. I barely eked out these two loaves of bread. I was moving all week, you know how that goes. So I apologize for the ensuing brevity, but then, maybe you need a break from all my yammering about this and that, and will appreciate this skimming of the fat.

I wasn't going to make bread at all this week, but by the end of my move my City Bread was gnawing at me. Plus I'm an overachiever, and I didn't want to let the few followers that I have down by missing a post. I take my blog(s) very seriously.

On to bread.

There were several things that I wanted to try.

1) I knew I could achieve a more open crumb with my City Loaves, and I really wanted to lengthen the fermentation time. Remember, my last loaves pushed fermentation at 7 and 8 hours, respectively, but they were also fermented at (cool-ish) room temp. I had read that many people had success with longer fermentation in the refrigerator, so I thought I might experiment and see what came about.

2) I wanted to push the envelope with my starters, meaning, I wanted to see how far out I could use them after I fed them. I ended up using starters that were fed 17 hours before. Just a note, I do not refrigerate my starters, and I fed them at twelve hour intervals for months. At the beginning of June I fell back to a 24 hour feeding schedule, bumping them up to 12 hour feed intervals one day before I knew I wanted to make bread. This time I bypassed the second feed to see how my starters would perform.

3) I wanted to try my hand at a more hydrated dough. I've already approached this whole bread thing like a cowgirl on a mechanical bull, so, what the hell. 90% hydration doughs sounded like just the bull to ride. Worst case scenario: I scrap the goo and the reader would never be the wiser.

4) I also wanted to scrap the hands-off situation that Lahey uses. I like to feel my dough. My philosophy is that if you don't plunge your hands into the mass, you will never know what path you're on, and you'll never be able to venture beyond someone else's directive. So, there's that.

All in all, things turned out pretty astoundingly, albeit I under baked the loaves (sad face). But just a tad (happy face). A few more minutes in the oven to dry them out is all, nothing life-shattering. Alas, a new cowgirl has to do that at least once (okay, twice) in her bread career, so, there you have it. Underbaked as they may have been, the resulting loaves showed such promise that I am going to have at it again later this week and share my results. Perhaps in tandem with a bit of fat chewing. I'm sure by week's end I will have something that I need to get off my chest.

Let's get down to brass tacks.

City Loaf In White

City Loaf In White

400g KA bread flour
100g rye starter
360g ice water
10g salt

City Loaf in Whole Wheat

City Loaf in Whole Wheat

200g Bob's Red Mill whole wheat flour
200g KA bread flour
150 whole wheat starter, I'm using my Tartine starter for this
360 g ice water
10g salt

The directions below are for both the City Loaf in white and in whole wheat.

Saturday, 8 p.m. I dissolved the starter in the water. Added the flour and autolysed for 40 minutes in the fridge. Added the salt, then popped the dough back in the fridge for 12 hours till 8 a.m. (= 12 hours 40 min.)

Sunday 8 a.m. The next morning I pulled the dough out of the fridge and for three hours, till 11 a.m. I let it ferment countertop. I performed a series of folds for the first 2 hours at 30 minute increments, and left it alone for the remaining hour. It increased in volume by 1/3. After this I popped the dough back in the fridge. (=15 hours 40 min.).

Monday 8 a.m. This morning I pulled the dough out. They have now been fermenting for 36 hours, 40 min. I admit that I screwed up the timing. I wanted the total time to be around 24-30 hours. Alas, lets just keep going with this. I turned the dough out onto the counter then shaped them into boules, put them in linen-lined bowls and let them be for another 2.5 hours.

10:30. The oven is preheated with two combo cookers at 500 degrees. The dough has rested for 2.5 hours, making total fermentation time 38.5 hours. I'm a little freaked out with my timing issue, and wonder if they are now just dead slabs of flour and water. Worst case scenario: I scrap the blobs and you will never be the wiser.

I inverted the dough onto a peel, slide them in the combo cooker, turned the oven down to 475 degrees, popped the lid on and hoped for the best.

10:55. I pulled the lids off of the combo cookers. Damn. They look hot! But I'm not getting my hopes up. The inside could be a solid mass.

11:19. I took the temp of the loaves. 205 ish? My gut says to leave them in the oven. I like the bottoms a little on the dark chocolate side. Plus their shiny little coats don't look as chestnut as I like them to. Alas, I'm still a little freaked out and don't follow my intuition. I pull the loaves. They don't sing as loudly as I'm used to. I wonder if I've made a mistake. Too late.

1:19. I cant take it any longer. They have to get sliced. Worst case scenario, they ooze underbaked dough, I scrap the whole shebang, and you will never be the wiser.

Here's what I discovered.

City Loaf In White 

City Loaf in Whole Wheat

This weekend I intend to get on with these loaves the proper way, when I'm not distracted with drill bits and breaking down boxes. The good news is that my intuition with my bread is creeping in, which means that I can trust it. It will lead me. The other good news is that my City Bread has a 'look', meaning, there is a signature evolving, meaning, baking, as I had originally thought, is an expression of myself. And the flavor? Oh my, it's the best bread I've baked thus far. Super rich and complex. Not sour like you would think after such a long time fermenting. It's actually quite sweet and lovely. I have so far gotten rave reviews. And the scent of the dough was creamy and clean smelling during its ferment. My friend actually thought there was bread baking when they were out on the counter for their 3 hour room temp fermentation stint!

I think I might be on to something, and I'm going to keep going with this and see what further evolves. I will keep you posted with any tweaks I make and the outcome of the loaves. They were just a wee underbaked by about 5, 6 minutes? I'm not sure. They weren't terribly underdone, but they could have used a wee bit more drying out. I will let you know the next time I make a loaf. Nothing a broiler and a drizzle of olive oil can't fix this time around. If we don't eat our mistakes, how can we know what they need so that we can fine-tune for the next venture?


Crust: Shattery. Crumb: big, beautiful, airy holes. Flavor: Extraordinary. Aroma: Heavenly. Dough temperament: A little challenging due to the high hydration. Worry factor when fermenting: Almost nil - it expanded visibly and steadily. 

To the staff of life.

This post has been submitted to Wild Yeast Blog's YeastSpotting


  1. I prepared ahead of time for all the ingredients, but as I'm beginning this recipe I'm just wondering about the amount of the rye starter, why so much? When I made Robertson's country loaves, it only called for 1 TBSP of starter for the leaven. What concept am I missing?



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