Today's bread making was just the way it should be - happily unhurried for the bread, and completely stress-free for the human. Not surprising then, that the bread turned out just right as well - a proper, simple sourdough, crusty as you like outside -
Bubbly inside, with a nice oven leap, good opening of the slashes, and a firm texture.
The smell and the flavour, it goes without saying, were gorgeous. As it sat on the rack cooling, you could hear it crackling contentedly like a log fire, or as the lady in Filbert's bakery described it the other day - "singing". If you've never listened to the song of a cooling loaf, I can thoroughly recommend it. More relaxing than a soak in a Radox bath!
I started this bake off a couple of days ago by feeding my starter in the fridge. I fed it again the next day, during the day. And then in the evening before baking day I made a 660 g sponge by adding 350 g of water and 250 g of flour to 60 g of starter, and left it in the kitchen overnight.
Then this morning - baking day - I took back the odd 60g of sponge and put it in the fridge to be my starter for next time, leaving me with 600 g of sponge. That's a quarter sponge for 2 loaves - a quarter of the flour and half the water. I added the other 3/4 of the flour - 750 g - and the other half of the water - 350 g - so in the end I had 700 g of water and 1000 g of flour. That is called 70% hydration level - a nice soft dough.
I added some of my fancy new Himalayan salt, cracked wheat, rye flakes, wheatgerm, linseeds and olive oil - no yeast, of course - and gave it a good work out. It then stood, covered, in a bowl in the kitchen for about 5 hours. I then folded and shaped it and put it into 2 well floured baskets and left it, covered, for another 2 hours. During the second hour I put my oven on full whack with my clay roof tiles on the middle shelf to get thoroughly hot. These are my battle-worn tiles -
At about 17:15 I turned the bread out of the baskets and onto a metal peel and a wooden board, both well covered with rough polenta. (Using 2 boards means I only have to open the oven once.) I slashed the tops and shoved them onto the hot tiles, sprayed some water vapour into the top of the oven, and let nature take its course.
As I had nothing better to cook alongside the break, I did a rice pudd in the bottom of the oven - 1 pint of milk, 50 g of rice and 12 g of molasses, with nutmeg and cinnamon on top. The timing goes quite well with heating the stones and making bread.
Given that the bread came out at 18:10, I am very glad I am not a professional baker who is expected to get bread on the shelf by 09:00! But I do feel I have had a productive day - 2 beautiful loaves and a nice warm feeling.