Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Flour power

Today I've been doing 3 of my famous "mother in law" wholemeals and 2 white sourdoughs. I thought you might find this picture interesting -

The bowl has a sponge at the bottom, made with a pound of Little Salkeld wheat, a pint of water and a tsp of yeast (no salt). On top of that I have added a pound of Carr's (roller milled) wholemeal wheat on the right, and a pound of Stuart's Heron Corn Mill wheat on the left - the "double shot" variety he is trying out at the moment.

Look at the difference between the two flours! There's nothing wrong with the Carr's - it has good flavour and it helps make this recipe work particularly well. But when there is such a clear difference between 2 flours that are both descibed as wholemeal wheat, surely it has to be worth while comparing, and choosing which flour you actually want to make your bread with.

[Gets off soap box.]

I regularly recommend adding the flour and water in stages when making a sponge the day before baking, and then I forgot to do it yesterday. I'd fed the sourdough starter 2 days before baking, but when I assembled the sponge 1 day before baking, I put all the flour and water in. It got started after a couple of hours, with a few bubbles -

And by the evening it was looking pretty good -

But because it hadn't had anything to eat for nearly 24 hours, it was a bit past its peak this morning -

That's a shame, as ideally you want the sponge to be raring to go so that you get a really vigorous action on baking day.

It felt fine when I kneaded it, so no real harm done, but there's always a little gap between OK and tremendous, isn't there?

The wholemeal sponge is less of an issue, because it gets an injection of extra yeast at baking time, so I am quite happy for it to spend all day quietly digesting the whole pound of flour, and it's fine for it to have peaked by the end of the day -

This is such a rich sponge, it looks quite similar to the gloopy boiled whole grain mix I made last week!

The wholemeal dough was quite well behaved, even at 80% hydration. Having 3 loaves worth of dough to knead is quite "interesting", especially when it's so wet. But I had let this stand for half an hour between mixing with a spoon and turning out to knead, so it had had time to soak up a lot of water and was quite well behaved.

It rose strongly, which is not surprising with so much water and plenty of yeast.

I then knocked it back and went out for a walk -

Finally I shaped the loaves for baking in tins -

The dough was mixed by 10:00 this morning, and finally went into the oven at 14:45, so it had plenty of time to develop. It looked pretty good when it came out -

The brown sugar makes for a really good crunchy crust.

Meanwhile the sourdough spent less time rising in the bowl, and then had a fairly protracted second rising in the baskets -

It rose reasonably, eventually just about filling the baskets. But the real fun starts in the oven with sourdough. These loaves went onto stones which had had a whole hour with the gas full on to get really hot, so for the first 10 minutes or so the dough was leaping in the oven. Sourdough loaves always look a little forlorn when they go in the oven, but 10 minutes later it is a completely different story.

So what if I have been dealing with the bread for nearly 7 hours on and off? I've got a week's worth of good bread to show for it, so I'm happy.