Sourdough bread variations

Now that you have your loaves coming out more or less consistently (or at least fewer batches consigned to being croutons) you may want to start mixing things up.

Remember when trying different flours, the autolyse step becomes even more important. They absorb the water at different rates and you can easily over-do the water if you use the initial consistency as mixed as a guide.  So start out with a bit less water than you might think you need.

Cheesy sourdough

Split batch white and cheesy

Cut the salt by half

Leave the dough stickier than usual

About 3/4 of the way through mixing add 2 big hand-fulls of shredded cheese. I am partial to 4 cheese mexican blend from costco.    This can be a bit hard to mix in. Crank up the mixer to 6 for short bursts until blended .

Now add flour if needed to adjust the texture.

Sprinkle with a bit of cheese, after slashing for fun.  If you put the cheese on prior to slashing you will pull a lot of it off.

This is one where you can split the recipe and make one loaf of white and one cheesy.  I love the cheesy sourdough toasted for breakfast slathered with peanut butter.

Rye sourdough

Rye sourdough

To the starter (about 2 cups) add 2 cups dark rye flour  and 3/4 c water

2 Tbsp Vital wheat gluten  (Bobs Red Mill) or King Arthur Rye dough Enhancer (which also adds more traditional “deli-rye” flavors

Caraway seed (optional)

Autolyze and mix as you normally would and adjust consistency as normal

 

Whole wheat

To the starter (about 2 cups) add 2 cups whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur Whole Wheat)   and 3/4 c water

2 Tbsp Vital wheat gluten  (Bobs red mill)

Autolyze and mix as you normally would and adjust consistency as normal

Note that a rye and whole wheat blend is really good as well

Pizza bread

1/2 salt

Leave the dough stickier than usual

About 3/4 of the way through mixing add 1/2 c sun dried tomatoes drained of oil and chopped finely  or 1/2 c rehydrated dried cherry tomatoes from the garden. Chop after rehydrating or you will have tomato chip shrapnel all over the kitchen.    The dried cherry tomatoes from my garden are awesome and keep in the fridge for years.

One large handful shredded mozzarella  or maybe two

1 tsp Italian seasoning (Penzey’s)

Now add flour if needed to adjust the texture.

Spent Grain Sourdough

What can be better than combining brewing and baking?

Spent Grain Sourdough 2 

Spent Grain Sourdough 1

Added seeds and grains

In proper baking terms this is referred to as adding a “soaker” . You need to hydrate the seeds before adding or they will dry out the dough AND not cling very well to the dough, resulting in deflated loaves.

1/2 c seed mix  such as King Arthur Flour Harvest Grains Blend

1/4 c hot / boiling water.

Mix the seeds and water for 1/2 hour before adding to the dough about 3/4 the way through mixing . DO NOT add at the start!

Mix and adjust as usual

Closing

So think of these as jumping off points to try different flours and flavors rather than firm recipes. Now that you know how to adjust your dough be feel, feel free to try new things. Worst case,  is that you end up with more croutons or bread crumbs to use for something else.

Happy baking.

Sourdough Bread Basics 1 – Making The Dough

When delving into the baking of sourdough bread, the questions often arise faster than the answers. This is especially the case where you don’t have someone to teach you in person and are trying to figure it out from books and youtube:

  • How much starter to use?
  • Why “discard” starter – seems wasteful?
  • How stiff or wet / slack should the dough be?
  • How much to mix / knead and when?
  • What is “folding”?
  • Why does my bread fall when I slash it like they say to do in the cookbooks?
  • Is steam important?

I will try to answer these and more based on my experience and experimenting of the last few years. Your experience may differ but I think this provides a solid starting point. I think it is good to work your way up in complexity as you gain experience and confidence. Don’t jump in and make multigrain baguettes with lots of seeds as your first try. How about white bread in a dutch oven or loaf pans?

I was given some sourdough starter from some friends a few years back and they also recommended the book Bouchon Bakery. 

This book provided a start, but I was still unsure of the what the texture should be and I also jumped into the more compex styles too quickly.  So there were some super dense breads that resulted and I was still relying on commercial yeast to help.

I keep my starter in a glass crock with snap top lid in the back of the fridge. In peak bread making season, I am baking every 1-2 weeks and this keeps the starter in good condition.   If it is neglected for a long time (weeks or months) there will be gray liquid film on top and the starter will take longer to become active again.  Don’t discard this, but you will need to build it up prior to use (future posting).

Safety first, the starter is a mix of yeast and bacteria. Each time you add flour you may add more types of bacteria and different kinds of yeast.  Treat the starter and uncooked bread dough as you would raw meat. Wash your hands and utensils well after handling and never eat the raw dough! 

Preparing the starter

Starter as mixed 7 AM Saturday
Starter 10AM
Starter 2:45 PM – peak fermentation
Starter 5 PM – peak fermentation
Starter 8 AM Sunday – fallen and past peak – ready for bread

The day before you want to bake, you will need to make your starter. You will also see the terms Biga and Poolish for this.

I have settled on using 2 cups bread flour , 1.5 cups warm water and the entire contents of my crock (pour off any excess liquid on top first).

Mix this up and place on the kitchen counter in a covered bowl.

I really like the Pyrex 10 cup prep bowls and their lids for this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling out starter for the crock

The next morning remove about 1/2 cup of the starter and return it to the crock. Place the crock in the fridge.

Now is the best time to take any out to share with friends.

Preparing the dough

Dough mixed and ready for to rest hydration / autolyze

Take the remainder and put it in the mixer bowl.  Add 2 cups of bread flour and 3/4 c water and stir this together.  If the flour is really dry you may add a few Tbsp more water but resist the urge to add much right now. Now let the mixture sit for 30-90 min (I usually make breakfast and start other projects during this time).   This is referred to at the autolyse. The flour is hydrating and it will then make a better dough once you start mixing / kneading.

Add 2 Tbsp vegetable oil . This yields a silkier dough and it seems to stay fresher longer than if you omit the oil.

Add 1.5 Tbsp Honey  – you could use sugar, but the simple sugars of the honey seem to get the rise off to a quicker start.   This is not to make the bread sweet, but provide enough sugar that the yeast and bacteria have enough to feed on during the rises over the course of the day

Kneading the dough

Kneading a still too wet
Flour added and almost ready -still a bit sticky

Start kneading the dough. I use a Kitchenaid stand mixer with a dough hook and the speed set on 2.

As it is kneading, evaluate the texture. Is it stuck to the sides or pulling away in a ball?  If sticking to the sides, start adding flour a couple of Tbsp at a time , letting it fully incorporate before adding more.

After 5 min at 1 tsp fine sea salt. This will cause the dough to firm up as it mixes. You can omit the salt if you are on a salt restricted diet, but even this 1 tsp is much less than most commercial breads use.

Ready to rise – note it just barely is sticking to my hand

Continue kneading for 5 min more.   the dough should be pulling away form the sides as it is mixing and only stick to your dry hand a little when you touch it.   Adjust adding flour or water in small increments 1-2  Tbsp flour, 1 tsp  water as needed. If you do bigger amounts it is very easy to overshoot and end up in a flour-water-flour-water cycle and before you know it you have used up your flour and have enough dough for 4 loaves of bread!

Cover with a damp towel for the first rise.   Place on the counter at room temperature.

References:

https://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2017/09/29/using-the-autolyse-method

 

Spent grain sourdough

Spent grain sourdough fresh from the oven

I have been experimenting more with sourdough breads and have made a few more variants of the spent grain sourdough.  I think this is a bit simpler.  I have been baking every week or every other so the 2 step starter feeding is not necessary.

When choosing your grains for the sourdough, consider that the bread will get baked and brown further. I tried one with the steeping grains from an Imperial Stout and that was too dark. Edible, but almost burnt tasting when toasted.

Today, I am using Briess Caramel 40 malt. This was from a Dead Ringer IPA extract kit (one of my favorites).

Starter

~3/4c of saved unfed starter

2c Bread flour – King Arthur

1 1/2 c – 1 3/4 c warm water.

Mix and set aside,  covered for 24 hours.   The starter should be a bit wetter than bread dough, but not runny. It will loosen up as it ferments as well. After 24 hours it is “gloopy”. Think of your kid / grand-kid’s container of Slime but stickier.

Bread dough

Fed starter – 1/2c which goes back in the crock in the fridge

2 -2.5c spent grains – well drained

1c bread flour – start with 3/4 c and see what the consistency is like

1/2 tsp baking yeast

Mix for 2 min

Rest for 15 min

Mix for 5 min

Add 1 tsp salt

Add 5 tsp cooking oil

Mix at medium speed until the oil is incorporated. Then slow down 2 2nd lowest setting on the Kitchenaid mixer and mix for another 10 min. Add flour as necessary to have a slack dough that pulls away form the sides of the bowl while mixing.

Cover with damp towel and let rise for 1 hour. Then fold several times adding flour if necessary.  Let rise for another hour. Fold several times and work into a ball.  This dough needs support from a pan. So, place in an oiled dutch oven. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.

Baking

Preheat the oven to 425F . Place a sheet pan in the bottom.

When the oven is hot, heat 1 c water in the microwave until boiling.

Working quickly, uncover the bread, slash the top and place the bread int he oven . Then pour the hot water on the sheet pan and close  the oven.   This bread completely filled the dutch oven with no room to rise (I may have let it rise a bit extra long while working inthe shop). Set timer for 15 min.   At 15 min insert thermometer probe and cook until the internal temp is 195-205F  depending on how brown you like the top.

A view inside

We have started taking the spent steeping grains and placing 2-2.5 c measured portions in the freezer so that the spent grains are available between brew days as I bake a lot more often than I brew.  1lb of grain will yield about 6-7c of well drained spent grains.

Chicken Pot Pie

Teal really like chicken pot pies.   However, I find them to be typically bland, pasty and just not worth the calories.   So on a cold, dreary late fall day, Teal asked if we could make pot pies.  I took up the challenge: to make a pot pie that is actually worth eating.

The engineering mind took over.  I was thinking  about what makes them so boring?  The answer is, there is  a lack of caramelization,  too much goo (a.k.a “gravy”) and few if any spices.  So, I set out to correct these deficiencies and add a few twists.  I started with a small batch of 4 servings figuring I could scale it up later if they turned out.  These are still not “health food” but still better than what you will find in the frozen foods section of your local store.  If the steps below seem like a lot, remember that each is done while you are chopping the next. It is an efficient use of your time.

Teal enjoying the pot pie

Veggies

3 large carrots, washed, scraped of dark spots and cut into ~3/8″ pieces

2 medium onions chopped to about the same size

1 large pinch of dried thyme crushed

1 pinch of savory crushed

1-2  tsp sweet paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the carrots in bacon grease (about 1 TB) for 3 min on med-high heat so they just barely start to brown and then add the onions. Keep stirring until the onions are thoroughly translucent  and soft. Then dump them out into a large mixing bowl and heap into a pile while mixing in the  thyme and savory, 1 tsp sweet paprika as well as salt and pepper to taste.  Heaping will conserve the heat and keep them cooking.  The carrots should be slightly soft at this point.

Leave the pan  on the stove, off the heat.    Other veggies can be added, but Teal prefers that we stick to the basics (certainly no celery or parsnips). 1-2 small (sweet) potatoes might be acceptable, but we were out.   At this point, the fry pan is sticky with bits of the veggies – these will come off as the chicken (below) cooks.

Chicken

1 package – about 1- 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Remove connective tissue, and excess fat. Chop into 1/2″ pieces.

Dredge the chicken in 3-4 TBsp flour with 1 tsp granulated garlic. This will be a sticky gooey mess. Chicken will be coated but not “dry”.

Add 1 TBsp bacon grease to the pan. Then add the chicken and saute until lightly browned and tender. Stir to break up the pieces, but pause enough to let each side brown a bit.  We use thighs as they can withstand the higher temps needed for browning, while staying tender unlike breast meat.   Once browned and tender, remove from the heat and dump into the bowl with the veggies reserving any left-over grease. Note that at this point, the chicken is completely cooked and food safe if you want to save these for later.

Sauce / gravy

Pot pies need some sauce, but not the pasty white stuff you often see. It needs some flavor from our friendly Maillard reactions.   This starts with a browned roux.: 3-4 TBsp flour, 1-2 TBsp bacon grease. Stir over medium high heat. All of the flour should be coated and thick (and not runny). Now cook, while stirring constantly, until it is a light caramel brown.   Next whisk in 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock until it thickens and is smooth with no or minimal lumps.

Add 10 oz  frozen baby peas to the veggies and chicken,  then add the sauce and stir gently to mix.

Pot Pies

Divide the mixture into four  approximately 5″ wide oven proof ramekins. Cover with a thin layer of pie crust. Our favorite is: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-single-pie-crust-recipe .

A typical single crust recipe will have a lot left over.  So you will have the opportunity for odd shaped pie crust cookie snacks  – cover with cinnamon sugar and bake with the pot pies. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake at 425  for 30-40 min until the crust is crispy.  Remember to remove the snack pieces before they burn (about 10 min).   Let the pot pies rest about 15 min before serving.

With the added flavor of the caramelization, high proportion of veggies and herbs, even I like these pot pies. They will now be one of our winter staples.  The pies can be frozen par-baked, so the crust starts to set up  and then heated and served.

 

Spent Grain Sourdough

With a little planning ahead a brewing day can also be a baking day.   I  am doing extract brewing and the spent specialty grains are perfect for baking.   The cooked grains are rich in fiber, have lower carbs and add great texture (yes, even with the husks present).

Given that many of my beers are high gravity I need to make a starter for the beer. The sourdough also requires a starter. So why not do both in parallel?

Spent grain sourdough bread

Day T-2   Pull your sourdough starter from the fridge and mix with 1 cup all purpose flour and 3/4 c water.   Mix well, cover and allow to rise at room temp.

Day T-1  Make the starter for the beer. I typically use 1.5 l water and 3/4 c DME. Bring to a boil in an erlenmeyer flask, including the stir bar, with a foil cover .   Remove from heat and quickly cool in a snowbank or ice water (brewing in the winter does have some advantages for cooling). Rehydrate the yeast per the mfr instructions if using dry yeast, add to the flask and then put on the stir plate.

Add to the sourdough starter. Add another 1 1/4 c flour and 3/4-1 c water to have  a heavy sticky dough.  Cover and let rise at room temp.    Make sure you keep the sourdough work well away from the beer starter or you will risk contamination. Doing the additions in 2 stages, seems to yield more consistent results.

Sourdough starter a few hours after 2nd addition

 

Brew and baking day

Steep the specialty grains per the beer recipe drain well and cool.   For the bread pictured above,  this was Caramunich III.       By the time you are done brewing,  the grains will be cool enough for baking.

Bread

Place the sourdough starter in the mixer bowl reserving 2/3 cup to save for the next batch.

Add 2.5 cups of the spent grains – they should be just damp at this point. Wring out if too moist

Add 2 c bread flour (King Arthur)

1 tsp dry yeast (SAF Instant)

Mix lightly and then rest for 10-15 min.

Continue mixing for 3 min. This should be a very sticky ball, mostly pulling away from the sides of the mixer .  You may have to adjust with more flour or water but do not be tempted to make it too firm.

Add 1tsp fine sea salt. Mix for another 2 min.   The salt firms up the dough, so don’t add too early or the texture will not be as nice.

Cover the bowl with a very damp warm kitchen towel and place in the oven to proof. Ours has a bread proofing (100F) setting.  Let rise for 1.5 hours.

Take the dough our and place on a floured counter. Pull and fold 5-8 times.  It will still be very sticky but this evens out the texture.

Place in a large pan or dutch oven and oil the inside well (olive oil or butter).  Cover and rise again for another 1-1.5 hours at 100F. The dough should have risen about 2.5 times.

Preheat oven to 425 F

Place bread covered in the oven for 15-20 min.

Remove the lid, set for convection baking. Insert temperature probe and bake until the internal temp is 195F (15-30 min).   Itis best to go by temp rather than time.   The Thermoworks Chefalarm with the Pro Series Needle Probe is perfect. I also use this for brewing as the probe is waterproof.

Remove and turn onto a rack to cool and serve (unless your spouse beats you to it for the first slice (as mine did in the photo above).  Serve with a glass from a previous batch of your beer.

While you may be tempted to interleave the baking and brewing work during the boil, I would recommend against it. The sourdough has a variety of yeasts and bacteria in it that would definitely not be beneficial to your beer.   I have learned the hard way not to taste the raw sourdough!

Note that previously I had tried adding brewing grains (dry) as part of the flour for the bread and the texture was not that good. The steeping of the grains for brewing makes a huge difference in the bread. I will also try increasing the proportion of spent grain in the future as well as mixing with other flours.  I am really intrigued with trying rye and oats as the spent grains.  There is much room for experimentation, based on this successful base recipe.

Sourdough whole grain variant

The kids got me a couple of Emile Henry ceramic bakers for my birthday.  One is baguette pan and the other is a bread loaf pan.  Today was the first trial of them.  The bread was made in between all of the yard work and errands that needed to get done with our slow spring and sudden summer —  95F today.

This is based on the Multigrain sourdough recipe  but I was out of the KAF Harvest Grains Blend.   So to substitute I used the following mix which was soaked in the boiling water:

  • 1/4 c poppy seed
  • 1/4 c steel cut oats
  • 1/4 white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c roasted / salted pepitas / sunflower seed mix (from Farm and Fleet)

The dough was a bit wet, I probably had too much water in the starter feed but then added more bread flour to make up.  Again the dough was mixed and rested for 30 min before the kneading.  First rise was 2 hrs at 76F (I had to run out and go get more herbs for the garden) .   After rolling to shape, the top was brushed with water and the black sesame seeds were springkled on .  Second rise was 1 hour at 100F.

Bake at 425 F for 33-38 min with the last 5 min uncovered.

YUM! Thank you: Jessie, Elyse and David for the bakers.