Monday, September 30, 2013

Troubleshooting Whole Wheat Sourdough bread

Noah sneaks some bread- can you see where he grabbed it from?
Our new sourdough starter has been going for about six months and it's doing really well. We had a couple of months midsummer where I just couldn't get around to baking the bread- I'm not sure if it was our schedule- needing time at home- but getting back into a cycle of regular sourdough baking has really enriched my life. There are a few things that have helped bring it back:

Having packets of instant yeast in the house. We don't eat as much bread as some families, but having yeast packets allowed me to have the backup of rolls or a quick loaf of bread (by quick I mean like 2 hours instead of 18 or 24). This way I know we're not going to be buying bread, but if we feel like super soft bread we can always just use the yeast. Somehow the backup option made one large sourdough loaf once a week work for our family. I don't like that the yeast here comes in teensy packets, but I think there are probably worse evils in the world that deserve attention.

Eating Bread every Sunday. (This has also makes having friends over easy) I usually prepare the bread around lunch time on Saturday, so that it'll be ready mid-morning on Sunday. Then we basically just eat bread the whole day, one day a week- sandwiches, panini, toast, whatever.

Getting wonderful whole wheat flour. A friend of mine generously introduced me to a food buying club in Cape Town that connects buyers and farmers directly. So now I'm baking with whole wheat flour-hard to find in Cape Town- and I can really tell the difference in quality between this flour and the flour we used to buy when we first arrived in Cape Town two years ago.

Soaking the whole wheat flour for a few hours In Cooked, Michael Pollan describes trying to transition to whole wheat bread and the issue of spiky bran inhibiting the rise by bursting bubbles in the dough. What he discovered was that by starting off with a very wet dough, the bran would lose some of it's spikiness so that by the time the sourdough was added- as well as a little more flour- whole wheat or coarse white- the bran had lost it's spikiness and the bread rose really nicely. I've found this to be true, and our whole wheat bread feels very chewey (rather than crumbly, as was characteristic of some of the whole wheat bread I've made with instant yeast).

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