I'm back to obsessing over sourdough bread and the making of it. I. must. conquer. this. It's just BREAD for pete's sakes. How hard can it be?
See, I have a little OCD goin' on. Besides the quirky things I obsess over in a car-- weaving an imaginary line between the dashes on the center line of the road, making with windshield wipers come down only between the power poles or reflector posts... what? I'm a freak, okay?-- or my manic pantern-finding tendencies, I tend to obsess over things that I'm trying to learn. Trouble is, when I get it to a certian point or run out of steam, then I move on and don't go back to it unless I really need to. That's why I can do so many things, but I'm not really good at any of them.
But my current obsession is artisan-style sourdough bread. I have learned that the lack of a hearth oven is the least of my problems. I've learned how to make up for that over at Northwest Sourdough. (This woman is a genius! She invented a bread baking tecnique involving a baking stone, a spray bottle of water and a ROASTING LID to hold the humidity in like a bread cloche. Wow! Why didn't I think of that! Works great! Her website design is a little befuddling, though, and everytime I'm browsing around I keep wondering if she would trade a website for bread baking supplies...) No, I'm not too worried about the oven-- I've totally compensated for that problem. My problem is... well... everything else. The maintaining of a starter is still a mystery to me. Figuring and controling the hydration is... frustrating (I'm just not that precise. That's why I'm a better cook than baker.) I find myself dearly wishing for a couple of bannetons so that my free-form loaves don't go all flat. Oh-- then there's the mixing and kneading. Ugh. It's reeeally hard to get good gluten development by hand! I'm going to be getting paid for a website soon and I could SO easily blow most of it on one of these mixers right now. (Good thing there are too many bills to allow THAT kind of behavior!)
I went back to Crust and Crumb and spent the past week building a starter. (though I think I might end up splurging on a starter from Northwest Sourdough.) So today I baked the first loaves. And they're... edible. Just.
The crusts are lovely --thanks to the baking method-- that's for sure. Crispy and blistery. Nice! I slashed with a razor blade, so that looks good.
The insides, however... not so much.
Pretty dense and not a very open or strong crumb. Rising didn't go well-- I think my starter is just not powerful enough. I think the particular flour that I used is not good for bread. I'm using white flour from my co-op, but it's not really bread flour. The problem is that I can't find organic (and non-rancid) white bread flour. I really just want to use my fresh ground hard white wheat, but that creates it's own problems. Arg.
So next I'll try a higher hydration dough (but I MUST find something to proof them in or the loaves will really be flat!) and maybe I can get better gluten development and rise that way. Also, I think I'll troll around for a good sourdough discussion forum so I can ask questions and feed the obsession!
Are you bored yet? Don't worry, the obsession is not even near petering out so there's more to come!