Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quiet snowy day, and Sourdough Mk. I and Mk. II

As most of you probably know, snow was the call for today in New England, and we were prepared for a serious storm. So far, we only have about 12" of snow which is very pleasant compared to 2'+ of snow. The wind has been fairly significant, but I'm not going to complain at the difference between an exhausting sort of storm, and simply one where staying home and being safe is a wise choice rather than an absolute necessity. Before I discuss the snow further though, I have some bread to discuss! Sourdough to be precise.

Presenting, Sourdough Mk. I. Sourdough Mk. I ended up being a whole wheat sourdough because I hadn't thought ahead and brought home more flour, and ended up with too little to use unbleached bread flour. With that realization made I looked around and found this recipe which I promptly tried out. It turned out fairly well, though I was very concerned that due to having not let it rise on it's own sufficiently that I was going to have a brick. I've come to the conclusion that I'm very bad at figuring out how much bread dough has risen, and I think I need a container with measuring marks on it or I am going to forever be second guessing myself.  We brought Sourdough Mk. I to a dinner party with 7 people and one Critter, and came home with this small remaining end. I figured I should get a photo to show the interior texture of the bread before we devoured the last of it with the remains of the cheese. It turned out well, but being whole wheat, it seemed to have taken much of the "sourdough" out of the flavor which I know is in part due to how we're baking it because I've had wonderful sourdough that had that distinctive tang from a local bakery Hungry Ghost Bread, and was I believe whole wheat. Then again, they have decades of experience, and all of the proper tools for this. But, given the success of Sourdough Mk. I, and with a storm coming the Lady of the House suggested that I make more, and see what we could do.
Thus, Sourdough Mk. II was conceived. Sourdough Mk. II had a lot more time to rise because I hadn't quite planned for the long time of whole wheat sourdough the first time. This time, still whole wheat I planned for 24 hours of rise time, and it made a huge difference. This time unfortunately, I forgot to make vent slashes in the bread, so it ended up cracking in a few places. It also ended up turning out a very different way. In both cases I placed the dough during the second rising in the container I was going to bake it in, in this case, a Large Creusette braiser. It's a large iron pot coated with ceramic, and it's great for braising a couple of our rabbits at once. The second one due to the longer rising time ended up filling the space significantly more, and I aimed to make it a longer loaf rather than the traditional boulle style loaf. It also ended up much larger. Perhaps due to the rising time, perhaps due to a variety of factors it ended up turning a much more golden color, and having a much thinner crust without the nice crunchyness of Mk. I. It's got a fluffer inside though which is really nice for having as a utility bread. It still lacks that bite that I associate with sourdough, but that's ok, it is still a good bread. Once I figure out quite what I'm doing I'm going to do a how to blog post on making sourdough the way we're doing it, but right now consistency is eluding me. Oh, before I move on though, as a note the reason I used the closed pot to bake the bread in, our house right now is very dry due to the wood stove, and I read that through baking in a pot like that you can keep in the moisture, and it seems to have worked out. But now, back outside.

It's beautiful outside, but of course the animals are always a concern in this weather. On the up side since there was a travel ban, work was canceled. That means that I can be home to do the runs in and out to get water to and from the rabbits to keep them with liquid water for most of the day. I'm also doing a good bit of shoveling for obvious reasons. The rabbits as always are fairly unaffected by this kind of weather as long as they have sufficient liquid water, and available food. They also due to the brutal cold earlier still have hay in their private areas to sit on and stay warm which helps a lot in this kind of situation.
 My concern for the welfare and happiness of the chickens in this weather though, seems to have been misplaced. With some shoveling of their ever shrinking run, they came right on out, snowing or not to eat, drink, and get some sun. Given a lack of dirt to flop around in like they're having a seizure, they have just been coming out, eating, drinking, and mostly going back in side. Having the outside space available to them though is important because the coop alone is a bit too small for my comfort for the number of chickens residing in it. With the outside to roam in, even if it is cold, they are much happier. So for now, we're doing well, the animals are doing well, and it's time for me to do another round of pulling in and warming up the rabbit water. Enjoy the day, and I hope the weather has been as kind to you as it has to us.


  1. Your bread looks lovely! Much better than my first go at sourdough. A few baker-nerd notes:
    1) Whole wheat breads are usually dense because the brand in the whole wheat is sharp and will actually cut through the gluten strands, making the dough less elastic and less able to trap air bubbles to get that good rise and lighter texture. You might be able to get around that by having a very long, slow rise to build more gluten, or cut some of the whole wheat flour with bread flour (King Arthur is the highest protein on the market.)
    2) Sourdough flavor. This will depend on a few things, but at the end it comes down to having enough yeast and bacteria. The longer your rise, the more flavor your bread should have. You can also try to get more flavor (and conserve starter) by using a ... (looks up)...OK, I can't find the word for it, but King Arthur calls it a starter. Basically, you take just a little bit of yeast, mix it with one part water and two parts flour an let it go overnight, then build your bread from that. I think (not certain) that if you did that with some of your starter it would give you a greater starting volume with that good sourdough flavor. Here's the KA baguette recipe that uses the non-sourdough starter. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-baguettes-and-stuffed-baguettes-recipe

    Good luck with the snow! My mom's pictures from the Acton area are a good reminder of why I don't live there any more.

    1. Thank you very much for the comments and help. I ideologically like whole wheat, but if I can't find a way to get more air in the dough I'm probably going to start cutting it, or using unbleached white flour because I really like the nice airy tangy sourdough.

      I'm probably going to have to give that baguette recipe a shot, and I'm probably going to go through King Arthur's recipes and see if they have any good whole wheat recommendations. For a party this weekend I'm just going to go white for ease and flavor just because.

      There are times we ask ourselves why we still live in the snow here ourselves!