If you’ve read About me page you know that I love to eat bread and I bake my own for a couple of years now. My husband fell in love with sourdough bread from the first bite and he encourages me to bake more of this. But I’ve started with commercial yeast bread and still making it from time to time because I think sourdough that I like does not go well with everything. It’s a matter of personal taste, of course, so why not to try all options (commercial yeast, sourdough, and hybrids) and decide?
Bread and me
There was no bread baking tradition at my family. Both grandmothers almost never baked anything, mother baked the honey cake a couple times of the year, but there was no need to bake bread at home. I was raised in Minsk, big city for our not so big country and almost all my life the bread you could buy was good. We have very distinct special varieties of rye bread which I adore and miss here in the States.
When we moved here I’ve decided to try to bake bread myself. It’s always fascinated me how you could have so delicious thing almost from nothing. Combine flour, yeast, water, and salt, wait a little bit, bake and enjoy. The bread is a perfect metaphor of the Univers, no surprise it has so many sacral connotations. In many cultures, bread is essential and respected food and it’s not surprising. It’s chip, easy to produce and very nourishing food. It’s going well with almost everything because there are so many varieties of bread.
I’m not a pro baker, I’m just at the beginning of my journey but enjoying it already. There are so many delicious experiments ahead.
Bread is the whole world
I love simple white wheat sourdough bread, beautiful challahs, more complex rye, flavourful heirloom wheat, and many more rich and plainer varieties. Most of the time I use flour I could easily buy at nearby stores, but from time to time I do experiment with something I order online. I’m not a fan of 100% whole wheat bread, but I like adding it to my bread to boost the flavor.
It’s really amazing what you can do from easy to find inexpensive ingredients. Don’t be afraid of yeast dough, it’s scary only at the beginning until you actually start dealing with it.
Flours by Barton Springs Mill
It was a fun experience. I’ve met interesting people, baked bread there and took some dough home. We all had a chance to try bread made with different unusual flours and of course bought some to experiment at home. My personal discovery was the mesquite butter, sweet flavorful condiment for good homebaked bread.
I’ve started with different wheat flours. I bought three varieties: Ethiopian blue emmer, TAM105 (Soviet apple pie aka Sharlotka is so good with it – I will show the recipe) and Rouge de Bordeaux. I’m very pleased with the flavor profiles of my bread with this flours, so I will buy them again. Also, I’ve baked some rye bread with their Danco flour and it’s turned out great.
How to bake at home for best results
I have a very simple oven in our rented apartment. It’s not good at retaining steam and not distribute heat evenly but with little tweaks, I could bake a decent bread. I have a baking stone inside my oven almost permanently, it helps to distribute heat more evenly. You will need a stone (steal or clay) if you have a deep roasting pan big enough to serve as a lid or a special clay cloche. The lid is what you really need to mimic pro oven at home and get a beautiful delicious crust with ease. The baking stone is a must if you are planning to bake a baguette, ciabatta, pizza or something like this.
I don’t have a perfect big lid but I do have 5 Qt. Cast iron Dutch Oven with a skillet lid. I bake my bread inside this pot using the lid as a bottom.
You need to heat it with the oven and carefully put the bread inside (or on the baking stone) and cover with the very hot lid. The lid would retain steam and allow bread to fully rise.
Blue emmer sourdough bread
As a base for this sourdough bread recipe, I took Jeffrey Hamelman’s Vermont sourdough from his Bread book (link is not affiliate). This is a very good book by the way.
Whole wheat flour especially a quite fresh one will absorb more water than regular unbleached flour, so you need to adjust on the go. You need to get a medium consistency dough.
Blue emmer sourdough bread
- 136g (4.8 oz) emmer flour Barton Springs Mill brand
- 170g (6 oz) water
- 28g (1 oz) mature 100% sourdough starter
- 227g (8 oz) emmer flour Barton Springs Mill brand
- 544g (1 lb 3.2 oz) bread flour King Arthur
- 480g (1 lb 1 oz) water
- 17g (0.6 oz) salt
- 306g (10.8 oz) levain
- Mix all the ingredients for the levain build 12-16 hours before mixing the final dough. Cover and let it stand at about 70F. If your room temperature hither you need to reduce the time. I build mine in the morning and it's ready in 7 hours (my room temp is 75F).
- Add all ingredients for the final dough except salt into a big bowl and mix by hand until you get a shaggy mass. Here you need to correct hydration level, so be careful with the water. At first, add just part of it and then add more if necessary. Every flour would absorb water differently so the number in the recipe just for orientation. Cover the bowl and let stand for an autolyse for 20 to 60 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix well by hand (about 5-7 minutes) or by spiral mixer on second speed for 2 minutes.
- Cover your dough and live for bulk fermentation at room temperature. It will take about 3-5 hours, depending on your starter strength and room temperature. During this time you need stretch and fold the dough either once (after 1 1/4 hours) or twice (at 50 minutes intervals) depending on the dough strength. You may need more folds, adjust the time (you may do 3 times at 40 minutes intervals of 4 at 35). Bulk fermentation would be finished when your dough doubled its volume and fills bubbly when you lightly press it by hand.
- Put the dough on the slightly wet working surface. Divide into two parts and preshape round or oblong. It's easier to shape with slightly wet hands. Live to rest covered for 20 minutes. Then do the final shape and put the dough seam up into the floured bannetons (I use rice flour). Place the bannetons inside the plastic bags and tight it, so there is a dome over the dough.
- You can live the dough to final fermentation at room temperature and bake the same day. Final proof would take 2-4 hours. Also, you can put the bannetons in the fridge for 8 (at 50F) to 18 hours (at 42F). I prefer retarding in the fridge because it helps to develop more flavor. Before retarding I live my dough to ferment room temperature for 2 hours because I prefer to bake straight from the fridge.
- If you bake straight from the fridge reheat the oven with a baking stone and cloche or dutch oven inside to 500F. If you prefer to let the dough proof before the baking take it from the fridge with 45-50 minutes interval, let proof (will take 3-4 hours) and start to preheat the oven 1 hour before ready to bake.
- Gently flip the dough from the banneton on the piece of parchment paper, score it, carefully put on the hot baking stone or inside dutch oven. Ыprinkle dough with water, сover and reduce the temperature to 450F. Bake with the lid for 15-17 minutes. Remove the lid and bake 30-35 minutes more, turning the bread 180 degrees halfway through for even baking.
- Remove the bread from the oven and do the same with the second loaf. Let the bread cool completely on a rack at room temperature.
I’d love to hear from you!