Vermont Sourdough, part 2

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Second try on Jeffrey Hamelman’s Vermont Sourdough with Whole Wheat.

This time I followed the steps for shaping the loaves (unlike last time, where I kind of just scooched the dough blob into oblong lumps). It was beautiful. Until I grabbed and pulled them out of the folded linen, completely deflating the beautiful loaves and creating worse shapes than last time. ARRRGGGG!

Also, I probably added too much extra water, making the whole thing a frustrating mess.

Clearly, the yeasties were doing their thing in there. Flavor and texture were great.

I stopped feeding the starter after this loaf. Phew! Time for a break.

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Vermont Sourdough with Whole Wheat

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This is the second bread I made with Jim’s revived sourdough starter. It’s the Vermont Sourdough with Whole Wheat from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.

This was my first time cooking from this book (though not my first time eating from it, Jim bakes from it often). It’s not an easy cookbook. There’s a lot of cross-referencing and flipping between sections and I totally missed the part on how to shape a loaf. So I just didn’t really do any shaping. These came out pretty flat.

The wild yeasts clearly were doing their thing, though. Go little yeasties!

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Whole wheat country loaf

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This was my first attempt at Michael Pollan’s recipe for a Whole Wheat Country Loaf in the appendix of his book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, where he learns to cook four basic categories of food and, among other things, makes a case for wild yeast-leavened bread.

This is the recipe I woke up Jim’s starter for. He captured these little yeasties from the air a while back after reading the same book. (We’ve also been using the discarded sourdough starter for pancakes, but this was their big moment).

I’m extremely pleased with the result. The texture is just like he described in the book — creamy on the inside, crisp crust. It had nice oven spring. It even has “ears” from rapid expansion in the hot, steamy pot.

The only thing I was a little disappointed in is the sour flavor, which normal in a sourdough, of course, but I think I would shorten the bulk ferment next time to see if I can make it less sour. It went almost 6 hours this time, which is much longer than the recipe calls for.

The starter is still alive, so there’s plenty of opportunity to try again.

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No-knead bread, kid style

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Kids imitate. When I make bread from scratch, my 5-year-old mixes her own dough from a scoop of white flour and water. I add a little yeast and salt. She mushes it around a bunch, puts it in a baggie in the fridge, gets it out the next day and bakes it. Instant snack.

After several days of this, my 8-year-old wanted to make a bread, too. She’s old enough for a recipe, so I gave her the easiest, most rewarding basic bread recipe ever, the No Knead Bread recipe Mark Bittman popularized in the New York Times.

This is her loaf. I did the part involving the super hot pot in the oven, but the dough was all hers. Success!

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Whole wheat hearth bread

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I made bread to go with a salad dinner this week.

This is 100% Whole Wheat Hearth Bread from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day.

It’s a fairly simple recipe. You mix the dough a day before baking. Stretch and fold instead of knead. It ferments in the refrigerator over night.

I misread the directions and let it come to room temperature in the refrigerator container rather than shaping it into loaves right out of the fridge. I shaped as the oven was heating, which resulted in some rather dense loaves.

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The recipe makes two loaves. I plopped one into the lidded enamel-coated pot and the other on a regular baking sheet. They came out exactly the same size. The only difference was the baking sheet loaf had a glossy, thin crust with tiny blisters and the pot loaf had a thicker crust with a big crack. Interesting.

Both loaves have good flavor and both hold up well to slicing and there’s no crumbling in the middle. They make excellent toast.

Whole wheat sandwich bread

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This was an exciting discovery. In Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, I found a recipe for 100% whole wheat sandwich bread that I’d never tried before.

We’ve made his whole wheat sandwich bread from his Whole Grain Breads cookbook quite a bit, but this recipe is much easier. There’s only one dough to make the day before and it’s very wet and easy to mix in the mixer.

I can’t believe how fluffy and happy these loaves came out with 100% whole wheat flour and nothing extra like vital gluten.

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The dough puffed way up in the refrigerator overnight and then I accidentally let the loaves rise way beyond the recommended rise time while we were out. There is a slight bitterness in the final loaves that Jim suspects might be from the exhausted sugars in the dough.

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They’re beautiful, though. I’ve never made whole wheat bread this fluffy.

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There was only a little section around the center of the loaf that was crumbly. Otherwise, the slices were light and airy while still strong enough to hold together for Spaghetti Squash Grilled Cheese. It might rip a little under the pressure of natural peanut butter, but I’ll bet we can make it work. Yum.