I was looking for my holidays so I could experiment a bit with baking. It was great on my first week when I was home and alone and trying a lot of stuff. I could finally try new flours, other hydrations, etc.
But then I travelled, and thought I could bake while away from home. Boy, how disappointing.
I have the feeling that while baking sourdough bread has room for improvisation, it still requires a delicate balance. I was really progressing when baking bread at home, but on vacation I got only bad bread despite trying to bake 4 times.
Things that went wrong:
- using flour I wasn’t used to: this is a problem. Flour has different characteristics, so what works with some flour doesn’t necessarily work with others.
- Lack of equipment: I realize that using the right equipment is essential for someone clumsy as I am. Not having a dough scraper, a proofing basket or a kitchen machine these days is a no-go for me. I can’t manipulate wet dough without a scraper. The dough will not shape well without the proofing basket. And I can’t – no way – knead the dough by hand. I know lots of people love doing it by hand, but I am not one of them. I use a kitchen machine, and I got pretty comfortable judging if the dough is good or not while the machine is doing its job.
- My sourdough starter simply didn’t work that well. I took a few spoons of my starter with me, but it took days to be healthy again. It seems it didn’t tackle the long journey that well. When it finally got strong again, it was on time for my last bread, which got ruined by a sticky form that ripped the dough apart.
I was happy to get back home and try baking again, and had a wonderful loaf to start with. My sourdough starter seems to need feeding only twice a month now.
I have the feeling that my dough is getting too wet during the autolyse phase, and that under 70% hydration – I wonder if I was calculating something wrong or if physics changed while I was gone! So weird! UPDATE: My dough was getting too wet, but that’s because I was using different flours than what I usually put on my dough. The Norwegian whole wheat flour doesn’t soak water that well. Besides, the use of 00 flour, as well as spelt, didn’t help.
I did this bread yesterday (70% hydration):
- Pre-ferment: 150g Pivetti type 1 flour, 150g water, 50g sourdough starter
- 100g Møllerens fibra (whole wheat)
- 50g Møllerens rye
- 100g Regal spelt
- 50g Pivetti type 00 wheat
- 50g Pivetti type 1 wheat
- 200g water
Amazing texture, when shaping, but unfortunately I rushed it into the oven.
Great taste, ok crumb, nice crust, but still could be softer and more homogenous. I am trying a variation today to see how it goes.