I complained the other day asking, will it never rise? It turns out that like a watched pot never boiling, watched bread dough never rises…
But stop looking and hey presto!!
The cooler weather has set in with a vengeance and whenever it is windy, our draughty house is even colder than usual. Consequently, I was once again having difficulty getting dough and/or shaped bread to rise:
cold kitchen = SLOW rise
So I decided to add a tiny bit of commercial yeast to our wild bread recipe. The dough still took forever to rise – it was after midnight when I took the bread out of the oven. I had hoped and expected to be baking the bread just before dinner at around 7:30… but I didn’t get to shape it until 7:00!!
I divided the dough roughly into 3 and made two rounds and 4 round buns (I didn’t take photos of the buns – you’ll have to take my word for it that they turned out just fine.)
At around 11:30pm, when the shaped bread had clearly started to rise (there were bubbles and each round was wider than before, I decided I really didn’t want to wait any longer. If the bread was flat as a pancake again, so be it.
based on the recipe for basic sourdough in Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant
makes 2 largish round loaves or 2 round loaves and 4 buns
- 2 Tbsp wild yeast starter
- all purpose unbleached flour
- Day before Baking – Morning Take 30gm of wild yeast starter (discard the rest) and stir in 30gm water and 30gm unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave in a warm draftfree spot (counter in summer, oven with only light turned on in winter) til midday.
- Day before Baking Midday: The mixture should have doubled and there should be lots of bubbling. Take 30gm of above mixture (reserve the rest to add to something that doesn’t HAVE to rise… something like onion rings). Stir in 30gm water and 30gm unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave… etc.
- Day before Baking Evening: Stir 80gm water and 80gm unbleached all-purpose flour into ALL of the above mixture. Cover and leave… etc.
- Baking Day Morning: The mixture should have doubled and be a bubbling mass. Reserve a portion for future bread making: Take 30gm (2 Tbsp) of above mixture (RESERVE the rest for making bread) and stir in 30gm (2 Tbsp) water and 30gm (3 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave for 2 hours on the counter. Put it into a covered glass jar and store in refrigerator. (Feeding: you should be feeding the starter every 2 days: take 30gm (2 Tbsp) of the refrigerated mixture – discard the extra – and stir in 30gm (2 Tbsp) water and 30gm (3 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour. To use the refrigerated starter for baking, begin at step #1.)
- ⅛ tsp active dry yeast
- 50gm lukewarm water*
- 660gm unbleached all-purpose flour**
- 150gm wholewheat flour**
- 450gm room-temperature water
- all of the reserved buildup from above (500gm)
- 1 Tbsp seasalt
- In a smallish bowl, add yeast and lukewarm water (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist) and whisk it until it looks a little like cream. Set aside.
- In the meantime, put reserved buildup into a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the rest of the water, flours and salt. Add the yeasted water. Stir well until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. It will look a bit like slightly stiff oatmeal porridge. Cover and allow to rest on the counter for about 20 minutes.
- Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured board. Wash and dry your mixing bowl. This prepares the rising bowl AND gets your hands clean.
- Kneading: Without adding any more extra flour, knead the dough until it is smooth and silky (5 to 10 minutes). Let your dough scraper (a spatula works) be your friend if the dough is sticking to the board. One hand scrapes the dough and the other kneads. Under no circumstances should you add more flour. If you find your kneading hand is sticking too much, just scrape off the excess with the scraper and continue. Don’t worry when the dough doesn’t resemble a pillow. Use the dough scraper to put the dough into the clean bowl. (It is entirely unnecessary to oil the rising bowl!) Cover with a clean damp tea towel (or use one of those elasticized reusable plastic covers that look like shower hats) and allow to rise in a draftfree area of the counter (or the oven with only the light turned on) for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes has passed, very lightly dust the work surface with flour. Carefully turn the dough out (try not to disturb any bubbles). Using the dough scraper and still trying not to disturb any bubbles, fold the left side into the center, then the top into the center, then the right side, then the bottom. As you lift it into the bowl, fold it in half once more. Try to place it in the bowl smooth side up. Cover. Let it ferment in the same no-draft area used before for 20 minutes again.
- Repeat the above step. On this final time, the dough will look more like the smooth soft pillow that is described in books. The amount of dusting flour used in these folding maneuvres is not much more than tablespoon and probably much less (sorry, I haven’t measured). Allow to rise in the same no-draft area until the dough has just doubled. This might take some time…. A good way to check is to run your fingers under the cold water tap and poke a finger into the dough. If the hole disappears quickly, the dough still needs to rise more. If there is a whooshing sound as the dough collapses, it has risen too much (this is quite unlikely to happen soon if your kitchen is between 15C and 18C…) If the hole stays in pretty much the same shape, it is ready to shape.
- Shaping: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide it into 2 even pieces. Set one aside, covered to stop it from drying out. Gently fold the other piece (try not to disturb the bubbles) the left side into the center, then the top, then the right side then the bottom. Fold in half. Turn it over. Continue to fold it underneath itself to form an even tight ball without actually deflating the dough. (When I shape the dough, I hold it the way I would hold a wild bird – firmly enough so it won’t escape but gently so as not to harm it.) Place the shaped bread seam side down on a parchment covered peel (or cookie tray if you do not have a bread stone). Shape the other piece of dough in the same way. Cover with plastic (or a clean damp tea towel), place in a draftfree area (oven with only the light turned on) and allow to rise to about doubled (may take ages if your kitchen is cold!!). To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.
- Baking: Twenty minutes before baking, remove the rising bread from the oven and place it on the counter. Put your stone on the middle shelf. Turn the oven to 450F to preheat.
- When the oven is well preheated, use kitchen scissors to slash a design in the top of each loaf. Liberally spray the loaves with water. Put the bread in the oven and IMMEDIATELY turn the oven down to 400F. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning the bread around half way through – to account for uneven heat in the oven. It is done when the inside temperature of the bread is around 210F. An instant read meat thermometer is invaluable! If the bread seems to be getting too dark coloured on the outside near the end of baking, turn the temperature down by 25F increments until the bread is done.
- Remove the bread to cool on a rack. Wait til the bread is cool before cutting it. It is still continuing to bake inside!****Notes:
*Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated.
Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature, (use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist – your fingers have no idea of temperature!) Or you can use a thermometer.
The temperature should be BELOW 120F because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.
** The unbleached allpurpose flour is “NoName” (about 11.5% protein). The whole wheat flour is “Five Roses” (about 13% protein).
*** If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat unsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.
We served the bread with Puy Lentils and sausage – three different sausages purchased from one of the shops at St. Lawrence Market: a Boerwors: beef with tones of cloves; an extra hot XXX (Ha!) Macedonian: pork, chili and leek; Farmer’s: pork and sage. T barbecued the sausages before added them to the lentils with some of our chicken stock and a bit of left-over onion soup (also made with our chicken stock). I stir-fried some beet stems and a few beet leaves with red onions and fennel seed.
What a perfect feast to have on a chilly November night!
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