Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bread Alert: Too Much Dark Sour Bread

I'm going to start a "lessons" tag so I can easily refer to all the things I need to remember whenever I bake. Here's one:

Remember to take into account the liquid in the sponge!

A loaf of bread contains approximately 1 1/4 cups of liquid, and then enough dry ingredients to hold it together. Two loaves means 2.5 cups of liquid or so.

Mrs. Rouftop is always concerned about the sponge being too dry. She set this one with 1.5 cups of water. When I began baking today, I started by adding all the liquids from my Dark Sour Bread recipe: 1.5 cups of beer, .5 cup water, .5 cup molasses. All of a sudden, I'm staring at 4 cups of liquid in a bowl. And I'm thinking: doh!

This recipe is adapted from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads. (If you're looking for a good bread cookbook, you can do no better!)

The Sponge
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1 heaping tablespoon apple butter

Mix the ingredients, cover with plastic and let sit for two days. (One day would be more than enough. It really doesn't seem to matter. I didn't have time to bake yesterday, so I just waited. The sponge fermented more. It was fine, thankfully it didn't spoil.)

This recipe makes 3 or 4 nice round loaves.

The mix
  • 1 1/2 cups beer, preferably flat
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup wheat germ
  • 2/3 cup cornmeal
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • enough bread flour to fill out the dough (3-4 cups)
Heat the beer on the stove until it simmers. If the beer is not flat, you will need to stir it constantly -- once it hits the boiling point, it will foam up very fast. Turn off the heat, and add the water, butter, molasses and salt. Allow it to cool to 115 degrees (warm, not hot to the touch).
Add this mix to the sponge and stir. Add the wheat germ and cornmeal, then the whole wheat flour 1/2 cup at a time. Continue to add bread flour 1/2 cup at a time until it forms something remotely kneadable, then turn it out onto a very well floured surface. This is incredibly sticky dough, so be prepared to use a lot of bread flour on your hands and kneading surface! Knead for 10 minutes until it has that earlobe consistency we know and love.

Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot and allow it to double in bulk, about an hour and fifteen minutes or so.

Prepare cookie sheets by covering with parchment paper and dusting with cornmeal.

Punch down the dough, then divide into 3 or four pieces. Shape them into rounds and place on cookie sheets. Cover with plastic wrap that's been greased with vegetable oil and allow it to rise until again doubled, one hour.

Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

  1. My solution to the massive quantities of dough: After shaping two loaves into rounds, I shaped the remaining dough into a long torpedo, covered in oiled plastic wrap and placed in a sturdy plastic bag, then stuck it in the freezer. This is my first time freezing dough, we'll see what happens!
  2. The flavor is really good, but all the extra flour diluted the goodness of the beer and molasses. The original recipe called for only 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of bread flour; I used at least twice that.
  3. Another effect of too much dough: it's harder to knead. I think it needed more time than I gave it, as the loaves were flat and lifeless at the end.
  4. I remembered to preheat the oven! Yay! Then I forgot to put the bread on time. Boo! I don't think that was what caused the flatness.
  5. Greasing plastic wrap. It's key. I finally can keep it from sticking to my already-shaped loaves. Wax paper would probably work even better.
  6. Don't get me wrong, this is delicious. I highly recommend it.


Heating the beer: I figured a nice wheat beer would really do the trick. New Belgium Mothership Wit, in this case. Let's see, 24 ounces of beer = 3 cups, this recipe calls for 2 cups... What do I do with that last cup? Any ideas? Anybody? Hmm. I'll think of something.
Here's the sponge. I should have known I was in trouble just from the size of it.
In the middle of mixing it up, and it's just getting bigger.
After rising. Yes, it's OUT OF MY BOWL!
Two loaves left to rise...
... one wrapped up for the freezer.
After the second rising. Holy crap-o-moly!
A somewhat flattened, but truly delicious, turkey sandwich.

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