breadsong with the 80%-rye bread and Diane with the Norwich Sourdough
Taken separately neither of them might have been bold enough to take on teaching a bread class but put the two of them together and all bets are off. Emails pingponged for weeks across the skies of British Columbia, from misty shores to mellow valleys, from pregnant fields to pounding surf. Formulas fluttered back and forth; some were forcefully driven to the ground; others blew slowly away, never to be seen again; four made the final cut: Diane's version of the Norwich Sourdough, Jeffrey Hamelman's 80% rye (a honey-walnut-spice variation), his whole wheat multigrain and Ken Forkish's 75% whole wheat.
On the actual eve of the workshop, as dusk darkened the windows, four women could be seen sitting around the kitchen table: Diane and breadsong, Melanie (a baker from Northeastern Washington who had come to help) and myself, the designated blogger. A giant platter of homemade cookies was brought in from the cold; mucho munching ensued, fueled by steaming tea and riotous retelling of bread (mis)adventures. Then we all got down to business: breadsong made final adjustments to the class handouts; Diane mixed a batch of Norwich sourdough, then shaped the one that had fermented all day and set it to proof. Melanie and I started scaling the ingredients for the doughs which were to be mixed in the morning.
A variety of grains was set to soak...
...spices were roasted and ground for the rye bread...
...and the various levains got fed.
Then, save for the silent squish of slowly rising dough, the house hushed for the night.
Things picked up fast in the wee hours of the morning: doughs needed to be mixed and set to ferment for the students to later shape, proof and score, proofed loaves had to be baked and everything step and ingredient checked and re-checked and checked again.
At 9 the students filed in. Although they were all there for the same reason (to learn how to make naturally leavened bread), their motivations varied: some had mastered yeasted breads and wanted to "graduate" to levain; others had never baked bread but loved the idea of making everything from scratch; one had just gotten a stone-mill grinder and wanted to switch to whole grains; another had a gluten-sensitive wife and was hoping that naturally leavened breads would be easier for her to digest, etc. But one thing was clear: they were all determined to make the most of the workshop.
By way of an introduction, Diane explained that the class was an experiment as neither she nor breadsong had ever taught bread making before. She stressed that since sourdough baking couldn't possibly be a one-day project, the students would see all the steps of the process but not necessarily in chronological order. Two doughs were ready to shape and the students would start with that; then they would mix four doughs from scratch. The most urgent task was to shape the Norwich sourdough which had bulk-fermented (a technical term for what the students might already know as the first rise) overnight.
- Keep your hands dry and floured
- Don't use too much flour on the bench (the table or countertop) or you will compromise the crumb (since the gluten in the added flour isn't given a chance to develop)
Desired dough Temperature
Fermentation & temperature
- Properly maintaining and caring for their sourdough starter (wheat, rye)
- Using a scale (weighing ingredients) and a thermometer (to monitor dough temperature)
- Allowing flour time to fully hydrate (as an aid to mixing)
- Calculating water temperature prior to mixing
- Controlling fermentation: maintaining appropriate temperatures when fermenting the starter and the dough (a Brød and Taylor proofer is a useful tool);
- Properly developing the dough when mixing
- Watching the dough, not the clock, to determine whether it has fermented (risen) enough
- Baking with steam.
I couldn't agree more.
Stencils on the 75%-whole grain by breadsong