maui culture sourdough bread

plated bread

The photo above is not saturated, you can tell by the pastel plate. In fact, I backed off the saturation that came out of the camera -- the bread really does look like that.

I must say first off, this bread is unspeakably delicious. I think due mostly to the large amount of whole wheat grain. The culture facilitates the flavor of the grain, brings it out and develops it as fully as possible and it does add it's own character, but it does not completely characterize it. This same culture tastes much different in bread when using 100% refined A/P white flour, much milder and far less intriguing, even when fermented for three days. In that case, it has all of the tang but not the depth that this has. A person could grow fat on a diet of this bread if they weren't careful.

Sourdough culture collected on the island of Maui a few years ago while on a three week vacation with my brother. What forbearance my brother has to put up with me collecting this culture twice. It stank really badly, and when I say "stank," I mean STANK! It was nearly unbearable in raw form when brought inside. The culture had to dry out, not so easy or fast in an environment humid as a Pacific island. The dried flaky stink'n culture processed in a blender and turned to powder, then smuggled back stateside in a suitcase right at a time when everybody was exceedingly nervous about questionably labeled white powder. I'm a little bit surprised we weren't arrested. My brother thought the yeast collection wouldn't work because he didn't think an island would have sufficient airborne yeast. Actually, islands are fantastic locations due to their isolation and their unique microflora abundance. I go, "look around you and take in the outrageous megaflora then imagine that same extraordinary variety on the micro level." A full blown bubbling culture was collected within the span of a single day and a second culture within a few hours of a hot windy afternoon. Anyhoo, this culture has unique properties, chief among them a very thick crust, thickest of all the crusts of all the cultures I've owned, and at one time I owned nine different cultures. Well, that's just plain ridiculous then, in'nit?

Here, the unhappy culture looks and feels like window putty.

maui culture starter

10:00 PM Starter removed from cold storage, hydrated with equal amount of water by weight.

This culture is being rejuvenated with heat (95℉) as if starting from scratch because it has languished in cold storage neglected for months. This would not be necessary had it been kept active. The live cells are there but in greatly reduced numbers like a faltering army. The flour used to reactivate it also contains live cells of another culture also in hibernation so I want to feed it as little as possible, and to hold off awhile on feeding at all, until it gets going, that way I can assure that most of the combined culture will be the original unique combination of yeast cells and bacteria collected on Maui and not the new culture introduced by the flour that's feeding it. I'm imagining these two cultures having a war once hydrated and in contact with each other and the culture with the greatest number winning that war with the loser either perishing or being conscripted into service. Theoretically if this analogy holds then each feeding changes the culture incrementally as the constitution of the army of organisms is altered however slightly.

Covered with a cloth draped over the burner that's a chimney from the oven. A few bubbles appeared. Fed a tablespoon flour, stirred. More bubbles appeared. The next morning fed again. Each feeding separated by hours contributed flour but not water until finally the runny mixture became more like foamy sponge. At 6:00 PM the next day, 20 hours later, the sponge looked like this in the jar.

maui culture sponge 2

This foam was knocked back and its level at the jar was noted. That same amount of water is added to it so the liquid portion was approximately doubled. At 7:00 AM the next morning, 13 hours, the mixture looked like this ↓ The liquid amount was doubled again, and enough flour to bring that new liquid to the consistency of wet sponge.

maui culture sponge 3

I ran out of white flour and was pressed to get more but I don't feel like it. Realizing I do have high-protein hard wheat, I decided to mill it instead. Using that will make the flour ratio approx. 50%/50% refined white to freshly milled whole wheat, and as you can see, it is 100% of whole wheat, none of this disassembling the constituents of grain and reassembling to less than 100% of 100%ness, if you know what I mean, and what I mean is ALL of the bran and ALL of germ, and ALL of the endosperm, all of ALL of the grain kernel is there, and that means some very heavy lifting of inert weight is expected of the yeast culture there, don'tchyaknow. Loaves like this are usually like bricks, but mine will not be like bricks, no siree, they sure won't because I will not let 'em. First of all, I'm milling all this grain to fine powder, and you just don't ever see that, secondly, I intend to form exceedingly wet loaves and thirdly bake them within pre-heated cloches at exceedingly high heat to encourage maximum lift. Well, we'll see then, won't we?

maui culture milling grain

Because of all that, it's rather important to knead thoroughly, and it's almost impossible to do this by hand when so much 100% of 100% of whole wheat is used -- up to 50% worth! Therefore, I'm letting the machine develop the gluten in all that whole wheat. If I did this by hand my arms would fall off.

maui culture kneading

It's possible to over process when using a machine which can result in broken limp exhausted gluten protein molecules but less possible when the dough contains excessive amount of whole wheat flour like this batch. So, let 're rip and POW! Bob's your uncle.

The stiff sponge is left to rise a little bit then progress abruptly arrested by sticking the whole bowl into cold storage for at least two days but more likely three days fermentation to allow the bacterial portion of the culture to work its wonder. During this period the yeast portion of the culture will slow down to a near halt but still inflate the mass as it does so and release CO2 which is captured by the gluten protein network along with alcohol which tends to moisten and loosen the entire mass of sponge. If the sponge is insufficiently loosened by the end of two or three days when it's time to form the loaves, then moisture will be added by hand in between the layers when the dough is stretched and folded upon itself -- clever, eh? -- before its final rise whereupon the yeast cells are redistributed to propinquity with new partners and they engage in one last orgiastic undisciplined riot of reproduction immediately before being baked. Mua ha ha ha ha ha. Such are the manipulations of the fiendish baker.

So that was Tuesday ↑ and this is Saturday ↓ so that's three full days and four nights of fermentation, and I must say the product is strongly flavored. That combined with the high amount of whole wheat 100% of 100% of whole wheat, mind you, to 50% total flour, and not that chincy crap 70% of whole wheat elements recombined and passed off as 100% and then comprising only up to 25% of total flour used in the bread dough like normally, no Sir, this here is A LOT OF WHOLE WHEAT !!!! By all rights this bread should be impossible to consume, but it isn't on account of the aceness of the way the dough was handled. You can see that after fermentation it's rather flat compared to normal dough.

fermented dough in the bowl


dough ring dumped from bowl

Here's where I tried to be gentile like usual, but it just wasn't possible today. The dough was impossibly dry. I flattened it out, moistened it by carrying water to the flattened surface then folding it in. I did that several times. Finally, I just re-kneaded each loaf as if starting from the very beginning. I let it recover for about 45 minutes. The yeast portion of the culture began to wake up and become active. I added quite a lot of water back into the dough to get as floppy and stretchy mixture as possible. All this was made more difficult due to the high amount of whole wheat. This simply is not usually done.

dough divided, moistened, folded

re-moistened dough resting and rising

These are clay roasters intended for chicken, pork and beef that I'm using for cloches. I have them turned upside down because they're designed with ribs to elevate the meat from its juices but I don't want those ribs impressed on my bread. I got these on eBay for much less than the cost of ordinary cloches. When I told the sellers what I intended to do with them they were a little bit stunned by the audacity of the whole thing, they battered me with questions about the viability of my idea, but hey, what can I say? They work. I've also used double pizza stones and inverted clay bisque bowls but these work the best. After three delays and months of waiting, finally, the real clay cloches were made available from backorder but by then I had already substituted these and had already been enjoying their success so my attitude at that point was they could just piss off.


Bake at 500 ℉ for 35 minutes closed, then another 10 minutes the lids (the bottoms) off. We artisan bakers, heh heh heh, that sounds funny saying that, aim for three colors of brown in our hearthy breads; proper brown like you expect, light tan from the exposed inside crumb broken out, and dark brown to black burnt edges. When we get those three colors, we buff our nails on our shirt and go, "Ta daaaaa."

baked loaves

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