Whole-wheat bread, sourdough starter

My fear has been realized. This bread is stuck to the cloche and won't come out. I hope that changes as it cools, but I'm not counting on it. If it pops out later, I'll show it.

The thing that made me think it might work is that I regularly put exceedingly wet dough into screaming hot cloches and they pop right out. The difference here is this dough was proofed in the cloche and it was brought up to temperature with the oven. That meant as it proofed it had time to become one with the cloche. Even the lid was stuck. It eventually pried off with a bit of leverage and that gives me hope of salvaging the loaf. I do hope so because that would be awesome.

I did not check the loaf after it's last proof of ten hours. I just turned on the oven and let 'er rip, so I have no way of knowing if the cloche worked to produce oven rise. As you can see, it did not produce a customary dome. It smells fantastic.

Yay! It came out. *glees* Boy, I'm sure not going to ever do that again. Whew.

Ya know, the cloche does wonders for regular loaves made the normal way and for sourdoughs with customary percentage of all-purpose flour, up to 75%, but they really do not help at all with 100% whole wheat loaves. They do not create oven rise, and crisper crust is not an advantage with heavy all-wheat loaves. That's my new opinion I just now made up. I'm not going to use them any more for 100% of whole-wheat unless I get another idea I want to try. How's that for resolution with complete wiggle room?

Here's the deal I've been saving for this moment:

This batch began life as the remnant dregs of a previous batch. A teaspoon was salvaged, approximately. That teaspoon contained 50/50 whole wheat/all purpose flour along with salt from the bread and trace olive oil from the bowl. It was doubled with w-w flour and water, its bulk not even filling the bottom of a mason jar, proofed, then doubled again, proofed, doubled again, and so on until the mass was built up to a serviceable bulk.

The starter for the batch of bread that was the origin of this starter had its own genesis, of course, already shown in a previous post. Interesting in itself, I believe, it is the same technique used throughout history since the beginning of wheat cultivation through millennia right up to the present era whereupon the powerful, virile, and fast single-organism yeast cell, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, was isolated and cloned at the time of second world war. The same technique used including those periods when bread was associated with beer, as the barm skimmed from beer that was used for bread also developed directly from grain. (Ultimately from the air, but that's a whole 'nuther argument and a different demonstration.)

Fried chicken breast strips

Dusted with whole-wheat flour, cayenne, prepared curry, garlic powder, s/p.

Fried eggs, curry, bacon, whole wheat

I guess I went a little overboard with the red and black pepper. Eggs fried in butter. Prepared curry heated with the butter. This is delicious, and completely over the top with the whole-wheat bread which is a meal by itself. After photographing the plate I forgot I did that and my first bite was POW all over my mouth. I wished they were giant eggs so I could eat 'em all day.

I was sitting there poking the bread into the yolks and getting a little bit sad thinking about my father and what he missed all those years with his daily ritual of fried eggs over easy with catsup and his Wonder Bread® toast. He did enjoy hot and spicy food but my mother hadn't a clue how to begin with them. OK, that's a lie. She did have a clue how to begin -- sage in the turkey stuffing, whole clove stuck in the ham. I do believe that's about it. They did at length discover the intrigue of wasabi but that took an overseas tour and it had limited application, and much later, like around retirement, they discovered the joy of Srirachi and of kim chi but those are spicy prepared products and not spices per se. She also discovered garlic powder but by then she was pretty much completely over cooking which for her was a chore. See? Now I gone and done it. That does make me sad.

Whole wheat bread, milled grain,

Thursday 01/21/2010 9:30 PM ↓

↑ I used the coffee grinder because I'm not ready to bring out the mill. It's noisy and it's late, and I'm a little bit tired and not in the mood for it.

Friday 01/22/2010 10:00 AM ↓

↑ The dark line in the water of the starter is a good sign. It was the only indication of activity. No odor. The mixture was stirred.

I learned soft wheat mills MUCH faster than hard wheat. It goes so fast it almost takes the fun out of it. I also learned with the collar on, filled to the brim (6LBS. 5OZ) is the maximum the bowl can contain. At the very end it started to shoot out creating a flour cloud in the kitchen. That's bad.

Friday 01/22/2010 9:30 PM. ↓

↑ The slurry is doing something weird. It's clumping in a stringy mass as if its gluten is coalescing but it's not incorporating all of the water evenly. There is not yet any discernible odor.

Saturday 01/23/2010 9:30 AM↓

↑ Completely foamed. I do not understand the dark line of liquid in the middle marking the jar. Inside the jar, the mass was a complete pile of foam. This was a granular foam produced by the grain roughly milled in the coffee grinder. Still no discernible odor, but then again, it is a mustard jar. Two rounded tablespoons milled flour added plus three tablespoons filtered water. Enough to approximately double the mass of slurry. This is its first actual feeding following the activation of the organisms.

Sunday 01/24/2010 9:30AM 24 hours after first feeding. Still no aroma. ↓

Sunday 01//24/2010 1:00PM 28 hours after first feeding. ↓ The water keeps separating out no matter how thoroughly I stir it. It appears inert. No aroma whatsoever. I fed it two rounded tablespoons flour with no fresh water in order to stiffen the slurry into a viscosity of loose sponge. This is the jar after the two tablespoons were added. This amounts to a second feeding, but in my mind it's still the first feeding since the water has not been increased. That is, it's not a proper doubling of the mass, both flour and liquid. Hey, it's the way this goes, you gotta improvise sometimes. But I tell ya, I'm beginning to wonder if this grain has any yeast and bacteria organisms on it. But then other thoughts take over that makes me calm down, what I know to be true about grain. Unless the whole batch of grain was irradiated which doesn't seem possible. Gassed? Nah. James Peterson writes about creating starter in both his books, Cooking and Baking. Apparently he's getting his information from San Francisco Bay area bakers who disagree on many things but do all agree that it can take up to a week to get going. What James says in his two books coincides with my own experience. I find it curious that none of the bakers mention anything about using heat to assist the start. That's the reason why I'm not using heat this time -- because none of them do and because I've never tried it.

Sunday 01/24/2010 11:45 PM Second feeding twenty six hours after the first feeding, ten hours and forty-five minutes after the augmentation of the first feeding. Up there when flour was added to correct the slurry which kept separating. The jar looks like this ↑ before it was fed and it look like this ↓ after it was fed. The small jar above contained just a little more than 1/2 cup foamy slurry. The mixture fed with a little more than 1/2 cup filtered water and sufficient whole wheat to form a stiff mixture. Stiff because the mixture tends to separate out and I hoped to prevent that. This container ↓ contains a little over 2 cups stiff slurry. It's been three full days, so progress isn't that bad so far.

Monday 01/25/2010 2:00PM. fourteen hours following the second feeding ↓. There's nothing magical about twelve hours, or twenty-four hours, or thirty-six. This starter is now more than double its previous mass. The volume of water has was doubled to its previous mass, then sufficient flour to form a stiff sponge rather than a loose sponge as before. It has formed bubbles but not as yet so much as to bulge the top of the container. Its two cups of content has risen by one cup so it has not yet doubled in volume. It's active, but not all that active. I photographed it, but I'm not doing anything to it.

When I read James Peterson's take on whole-wheat sourdough bread it sounded to me familiar to what Harold McGee wrote in On Food and Cooking. Peterson says in his book Baking that cooks mix bread flour with whole-wheat flour because the ground husks present in the whole-wheat cut the gluten protein strands. For my loaves, I intend to mix a portion of my preferred all purpose flour because the high-protein bread flour available to me in bulk is too high in protein. The bread it produces always comes out more like bagels, dense, compact, with fine tight bubbles rather than open crumb that I'm looking for. Although alternatively I do have King Arthur bread flour and whole-wheat flour, I'm not going to use either of them.

I'm considering mixing the all-purpose flour that is intended for the bread into the next feeding of this starter so that the organisms it carryies can get into the act too. I'd expect it to show greater lift right off. But I'm torn. Another thing I want to try is to develop a loaf of bread that is 100% whole wheat straight from sponge. I wonder what it would be like if it were baked without being stiffened or kneaded, similar to bread from batter risen with chemical leaven like banana bread or zucchini bread. Maybe I'll divide this starter and do both. [edit: the story of how that separate loaf turned out is told in an earlier post here. Earlier, because it didn't take the proofing period that delayed this batch.] As for now, I'll leave it to develop at its own leisurely pace. I won't bother it until I observe it become exhausted no matter how long that takes.

Monday 01/25/2010 11:35PM Activity appears to have stopped. The volume has doubled to four cups. The tight sponge has loosened. It's foamy and stirs back to two cups volume.

Third feeding. One cup filtered water was added doubling its liquid portion to two cups. Two cups all purpose flour was added, doubling its flour portion. It is now approximately two cups water, two cups whole-wheat flour, and two cups all purpose flour. ↓ and ↓↓.

Tuesday 01/26/2010 2:30 PM Fifteen hours following the last feeding the sponge looks like this ↓.

It was fed with one and a half cups of water ↓, which is slightly less than double the weight of the liquid portion before being fed. I don't know why I held back. I suppose I didn't want a a huge pile of sponge nor a bunch of loaves. The flour added sufficient to produce a stiff dough is 50% all purpose flour and 50% whole wheat milled at home.

Plus salt by the spoonful until the bulk appeared to be sufficiently salted. I just guessed.

I processed it with the lid on but it doesn't photograph as interestingly that way. the machine because it bounces around so much it would jump off the counter if I didn't.

Friday 01/29/2010 10:00AM What follows is post-fermentation series.

I always hesitated taking the dough out of the refrigerator before the next morning because I imagined it might warm too quickly and overproof before I woke up. I risked that this time. Removed at 2:00 AM Friday morning before going to sleep. Checked it at 9:00AM the same morning and the bowl was still cold. It didn't begin to actually warm up until it was divided and stretched.

The photos below show the dough divided, stretched, folded, and shaped. It seemed a little too stiff to suit me so I moistened it between layers during folding. (I hope you appreciate the drag it was of photographing this, I had rinse my hands for each frame to protect the camera.) The dough is not bouncy and alive the way I like it. Rather it seems lifeless. That tells me the yeast organisms are still mostly in suspension. WAKE UP ALREADY!

Brief relaxing/proofing period while the oven and the cloche gets hot as it will go

That's it for the dough. All gone. Kaput. I did not reserve a portion to use as starter for future bread and that's a shame because I sure love that 100% whole wheat down there in a previous post from this same experiment. (It zoomed ahead of this batch because it didn't have the two and a half day fermentation period.)

But wait!

There is still the bits that were stuck to the bowl that can be salvaged. (I have it on good authority (TV show) a similar thing happened at the famed La Brea Bakery. A disgruntled employee, a true malcontent, a ne'er do well, a slacker, dumped the bakery's mother dough out onto the street. Litterer! Another quick-thinking (and probably desperate) employee dashed out onto the street and salvaged a tablespoon before it was totally destroyed then used it to inoculate a new batch restoring the full mass within a few days. So the story goes.) It's not 100% whole wheat. The trace amount is 50/50 all purpose and milled wheat along with salt and olive oil from the bowl, and those things do go against the concept of pristine purity, but the amount is so tiny that eventually it won't matter at all once it gets going again and doubled several times. The amount starting out is so neglegible it doesn't even fill the bottom of the jar. You'll see what happens to this later on. It just saves me the trouble of starting over from scratch. Which actually is no trouble at all, on the contrary it's fun. So what it saves is time and I don't actually care about that.

Gyros patty, whole wheat bread, tomato

Last of of pork/lamb gyros patties :-(

But not last of the pork/lamb gyros :-)

Roma tomatoes

* Two roma tomatoes.
* Gray coarse Brittany sea salt
* Mayonnaise made with lots of mustard, ginger powder, sugar, (one egg yolk, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup olive oil, s/p). It is written, in a book, olive oil goes bitter when whisked. So I thought, how bad could it be if I whisk by hand? That's my new thing -- whisking by hand because I can make a small amount of 1/2 cup oil and not have to worry about storing it. Plus I get to make it again sooner.

Whole wheat bread, volunteer culture

Have you ever noticed how books on bread baking always say to wait an hour after the bread is removed from the oven before tearing into it? They explain the bread is not done for at least an hour, that chemical changes continue to occur following removal from the oven, that it's not good to slice it immediately. Then, without exception, they all admit, they ALL admit, to not being able to resist. So I say, why bother? Go ahead and cut it immediately. It's never better. How's that for counter-revolutionary?

The leaven of this bread is produced by the organisms present on the grain from which the flour was milled. In large measure, those organisms are also responsible for the bread's flavor, but not entirely, as the whole wheat grain contributes significant flavor. This bread was not fermented in the usual sense by retardation through cool storage, a period that allows the bacterial portion of the culture to work its specific magic, creating an increased acid environment within the dough we reference as tang. It must be added that because the proofing periods are so long and because there are multiple feedings, all that really does amount to a period of fermentation although not as much as when a retarding period is included, especially so when compared with bread produced from commercial single-strain yeast within a matter of hours or even a single day. What this means is you can achieve bread with greater depth and broader flavor profile using convenient and powerful commercial yeast by chilling and aging the dough for a few days, at least overnight as pizza makers do.

This loaf is 100% whole wheat. It is a by-product of another experiment that cultivated organisms from grain over a period of several days at room temperature to produce natural bread the usual way including the usual fermentation period and using the usual combination of whole-wheat and all purpose flours. The process of cultivating organisms from yeast is not shown here. It will appear up there ↑ in a future post when that bread completes its fermentation. That cultivation of organisms from the grain began with only the grain but then switched to milled grain + A/P flour. But before the switch was made, a few tablespoons of the culture were reserved to initiate a separate batch of culture using pure 100% whole-wheat. That's where these photos pick up.

Tuesday 02/26/2010 2:30PM
This is a small ball of starter withheld from the immediately previous starter developed from soft white wheat grain. The ball was fed with an equal weight of water and enough milled grain to form a stiff sponge. ↓

The intention is to produce a loaf of 100% whole wheat, keeping in mind what is understood about the milled husks present in whole wheat cutting protein strands thus preventing the dough from rising normally without being augmented usually with at least an equal amount of high protein bread flour often twice as much. I may consider not kneading it at all but rather rely primarily on chemical leaven. The problem with that idea is the batter (sponge in bread terms) would need to be baked immediately following the final feeding because baking soda begins immediately, including the baking soda that comprises the bulk of baking powder, although a portion of it is activated by heat.

Tuesday 01/26/2010 11:35 PM, The sponge looks like this ↓ nine hours following the first feeding. Now, after feeding again it looks like this ↓↓ having doubled its liquid portion, about one cup, possibly more, and enough whole wheat flour to form a stiff dough (with the certainty it will loosen considerably as it proof and formed into a loaf. I decided not to add chemical leaven. I did add salt, and that's what seems to have abruptly arrested yeast development in the last experiments. I like to live dangerously. Also, the last time I used heat to get the organisms started and I did not do that this time. So right there are two rather significant differences.

At this point I have a choice. I was considering baking the wet sponge to see if that would result in greater oven-rise. That was my plan all along. On impulse I decided to stiffen the dough instead, knead it normally, and produce a loaf. You can see the loaf doubled in size.

Wednesday 01/27/2010 9:30AM Ten hours proofing. You can see the dough has filled out the pan and approximately doubled.

No oven rise. :-( This is ever the case. This absence of oven-rise makes me want to experiment with batter. I'm thinking the larger air bubbles that you can see in the jar will expand by heat. Those bubbles don't get as large inside densely compacted dough. My fear is that the loaf will collapse while baking or that I will not be able to get it out of the pan without destroying the loaf. I suppose there's only one way to find out.

Did I mention this stuff is indescribably delicious. It's why I'm such a terrible bread snob. I mean it. I cannot stand bread done quickly. It seems like such a regrettable waste of perfectly good wheat and the ruin of sandwiches. It makes me want to have a war with no-class bread.

Biscuits and gyros patties

I couldn't finish this. There's only so much my precious dainty little diet can handle at one time. No matter. I'll be hungry again soon enough.

Surplus lamb and pork that didn't fit into the pan for gyros down there ↓ a few posts ago. I've been frying it in tiny batches for snacks and it's delicious that way but now it's processed into patties like online instructions suggest except with egg and bread crumbs. I'm going to miss this gyros when it's gone because it sure is good.

Reserved fat and liquid that baked out from the original gyros a few posts ago, used now for gravy.

Tiny bottle of wine to deglaze the pan. Thing is, there was nothing stuck to deglaze. I whisked in cold butter to enrich the gravy while boiling out most of the alcohol. Only used a small portion of the wine. Now the rest will slowly turn to vinegar.

Biscuits. Butter broken into flour mixed with one teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda. Lime juice mixed with egg and milk to create acidic liquid for the biscuits. 50% / 50% whole-wheat and all purpose flours mixed in until loose wet dough was formed without developing the gluten. Cut the biscuits with biscuit cutter (not necessary) and baked in countertop microwave-convection combo oven at high for 12 minutes. Or possibly 15 minutes, I forget. Whatever it was, I kept my eye on it.

Apologies for crummy photographs, I was trying something different.

Gyros salad

Half cup of oil rapidly whisked while slowly drizzled. If you drizzle too fast, the mayonnaise does not thicken properly. When I say slowly, I mean SLOW! Drops. At first. You can speed up as you go along.

I did not use sugar, I used Splenda™ instead. The Splenda I have is in a miso jar and doesn't photograph as well as the sugar package.


The pecans were heated in the microwave thirty seconds to excite their oil.

The gyros is from a previous experiment down there ↓ . It's chipped pork and lamb pressed and slowly baked. It's a bit overly dry.

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