I’m a low maintenance kinda gal. If I can save myself from a little work, I am a happy camper. Normally, I keep my sourdough starter in the fridge. Refrigerating the starter probably doesn’t do much for its development but it keeps me from having to think about its care and well being in between baking sessions. This past week was an exception. I took the starter out of the fridge a week ago Friday in anticipation of making pizza. I knew I wanted to make biscuits later in the week, so I kept it out and fed it daily until Thursday when I finally made the biscuits. Well, by then it was so close to the weekend that I decided a few more days of feeding wouldn’t kill me.
Last night, I found a baguette recipe in my copy of Williams-Sonoma essentials of baking. The recipe was written for commercial yeast, but I was happy to notice a side bar that explained how to make a variation with starter. The variation called for making the sponge the night before with starter and then the recipe called for commercial yeast in the actual bread dough. Since I never use commercial yeast anymore, I don’t have any in the house. I decided to only use the starter for leavening and just stretch out the proofing time a little longer than called for. I wanted loaves that were a little sturdier than their all white version so I substituted some stone ground whole-wheat and some rye flour for some of the white flour.
The recipe makes enough dough for three small baguettes. My dough forming skills still need a lot of practice. My loaves were cute, not pretty. They are a little malformed and squat and fat. I love them anyway. Why? Because of the flavor and the texture. I think having the starter out for so long and then giving the sponge a full thirteen hours to do its thing before the long proofing period really gave them a nice sweet tart flavor. This bread pleasantly surprised me; the center of the bread was fluffy, moist and soft. Almost like sandwich bread but the outside was crispy to the point that it shatters to the bite. The sweet tart flavor I told you about hits the tongue and then you taste a touch of salt.
We grabbed a loaf the minute we thought it was cool enough to eat. We brought out some manchego cheese and demolished most of that first loaf of bread in a single sitting. It was so very delicious!
Sourdough wheat and rye baguettes
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma essentials of baking
For the sponge:
½ cup well fed sourdough starter
1 ½ cups water
1 tsp sugar
2 cups unbleached white flour
For the Dough:
¾ cup unbleached white flour
¼ cup rye flour
1 cup stone ground whole-wheat flour
1 ½ tsp salt
cornmeal for dusting your peel
extra flour for dusting your cutting board
The night before you want to bake, Mix all of the sponge ingredients thoroughly in the bowl of a standing mixer and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the sponge stand overnight at least 11-13 hours. The next morning, the sponge should be very active and bubbly.
Add the salt, white, rye, and whole-wheat flours to the sponge. With the dough hook inserted into your mixer, mix on the lowest speed to combine. Kick the speed up one notch and knead the dough for 7 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides and form a ball. If it does not, add a little more white flour a tbsp at a time until it does. Form the dough into a ball and then grease your bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Cover the dough with a clean dishtowel and let it rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours. The dough should double in size.
Punch down the dough. Shape into a round again. Re-cover the bowl with the towel and let it rise again for about an hour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut it into thirds with a bench scraper or a sharp knife. Shape each third into a round. Cover the dough with the dishtowel and let it rest 10 minutes before shaping.
Work with one dough ball at a time. Slap the dough hard onto the work surface. Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand. Roll a third of the dough to the center and push the seam in a little to seal it. Roll the dough onto itself until you have an oval loaf. Elongate the loaf by rolling it on the work surface exerting pressure from the middle of the loaf out. Dust a peel or a cookie sheet with cornmeal. Place the loaf on the peel. Repeat this process with the other two balls of dough. Let the dough rise for 40 minutes to an hour until it has doubled and the dough feels light and spongy when you lightly poke or squeeze it.
Put a pizza stone in your oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees f. as soon as you are done shaping the loaves. Place a cake pan in the oven
When the loaves are done proofing, slash them on the diagonal 4 or 5 times with a sharp knife. Transfer the loaves to the pizza stone, toss a cup of water into the cake pan for steam and then close the oven door fast and lower the heat to 450 degrees f. Bake the loaves for 20-25 minutes until they are golden brown and sound hollow when you tap them. Cool the loaves for 20 minutes before you uncontrollably scarf one down with butter or cheese.