From harvest to table ~ what's cooking now?

This blog shows where all those garden goodies I grow end up. I call this little eating area next to the stove my "chef's table" because at all the best restaurants it's a privilege to be invited to dine in the kitchen where the chef reigns supreme. So here I am "reigning" and you are all invited. :-D

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Making magic with Mona

After a couple of weeks of trial and error, I finally ended up with a viable spelt sourdough starter!

Yea, MONA!  (Doesn't everyone name their starters?)

So one afternoon I rounded up some kitchen supplies and after watching countless YouTube vids and reading blogs and recipes, I was ready to try my hand at my very first sourdough bread.

As you can see, Mona was big and bubbly and was now doubling in size every 4-5 hours and she'd been doing that for several days.  Time to put her to the test.

I followed directions and ended up with a wet and shaggy dough.  It was supposed to sit overnight to rise, but I wanted to use my new proof box - but not without supervision (it's homemade and I sure didn't want to burn the house down while I slept).  So I put the dough in the 'fridge overnight and brought it out to rise the next day.

After 12 hours, the dough had doubled.  Time for the next step.  I watched lots of vids were they used a fancy basket for the 2nd rise to make a design in the final loaf.  Hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  While I floured a clean basket liberally, things didn't turn out very well (as you can see in the pic - lots of sticky dough left in the basket).  So I pulled out the rest and just dumped it on top of the shapeless mass in the pre-heated dutch oven.  Okay, free-form it is!

As you can see, the trauma of de-basketing pretty much deflated the dough.  Sure, it baked up nice and toasty and there are even remnants of basket trace on the final loaf, but pretty it ain't.

The loaf itself barely reached 3" high.  Next time - a much smaller baking container, one that wouldn't let the dough spread out so much.

Anyway, here's my first sourdough loaf.  Presentation?  Eh - a C+ maybe.  I like the swirls from the basket.  The color is lovely - rich toasty.

I like the bottom - very toasted with embedded cornmeal.  I love cornmeal on crust.

I baked the loaf (covered) at 450F for 40 minutes, then another 10 minutes uncovered.

The dough, however, had been much denser than I had hoped, resulting in an overly moist bread.

So I cut the loaf in half to expose the insides and let it sit in the hot oven for another 10 minutes.

Then I let it cool on a rack for a couple of hours before putting the whole shebang into a plastic bag on the counter overnight.

The next day the rather tough crust had softened enough to become a delightful (though a bit challenging) chew.

The crumb had dried out a bit and the bread held together well as 1/4" slices.  Perfect for toast, crustini or plain.

Mona did lift the dough well.  As you can see there are lots of bubbles and are well spaced (I used the stretch & fold technique on this - spelt does not have enough gluten to stand up to any kneading).

But looks, texture and chewiness aside, what I really wanted to know was ... how does it taste?

I had a small chunk warm from the oven.  Oh my - it was - sour.  Really sour.  Yikes.  Maybe too sour.  *sigh*

But the next morning I sliced off another piece and it didn't seem to be as sour.  Oh, it still had kick, but it seemed - different.  Like chili - if you eat it right after seasoning with all those chilis and onions, it could knock you down.  But let it sit overnight the flavors blend, evolve, mellow.

So did this loaf. 

Anyway, I'm calling this one a success!  Yea for Mona!  She gets a fresh feeding of organic spelt flour.
I get sourdough bread.

Seems fair to me.  :-D

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  1. OK, so what's a proof box and why might you burn the house down with it?

    1. My house is chill (for dough) - only mid-60s. Sourdough starter likes 75-80 to develop. The sourdough batter needs into 70s for good ferment. So I rigged up an old cooler with a light bulb and a cover. Even a small light bulb (7 watts) makes heat - sometimes too much. So I didn't want to leave the batter proofing in the box without my checking on the (inevitable ) heat buildup through the 12-hour rise. As it was I had to remove the cover several times to bring down the temps (sometimes reaching into 80s).

  2. Interesting.......I am not a fan of sourdough breads but I am happy you are pleased.

    Are you going to keep Mona going?

    1. Yep, I'm gonna try. The bread is tasty and I'm going to work on the technique. But for a first try? I'm pretty pleased, is right. Thanks!

  3. Congratulations on your first sourdough adventure! There is definitely an art to it, one that I haven't perfected but I think is worth the effort. I'm having to wait until warmer weather myself, before I start my next starter.

    1. If it weren't for a ledge on the hot air furnace, Mona never would have lived. I never realized how cool my winter house is and that there is only that one 8x14" shelf where it's warm enough all day/night for her to perch and the proof box w/night light was the only way the batter could ferment. How did they keep sourdough alive in the old, cold days anyway? LOL