I used to treat home sourdough baking with the vigorous attention you would give to an academic project. The centre of my method, and my arithmetic prowess, was the calculation of dough hydration. It was as if everything else flowed from there. But a calculator is really not necessary for a simple home bread unless you are aiming for a particular style of bread. The bit about simplicity is -
Firstly, I use a liquid starter - one part flour to one part water.
Secondly, I dilute whatever starter there is by adding two times its weight in water. And,
Thirdly, I add three times the starter weight in flour.
One such bread using this idea is pictured below.
Essentially this is Flo Makanai's 1.2.3 method, a very practical and easy to follow method. The overall dough hydration works out to be around 71.4%. Depending on the hydration of your starter and the type of flour you use, this level of dough hydration may be a little too high or low for what you like. You can fine tune it to suit your taste and your flour.
For the bread immediately below, I used 1/2 organic plain flour by Australia's Kialla brand and 1/2 the French Cérès T110 flour(hence, the very light brown crumb color below). My flour is quite thirsty (Kialla’s protein level is quite high at 13.6%), so the level of hydration is right for me.
If your starter is a stiff starter at, say, 65% hydration, your dough made using this method will have an overall hydration of 66.4%.
(1) I diluted the starter in a big mixing bowl by adding the water a little bit at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding more until all water was added. (You can hold back 10 – 12% water if you are not sure if this amount of water is right for your flour. For more information, see [u]here[/u])
(2) Flour and salt were added. I used a big bread knife to stir. Once all ingredients were combined, I noted down the time. From that point on, the flour had started to ferment. (At room temperature of 21 – 26 C, I aim for 6 hours all-up fermentation before baking - 4 hours fermentation when the dough is in the bulk form, and 2 more hours after the dough is shaped. See point 8 and 9 below.) I then covered the dough with Glad wrap.
(3) Autolyse for 30 minutes.
(4) I stretch–and-folded the dough in the mixing bowl about 30 times. Then, I took the dough out and oiled the bowl and put it back to the bowl. Covered the dough.
(5) In the next 3 hours, I did a double letter-fold at hourly interval, totalling three times. (I took the dough out and gently stretched the dough to as far as it can go without tearing the skin, folded 1/3 over, then again the other 1/3 over like folding a letter, and repeated the double letter-fold. I oiled the bowl and placed the dough top-side up in the bowl.)
(6) The dough rested for a further 30 minutes, then I did one last double letter-fold, which served as pre-shaping.
(7) After another rest of 10 – 15 minutes, I shaped the dough into a batard and placed it in a flour-dusted banneton.
(8) At this point, I would normally look at the time and see how much time remaining before the 6 hours total fermentation time is up and allow the dough to prove accordingly. But for the bread above, I decided I wanted to retard the shaped dough in the refrigerator, so I covered it with a thick tea towel and placed it in a plastic bag, the inside of which was also lined with a thick tea towel to absorb any moisture that might have developed overnight. I placed the plastic bag into the fridge immediately. The proof retarding is equivalent to 2 hours fermenting at room temperature.
(9) The next morning, I baked the dough cold, straight out of the fridge, for easier scoring and better oven spring. The bread was baked at 240 C, covered under a giant stainless steel bowl, for 25 minutes, then, uncovered, for a further 15 minutes. I find the covered baking method produce (a) better crust color, (b) better oven spring, and (c) better grigne. This is largely due to the fact that the dough is self-steaming under the bowl.
If you are going for a super grigne, you can try under-proving your dough; ie, reducing total fermentation time from 6 hours to, say, 5 – 5 1/2 hours. If you are going for maximum crumb flavour, and you don’t care about grigne, you can try prolonging fermentation time by lowering dough temperature, ie placing the dough in the refrigerator in bulk [color=red]plus[/color] proof retarding in the refrigerator. (The best examples that I have come across are Johnny’s Rolled Oats & Apple Breadand his Ciabatta Integrale. What awesome formulas he has developed.)
Following is another simple home bread, using the 1.2.3 method. If you have an x amount of starter, you multiply it by 6 and you get your dough size (ie, 1+2+3 = 6).
Here is the fomula for this second bread:
·100 grams white liquid starter
·200 grams water
·300 grams flour (all T110 flour)
·7 grams salt
Total dough weight was roughly 600 grams. And here are the crumb shots:
Today at lunch, my daughter and I enjoyed the homemade bread with avocado and lemon juice drizzled over it, while my son was in Ipswich playing soccer. Yep, the soccer season has started.