|Fresh from the oven|
|Ready to bake|
|Peel back the cloth|
There are lots of stories on the baking utensils and the use of baking stones and Dutch Ovens (DO) ... all of the methods do have merit but is not required in order to get a good loaf.
The aim of this article is to allow the average Home Baker to get a good loaf of Sourdough and I will explain the simple things you need to do to achieve that. Remember our ancestors had very primitive facilities and they made their Daily Bread with that what they had.
|Loaf pans for steam|
You need a simple sheet pan or baking tray, two small loaf pans. Look carefully at the picture to see how I set my racks and the small loaf pans. You will pour a cup of boiling water into each pan when you place your bread in the oven. I have also bought some volcanic rock that I have placed in the loaf pans to accumulate some heat and steam the water more efficiently but the rocks are a "nice to have" and not required. Many bakers place a roasting tray on the bottom shelve and then add the water or ice blocks to it ... for me that did not work well because that pan were cutting heat from the bottom element and affected the crust. The two small loaf pans sit at the edges and does not shield the element.
Next you will need a simple water spray bottle and some sort of a blade to slash your loaf.
|Slashed and ready|
You have allowed your loaf to proof properly and it is time to bake it. This is where many tears are shed because you tip it out of the proofing basket and things goes sideways. The loaf collapse and spreads over your bench like a blob of butter in a hot pan. You scrape it together and ditch it into a Dutch Oven and hope for the best. If you were preheating your Dutch Oven this process goes hand in hand with some scalding of your fingers and in my case, profuse swearing. I am sure many of you knows exactly what I am talking about.
|Fresh Sourdough Bread|
My oven takes around 20 minutes to reach 230C. So when I switch the oven on I place the proofed loaf in the basket or dish into the Freezer. Mine runs at -18C and I leave that basket in there for 30 minutes. I know the purists will frown on this but this works for me.
With the basket in the freezer and the oven building up heat, you must prepare your tray, place some baking paper in the tray and boil the kettle. Keep a glass measuring cup handy that take 500ml of water. Have a pastry brush and a cup of cold water on your bench and your blade. Make sure your spray bottle is filled up.
|Prepare for the flip|
Pull the cloth gently off the dough. You should have a very stable dough on the pan now. The freezing has enhanced the outer skin and this is good for those times that we struggle to build enough tension into the skin during shaping.
|On the baking tray|
With the tray in the oven, pour a cup of boiling water into each small loaf tin. Be careful it can be quite feisty. Close the door to a crack and spray a good amount of water into the oven with the spray bottle. Close that door and step back. In the next 20 minutes the magic will happen.
So twenty minutes is past, now you need to check if that loaf is done. As a rule I work with 500gr flour and for that 20 minutes is fine. Now I turn the oven down from 230C to 190C and let it go for another 10 minutes. After this I pull the Bread from the oven and use a pin thermometer to measure the internal temperature. You want it over 195F ... if it is still a bit off, I put the loaf back in the oven, leave the door slightly open and switch the oven off for another 10 minutes.
|The final test|
Most accidents happen when the loaf is tipped out of the proofing baskets. This when things can go sideways and you loose all that carefully built bubbles in your loaf. The freezer is your friend here. Many accidents and incidents happen in the transfer of the dough to the hot Dutch Oven ... it is not really needed.
Here are my other Sourdough Stories ... LINK
Enjoy your baking till I write another story.
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