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Bread, cheese, and kisses: baking sourdough

I bake bread 2-3 times each week. It's a routine. It may be a domestic chore but it is also a glorious quest. You can do a lot with flour and water.
if you add home sourdough
and salt
and a squish of olive oil
When and how you do all this, in what amounts, and in conjunction with what  mixing and kneading activity will determine the qualities of  your final loaf.

Here in Australia you need to add Diastatic Malt to local flours if you are going to use sourdough for the yeasting. The rest is up to you...

And being up to me, this week I baked the sort of loaf I've always aspired to.

I'm chasing a Ciabatta style  loaf but one that is higher and more easily sliced vertically. Ciabatta is chewy with a  ready penchant to be holey with a firm crust. It's the sort of bread, in my estimation, that improves with age.  Handmade, well made, three day old Ciabatta should be  delicious and can be eaten without accompaniment -- like  butter.

Such is the bread I baked three days ago (pictured above).

I am on a winner.

Bread like this takes time to create.
  1. I feed my sourdough starter and allow it to enliven and rise overnight  -- at least 12 hours -- in the refrigerator.
  2. I then mix the sourdough with more flour, water, salt and a little olive oil before kneading it. The feel and texture of the dough, its elasticity, is the main skill with kneading. You need to stretch the gluten out and play with it. Tease it.
  3. I let the dough rise for a good part of a day. (Contrary to what some of my peers have suggested I do not exhaust the yeast by deploying this long rise.)
  4. I  then bake the loaves at very  high temperatures to encourage rise and bounce in an oven with a bowl of water  placed on its floor before reducing the temperature so that the crust will firm up. I bake for at least 45 minutes...I say 'at least' because I always check the loaf for its drum like hollow sound. That decides when the loaf is ready.
When you are working with a wet dough -- and Ciabatta requires a wet dough  -- you need to ensure that you don't end up with a loaf that is too moist. So you can't make it too wet or bake it so that the rising is still squelchy. There's a skill involved. The end result depends not only on your mix and your knead, but also how you navigate the oven temperature and time...and your oven's quirks.

I'd like to be definitive and specify quantities and times exactly but beside spoiling some of the fun and personal challenge involved,  there are so many variables en route to the final baked loaf that it is hard to make a ruling.

While I may sound a tad obsessive -- but I do like to cook -- my passion for sourdough is also foundered on the wonderful attribute that what I bake and later eat does not impact greatly on my blood sugar levels. I can eat this stuff without a major spike in my carbohydrate issues.

Other breads -- commercial breads, alternative whole grain breads -- will  cause my blood sugar level to rise sharply by  1-2 mmol. With this stuff I bake  I'm more in control.
Even when it's made from white flour, sourdough bread has a relatively mild effect on blood sugar compared to other white breads and even whole grain breads.The acid in sourdough slows the emptying of the stomach, thereby slowing the delivery of glucose to the bloodstream.This anti-glycemic effect can last through to the next meal, slowing the emptying of the stomach even a few hours later.Researchers in Sweden   noted that the fermentation process that’s involved in the creation of sourdough utilizes carbohydrates, lowering the carbohydrate level in the dough as it’s transformed to lactic acid. 


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