wild yeast

A Perfectly Simple Country White Loaf

16 April 2020

As a sourdough enthusiast and avid bread baker, I have absolutely adored seeing the bread boom of the past month. King Arthur Flour (my go-to) reported sending more flour in three weeks of March than in their entire holiday baking season (October-December) of 2019. That’s massive. With the baking boom does come a bit of a selfish downside for me… It’s been impossible to get bread flour. I’ve been hoarding the last 500g I have and recently found some on Etsy (I believe the last bags on the internet) and paid nearly $60 for 10 lbs of flour. I don’t pretend that my baking habits fall within the realm of “normal”.

With everyone buying up bread flour and stores mostly restocking with AP flour I decided to try my hand at a country white loaf using 100% AP flour. The goal was simply “edible”. AP flour has a lower protein content than BF or whole wheat flour which can make it tricky to work with (according to online forums) and with absolutely no personal experience I was just hoping for something that could be eaten. I dialed the hydration way back as AP flour isn’t nearly as thirsty as BF or WW flour and used a much longer and modified autolyse.

What I ended up with was a soft loaf with a perfectly crusty exterior. It was perfect for sandwiches and passed my “squish” test (when I pinch a little of the bread between my fingers to judge its spring-back). This loaf was incredibly practical. It was a very different process than my typical sourdough, but ultimately less work. The bread itself was more of a typical loaf you’d reach for, opposed to my WW loaves that feel more artisan.

So if you’ve got a pantry of AP flour and are looking for something to do with it, here’s your answer!

 

SIMPLE COUNTRY WHITE LOAF

Grams & Percentages

  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 290 g water (58% hydration)
  • 177 g levain (35% inoculation)
  • 8 g salt (1.6%)

 

Timeline

  • 2:00 pm — fed starter (115 g levain + 118 g water + 120 g flour)
  • 8:00 pm — start modified autolyse (117 g FED levain + 300 g flour + water)
  • 8:30 pm — start bulk fermentation (refrigerated overnight)
  • 8:30 am — add remaining flour (200 g) to autolyse, rest
  • 9:00 am — add salt
  • 10:00 am — counter lamination
  • 11:00 am — coil fold #1
  • 12:00 pm — shape loaf and place in banneton for 2h room-temp rise
  • 1:00 pm — preheat oven 450°
  • 1:40 pm — bake, lid on, 25m
  • 2:05 pm — remove loaf from cast iron
  • 2:50 pm — turn oven off, leave loaf in spoon-cracked [off] oven to dry out for 60m

 

Simple Country White Loaf

Prep Time 5 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Bulk Fermentation 12 hours
Total Time 23 hours 10 minutes

Equipment

  • Kitchen scale
  • Mixing bowl (4 QT)
  • Clean kitchen towels
  • Parchment paper
  • Bread basket or banneton
  • Lame or sharp razor blade
  • Dutch oven

Ingredients

  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 177 g levain (sourdough starter) fed, ripe
  • 290 g water lukewarm
  • 8 g salt non-iodine

Instructions

Starter

  • Fed starter approximately 4-6 hours prior to beginning your autolyse. The starter should be doubled in size before using and pass the 'float test'.
  • For the float test take a dollop of starter and lightly place it into a cup of water. The starter should easily float on top and be buoyant. This is your indication that the starter is ready to be used. With practice, you'll be able to time this 'readiness' with the ending of your autolyse.

Modified Autolyse

  • Once your starter is ready to be used mix a portion of flour (300 g) with 117 g FED levain and water in a large bowl. The water should be lukewarm to the touch. If you dip your fingers in the water and cannot detect it being hot or cold it is the right temperature (the same temperature as you). This is a process that will cut down on ‘knead’ time later and allow your dough to fully hydrate and gluten structures to begin forming.
  • Cover dough and set in refridgerator overnight (approximately 12 hours).

Mix the dough

  • Add remaining flour (200 g) to autolyse and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  • Add salt and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Bulk Fermentation

  • Perform a counter lamination. Gently stretch the dough over the counter (being careful to stretch from the center of the dough and not the edge to avoid tearing). The result should be a large rectangle. Fold the left side in two-third across the dough. Fold the right side over it to make one skinny rectangle, with the dough tripled over itself. Beginning at the top fold down approximately halfway and repeat until the dough had become bundled. Cover and allow to rest for 1 hour.
  • Perform 1-3 coil folds (seperated by 45-60m) until the passes the poke test and windowpane test. 
  • The poke test indicates that the dough is proofed and ready. Using an oiled finger gentle press into the dough. The dough should spring back, but leave an indentation. If the dough springs back completely the dough is not proof enough. If the dough does not spring back the dough is overproofed.
  • For the windowpane test take a small piece of dough and stretch it between your thumb and first finger. The dough should hold its form and create a sheer 'windowpane'. If the dough tears the gluten structure is not strong enough and it will need more stretching.

Shaping the dough

  • Shape loaf and place in banneton for 2h room-temp rise.
  • Option 1, flour directly in front of the dough and flip the dough away from you (onto the flour). Tug out the top of the dough and fold it onto itself. Repeat with the side and bottom. Cup dough and gently pull it toward you, creating a neat loaf with tension across the top. Allow the dough to rest, seam-side down, for 10 minutes. Place the dough into a floured and prepared banneton, seam-side up. Flour the exposed dough, cover with a clean towel.
  • Option 2, using the outer edge of lightly flour hands circle the dough, gently tucking it under itself with the rotation, to form a tight, round boule. Allow the dough to rest, seam-side down, for 10 minutes. Place the dough into a floured and prepared banneton, seam-side up. Flour the exposed dough, cover with a clean towel.

Prepping your dough for baking

  • Preheat your oven as high is it will go (500°) and place your dutch oven into the bottom of the oven. Leave for one hour. Cut a parchment round the approximate size of your dough, adding a small radius to give you a 'handle' for moving the dough later.
  • Once the oven is up to temperature (after an hour) turn the dough out onto the parchment paper. Flour liberally and rub the flour into the dough. This will give a smooth contrast to your scores after the bread is baked.
  • Using the corner of a lame or a sharp razor blade score deeply into the loaf (1/4 to 1/2 inch), cutting through the surface tension.

Baking

  • Lift the dough (by the parchment paper handles) into the dutch over. Cover and bake for 25 minutes with the lid on. This will create steam that keeps that outer edge of the bread from setting too quickly. If the outer edge sets too quickly it will inhibit the oven spring, resulting in a dense crumb. Oven spring final burst of yeast activity and gas expansion (rising) just before the crust hardens.
  • Uncover and bake until the top is deep golden and the bottom knocks hollow.
  • Turn off oven and leave loaf in spoon-cracked [off] oven to dry out for 60m.

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