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Some notes for sourdough/dense loaf fans
on December 15, 2007
This is a terrific book ... I've tried the basic approach and it is great. To make it more useful (for some) I'd like to add a few notes.
The book has an unfortunate, (for me) bias towards light, fluffy breads and breads that rely on "ingredients". So...
Sourdough breads: I've been refrigerating my dough for years to increase the sourdough flavor. This books opens the door to a very simple approach to sourdough.
As the book notes, the sourdough taste increases with time in the refrigerator. So simply keep two sets of dough running ... a "dormant" set and an active set. Start by making a batch of dough. Stick it in the refrigerator and don't touch it for at least a week. After a week or so, make a second batch of dough. (I would mix in a hunk of the previously mixed, week old dough to enhance the sourdough development.) Now put this second batch away and start using the first batch ... which will have started to taste like a sourdough. When this first batch is used up, make up a brand new "dormant" batch and put it aside while you start using the batch that's been sitting in the refrigerator for the past week or so.
In this way you can keep a sourdough going forever, without any additional work. (Since you only a new batch when an old batch runs out.)
Rye and whole wheat: The technique is IDEAL for rye ... which is a gummy, no-knead but extremely delicate dough. I would certainly use much more rye than any of these recipes call for and would use the sourdough technique I mentioned above to develop flavor.
It its also ideal for whole wheat. The big problem with whole wheat is not the crust, (I'll mention a technique to bring out a crust), but that whole wheat contains bran, which, when kneaded, cuts the strands of gluten/protein. That's why 100% whole wheat is so dense. But, since you do not knead this dough, the bran does not cut the protein strands and the dough is free to rise almost as much as a white flour.
Personally, I use 50% rye and 50% whole wheat and, using the books oven technique get a great rise.
Another technique that develops a very thick crust, no matter the flour, is to bake the bread in a preheated, covered oven pot or casserole pot at 450 degrees.
By the way ... to get actual pumpernickel, forget the powders, (coffee and chocolate ... yeesh!) and just use pumpernickel flour in place of rye flour. (Pumpernickel flour is nothing more than whole grain rye flour.)