Gas station without pumps

2021 July 21

Crab-apple sourdough

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:17
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I’ve been baking with sourdough since the rye bread rolls, 14 months ago.  But I’ve always felt like I’m cheating, since I started with commercial bread yeast and bacteria from yogurt and vinegar. Last Saturday (2021 July 17), I noticed while mowing the lawn that the crab apples were ripe and covered with wild yeast, so I thought that this would be a good time to start a new starter without any deliberate addition of commercial yeast or bacteria.

I chopped up

about 20 unwashed, ripe crab apples,

discarding the cores and seeds, but making sure to include the skins. I blended them in the blender, adding about

¼ cup warm water

so that the blender could process them.  The food processor would probably have been a better choice as it may not have needed as much water—not that it matters.  I then pushed as much of the pulp as I could through a fine strainer, ending up with about ½ cup of pinkish apple juice and water.  I added

½ cup warm water (to make up a cup)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 cup bread flour

in a medium bowl and stirred to get rid of lumps. I left the bowl out on the counter, uncovered for a few days.  After one day (on Sunday), it looked there were a few small bubbles, and the pink color from the skin was all sitting on the top.  I stirred it down and left it uncovered.  On Monday there were more bubbles, and it looked like there might be some live yeast, and by Monday evening it began to look like a sponge.  I stirred in

2 cups bread flour
2 cups warm water

and let it rise overnight.  On Tuesday morning, it looked like a good sponge, so I stirred it down and removed one cup of mixture for new sourdough starter.

For the remaining, I mixed in

4 cups bread flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons safflower oil
1 Tablespoon of salt

with a bread hook.  I had not expected to need quite so much bread flour, so I was adding half a cup at time and kneading with the hook until it was all incorporated.  The dough was still a little sticky when I took it out of the mixer and kneaded in another

¼ cup bread flour

by hand.  I put it in a greased bowl, covered it with a cloth, and let rise for about 20 hours.  I then shaped the dough into two baguettes and left it to rise another 10 hours sitting on baking parchment. I preheated the oven to 400°F (probably only 350°F, as my oven thermostat seems to be off) and put a pan of boiling water on the shelf below the baking tiles.

I mixed

2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 teaspoons cold water

and brushed the tops of the loaves with the mixture.  I slashed the loaves and put them in the oven.  I rebrushed the loaves every 5 minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking time, then removed pan of water from the oven. At 25 minutes, I removed the baking parchment, leaving the loaves directly on the baking tiles.  Starting at 35 minutes, I checked the bread every 5 minutes to see if the bottom crust sounded hollow when tapped. The total baking time was about 45 minutes.

crabapple-sourdough

The bread came out looking good—perhaps the best-looking baguettes I’ve baked so far.

The recipe is entirely bread flour and a rather flavorless oil, so that I can get the taste of wild sourdough.  The crust was nicely crunchy, though I probably should put less cornstarch in the water that I basted the loaves with.  The crumb was good, but fairly dense—not the very open crumb that my wife prefers for a baguette.  The flavor was good: slightly sour, but without any off-flavors.  I think that this was very successful for a wild-yeast sourdough—it is a little slower rising, but seems to produce as good or better results than the sourdough that I made from commercial yeast.

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