Back to Basics

Starting over...

(I’m trying to write this newsletter while on the radio and Twitter I’m getting stories about how thousands of MAGA deplorables are storming the US Capitol building, Confederate flags in hand, with the explicit encouragement of their leaders in the White House and the Congress and the assistance of the Capitol police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets on BLM protesters all summer long.

It’s really hard to act like all this shit is normal and just write about bread. *sigh*)

I’m starting the new year with a retread: a new version of the recipe I shared last year called “The Loaf”. While that recipe was solid, and pretty darn basic, I realized that it wasn’t quite basic enough to serve as a universal template for a whole class of recipes.

I was recently helping my pal Jess start baking sourdough—because I need her expert opinion on the sourdough challah recipe I am developing—and I sent her that recipe as a starting point. When she sent back pictures of a crumb structure that was tighter than she’d expected it to be, I realized that the 20% whole wheat flour it contained was likely to blame. That 80/20 ratio is a lovely one, and one I use regularly, but it isn’t what I consider “baseline” in terms of results.

But this is:

I’ve said before that I’m generally against the sharing of ‘crumb shot porn’ because it promotes an unhealthy obsession with achieving an open crumb structure, as if that’s the defining feature of a beautiful loaf of bread. But I love the look of a pretty crumb as much as anyone else, and I do have standards when it comes to my own loaves. (I still think bread with holes large enough to crawl through is plain silly.) But I don’t go to great lengths to achieve such results, I just look for recipes and techniques that get me there with minimal effort on my part.

That’s one of the reasons why I think of this new recipe as a “baseline” lean dough formula, because it gives excellent results without needing to jump through any special hoops. Other than a 20-minute autolyse and a single set of coil folds after 30 minutes to even out the texture of the dough, time does most of the work.

The other reason is that it uses my baseline lean dough sourdough formula: 95% white flour—high protein AP or bread flour—plus 5% rye flour. The rye is there to give the flavor and the appearance of the crumb a bit more character, without compromising anything in terms of texture and structure.

You can find the new recipe here, along with all the details behind it. And as I promised earlier, you’ll also find a link to a PDF copy of the recipe to print out or save.

—Andrew