With classes over for the week, I was able to do errands and house stuff on Thursday and begin to bake bread on Friday. I’ve been missing my whole grain breads and had used the last one in the freezer a couple of weeks earlier.
The process begins by making a levain from my own bread starter, plus flour and water, at about 10 AM and letting it ferment in the container for about 6 hours. At that point I decide the mixture of flours I will use, mill or scoop the flours into a large container, mix them together dry, and then add water — stirring it all by hand. After the autolysed flour sits for about 1/2 hour, I add Kosher salt, a scant 1/2 teaspoon of dry yeast, the specified amount of the developed levain, and mix the wet dough by hand just until it is a mass. Every half hour, I put a wet hand into the dough and give it a few turns, to build its cohesiveness. That goes on for about 2-3 hours.
Late in the night (between 11 PM and 1 AM) the dough has developed enough to cut and shape it into two “loaves”. “Lumps” would be a more accurate representation. These are dusted with flour, put into wicker bannetons (proofing baskets), placed in plastic bags, and put into the refrigerator to develop slowly for the next 10-13 hours.
So mid-day Saturday I take the baskets out of the refrigerator, drop each loaf into a Dutch oven preheated to 475º F, and then bake it for 30 minutes covered, and the final 15-20 minutes with the cover off. The process is not glamorous; the fermentation beasties do almost all of the work; and the results are very satisfying.
By late afternoon I can cut a few fresh slices and serve them with butter or olive oil and a little salt. Yummm. All of this is an adaptation from Ken Forkish’s book, Flour Water Salt Yeast, which I started using 3 1/2 years ago. Most of the time I’m making my own versions of his 75% Whole Wheat Levain (Page 144). The specific combination THIS time is one of the best so far. Here is the entry for December 9th in my bread log: