Whole Spelt Sourdough

I need to confess that I have a love-and-hate relationship with open-crumb sourdough bread. While I am super excited when I cut it and see these lovely big alveoli and feel proud that I managed to catch the fermentation just at the right moment, my excitement goes lower when I agree with my daughter saying "mommy, there are too many big holes in this slice for the butter to stay!" To this practicality issue, no argument that "it is the best fermented bread" and that "I mastered the process" does not stay up.
Bread is not only about the size of the holes inside. There are many aspects to consider like health, taste flavours or the purpose for which it was made.
To be honest, I did not plan for an open crumb. What I was up to was to track the ph and make the correlation with the degree of fermentation. I used to believe that the best time to shape the loaves was between 4.2 to 4, with higher chances for open crumb on the lower side. The type of flour is a variable that intervenes in the process too and I was fully aware of that.

I made 3 changes in my classic process for this bake and now I do not know which one had the major impact. Therefore, with my next bakes, I will need to isolate the changes, one by one, to identify the major one.
First, I proofed the dough at a higher temperature. Or at least this is what I thought when I set my bread proofer at 32ºC. This was tricky because my kitchen was cool (~17ºC) and every step influenced the temperature of the dough which fluctuated between 19-27ºC.
Second, I changed the starter. I have a second starter derived from my classic wheat starter but fed with rye. I usually keep this one in the fridge and take it out once or every 2 months to feed it. I recently read a book where the baker was saying that in his bakery he uses only rye starter regardless of what bread he was targeting. I was intrigued and wanted to give it a try.
The third was the ph value at shaping. While I was waiting for the dough to pass the 4.2 ph mark before shaping, I had the feeling I needed to shape it earlier as my eye on the dough was rushing me for the shaping step. Without a ph meter I think I would have shaped the dough somewhere between the coil

fold set 2 and 3. But I resisted, thinking... scientific measurement might be more precise than my eye. Even more, after shaping I kept the loaves in bannetons until reached the 4.2 level and just after, I put them in the fridge. 
The next day, before the bake, I measured again the ph and I had a significant drop to 4.09. Interesting that too, because most of my loaves were going into the oven between 3.9-3.8.

What an adventure! And I am so keen to test more on this recipe. There are very few adjustments I would make to it. For example, I would put it in the fridge just a bit earlier hoping to get taller bread and maybe a more uniform distribution of the alveoli. And maybe keep it more in the fridge?
I feel that the rye starter gave tremendous power to the yeasts and bacteria and they produced an impressive amount of CO2 to pump up the bubbles early. I will use again this starter, I have a good feeling about it now.
As for the temperature, I'll test keeping it high to see the influence on behaviour and taste. Now, during the cooler time of the year is also justified to keep those microorganisms happy.

Ingredients: (1900g, 72.5% hydration)

  • 300g whole spelt flour
  • 700g strong bread flour (Manitoba )
  • 700ml water
  • 180g rye sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 20g salt

  1. [Day 1, Saturday, 8:00] Scaling. I started by scaling the ingredients using a balance and put them on the table to ensure that nothing is forgotten.
  2. [Day 1 Saturday, 8:00] Mix water + flours. I mixed only the flour with water (slightly warmed up for 1 minute in the microwave) until well combined. Do not knead at this stage, just ensure there is no unincorporated dry flour resting in the bowl and that's it. I put the dough in the bread proofer set at 32ºC. My kitchen is cold these days and the dough temperature is lower than the setting on the bread proofer. Dough temperature after mixing 26.6ºC, ph 5.89. I then let it sit for 1 hour for the autolyse.
  3. [Day 1 Saturday, 9:00] Sourdough starter. I added the starter over the dough and mixed with a standing mixer for 10 minutes.  Ph of the starter before being added to the dough was 4.22 at 20ºC. After mixing, I let the dough relax for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Dough after mixing at 5.64ph / 25.1ºCThen, let the dough relax again for 1 hour. 
  4. [Day 1 Saturday, 10:30] Salt. I added the salt and mix again for 5 minutes. Dough after mixing at 5.49ph / 23.4ºC. Then, I let the dough relax again for 2 hours. 
  5. [Day 1, Saturday, 12:30] Divide and Stretch and Fold. I took the dough out of the bowl put it on the slightly wet table board and divide it into 2. I did a few stretch and folds for each piece on the board and placed them in squared glass bowls. I let them sit covered for 45 minutes. Dough after this step: ph5.12 / 22.9ºC.
  6. [Day 1, Saturday, 13:15] Lamination. I took each piece out of the bowl and did the lamination. I let the dough rest for 45 minutes. Dough after this step: ph5.05 / 19.6ºC. As you can note, at the lamination on my cold board, the dough lost some temperature.
  7. [Day 1, Saturday, 14:00] Coil fold 1. I did a set of 3 coil folds straight in the bowls. Dough after this step ph4.92/21.5ºC. Then I let them sit for 45 minutes.
  8. [Day 1, Saturday, 14:45] Coil fold 2.  I did a second set of coil folds in the glass bowls. Dough after this step ph4.74/24ºC. I let them sit for 45 minutes.
  9. [Day 1, Saturday, 15:30] Coil fold 3.  I did a third set of coil folds in the glass bowls. Dough after this step ph4.57/24.1ºC. I let them sit for 45 minutes.
  10. [Day 1, Saturday, 16:15] Shaped the loaves on the lightly floured board. Placed the dough face down into well-floured bannetons. Repeated the process for the second piece of dough.  Dough after this step ph4.42/23.7ºC. Let the bannetons in the bread proofer until 18:00 (1 hour later) until ph 4.17/24.5ºC then I put them in the fridge overnight.
  11. [Day 2, Sunday, 11:00] Score. Before scoring, I preheated the oven to reach 270ºC. Checked the dough: ph 4.09/6.9ºC for one loaf and ph4.09/8.7ºC for the second one.
    Reversed the bannetons on a peel and I scored them directly with no decoration. Immediately after, I slided the loaves into the oven. Added some hot water to a tray under the baking stone to create steam. 
  12. Baked at 270ºC for 20 minutes then reduced to 220ºC and continue for 15 minutes more. A bit burned on top so I suggest reducing the baking at 270ºC to 15 minutes.
  13. [Day 2, Sunday, 11:40] Cool. The bread needed to cool for at least 2 hours until it reaches room temperature. The cooking process continues slowly even after taking the bread out of the oven, so this is why it is important to not skip this step and to resist cutting it too early.
  14. [Day 2, Sunday, 13:40] Cut. Time to enjoy a slice of bread... 


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