The latest sourdough experiment

My last two sourdough attempts (see Sourdough and More Sourdough) gave me two delicious loaves that were flat as a shoe.  I was determined to improve the rise this time in hopes of achieving something I could have with poached eggs.  That is the ultimate: poached organic eggs (the fresher the better) on fresh sourdough bread . . . heaven!  My other loaves were just too little to hold all of the runny yolk, making the eating process a little messy.

So I made two adjustments to my dough.  First of all, after doing some research online I read that a too-wet dough can sometimes be slack, and in fact I had been finding my final dough quite loose and not easy to shape into a nice firm loaf.  So this time instead of using the maximum amount of water in the recipe as I had been doing, I went with the minimum.  It resulted in a much firmer dough that shaped into a lovely loaf.

The second thing is that the only “white” organic bread flour I can find still contains the germ.  It’s basically like whole wheat without the bran.  Again, after some online research, I discovered that the phytates in whole wheat flour can affect gluten production.  I would also imagine if there’s all that germ in there, it must mean a lower percentage of starch and gluten than regular white flour.  

I am still not completely comfortable working with this flour.  It has never made a beautiful Windowpane even after kneading for over 20 minutes!  So recently I’ve been kneading for around 7-8 minutes and stopping when there is the slightest semblance of a windowpane.  One website (the amazing baking911.com) recommends adding some Gluten Flour (also known as Vital Wheat Gluten) to the flour to boost the gluten percentage of the flour.  I tried this–I added 1 tbsp, or 1/4 oz of Gluten flour to the final dough.  The dough definitely felt more springy when I was kneading it, and though it never got silky-smooth, the gluten did seem to develop more properly than it had been.

I also made a third adjustment, which was to use a smaller loaf pan for one of my loaves. 

The result?  Definite improvement!  The loaf in the smaller pan especially rose higher, and though I haven’t cut into it yet, I would imagine the crumb is slightly less dense than my other loaves have been.  

Next time I will try adding 1/2 oz of Gluten Flour to the mix.  Can there be too much gluten???  I will also keep an eye out for a second smaller loaf pan, so I can gain that height advantage on two loaves instead of one.  

The experiment continues . . .

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