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 . . .