262: Norwich Sourdough Bread

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With cooler weather finally here, I was excited to play with my sourdough starter again! I wanted to make waffles the day after I fed it, but I couldn’t find a recipe that didn’t involve waffle batter resting overnight. I couldn’t figure out what else I wanted to make with it, so I decided to try regular sourdough bread again.

I think I saw the recipe for Norwich Sourdough Bread a while ago, but I turned away from it because all measurements were not only by weight, but were also in grams. I was particularly excited to find it now because I now had a digital scale that measured in grams!

Another plus: this recipe listed the estimated time for each step of the bread-making process before it even started with the ingredient list. I cannot stress how valuable this was. I like reading step-by-step instructions, and even seeing step-by-step illustrations, but I hate having to search through a recipe to figure out how long it should take to make. Simply having most of the instructions together was immensely useful, but having all the time listed was fantastic.

I did not have rye flour so I used a little whole wheat flour in its place. I can’t tell you exactly why I chose that, since I’m not entirely sure what the function of the rye flour here was, but it seemed like a good idea. We wouldn’t be able to eat so much bread, so my original plan was to make a half batch of this dough; as I measured the ingredients, I got too much starter, so I made 3/4 batch of dough.

The dough rests after you mix it together. After those 15 minutes, the recipe says to knead it for 3-4 minutes, until a medium level of gluten development. The dough was very wet, and I kept expecting to be able to windowpane it properly. After 3-4 minutes, I wasn’t satisfied with its development, so I let it go a little longer while I read through a few of her links on her blog. It was very useful to see a picture of what medium gluten development looked like (she has a link in her instructions). It was also helpful to read a few of the comments, to learn that a) the dough will be really wet, and b) if I knead too much (develop the gluten too much), the crumb will be regular (and likely more dense, I assume). That definitely made me turn off the stand mixer and set the dough aside to rise.

It was cooler weather when I made this, but I think it was the target temperature (72-76F) in my kitchen when I let it rise the first time. I folded it at 50 and 100 minutes. I divided the dough into three 500 gram balls and let them rest for 15 minutes. I shaped them roughly into loaf shapes. I took one downstairs to rise on the drier (which had been running earlier – it was definitely warmer down there), and set the other two loaves on a pan to rise for an hour and a half before I put them in the fridge to bake another day.

After 2.5 hours, I cut crude slits in the top of my dough, even though it hadn’t risen as much as the dough in the recipe’s picture had. I put a pan of water in the preheated oven when I put the bread in, and turned down the temperature. After 12 minutes I pulled the pan of water out, and let the bread bake another 15 minutes. Following the directions, cracked the oven door for 5 minutes to let heat out, and then removed the bread to a rack. We ate it the next day.

I made the second loaf the next day when I got home from work – it had probably rested in the fridge for about 21 hours. This time, I put the water in the oven before I preheated it. I also completely upturned the loaf onto my baking sheet (which worked pretty well), rather than trying to slide it on. I baked it an extra 3 minutes since the dough was going into the oven cold. I baked the third loaf 3 days after originally making the bread, and I baked it the extra 3 minutes as well. It was a little flat, but it still turned out tasty.

Norwich Sourdough Bread

Both of these were really pretty good. The crust was fantastic, and the bread had a good flavor. While my bread didn’t have as many holes as the original picture did, the texture was great, probably the best of any bread I’ve made so far. Both the first and second loaves turned out really well. I loved being able to bake the bread as soon as I got home from work, even if I shouldn’t cut it until it cooled; this makes it much easier to have bread with dinner on a regular basis.

Side note – Thoughts on my sourdough starter: I think I need to experiment a little more with refreshing my starter. I hadn’t fed it for about 2 weeks prior to making this bread, so it may have needed more than 24 hours-worth of feedings to get into tip-top shape. [I fed my starter about 5 days after making this bread, and the regular feedings definitely make a huge difference in the final product.] The hungry or weak starter would probably explain the lack of rise of my bread. I also need to figure out the best way to get an optimum temperature to get the bread to rise better. I’ve had luck with briefly pre-heating the oven, so I may need to consistently use that method to get bread to proof consistently.

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