Feels like starting over

On Sunday morning I baked my first loaf using a new recipe that I’ve decided to try, and my first loaf on my revitalized starter. This past week was exciting as I saw some real activity in my starter – I can honestly say I haven’t seen it so active since I started managing a starter over a year ago. Does that say something about my baking skills?

Anyways, I feel like at least part of the greater activity relative to what I am used to is a function of this being a liquid starter rather than a… non-liquid starter, but it nonetheless brought a smile to my face seeing it bubbling away. Below you can see the progression of the starter from just three feedings (on a two-a-day schedule, mind you) – looking lively!

While I was pleased to see my starter doing well from a bit of spa treatment, the true test comes, of course, in the final product. This being my first shot at a new, more ‘Tartine-style’ recipe, my final boule was bound to be something of a work-in-progress, but it was interesting to try something new.

There are a few areas where I am certain I can improve upon this technique and control-wise, but I am not too displeased with how it came out. Shaping and folding technique aside, I made the mistake of not carefully keeping track of temperature in bulk ferment (turns out my oven with the pilot light on gets a fair bit warmer than 80°F), so my dough got unreasonably warm at one point before I realized my mistake upon folding. I am planning to rectify this misstep with this baby to better monitor ambient temperature. Additionally, my long proof (15 hours) was likely at a temperature other than the desired (38°F) as, again, I had not monitored the temperature of my fridge prior to getting it started. As a result, I am close to certain that my boule was overproofed given its small size and deflated look as I pulled it out.

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View from above: Attempt #1

Despite my poor proof, the loaf actually ended up far better than I’d anticipated after removing my dutch oven lid. With a lot of recent experience baking with fresh whole grain flour, I’ve been trained to expect little oven spring I suppose. I’m convinced that my oven is not reaching it’s targeted temperatures accurately as the above is after a full 20 minutes at 500°F and 35 minutes at 475°F, and is still not very dark.

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Crumbshot, v1.

View from above: okay, not bad. Crumbshot: not so great. I actually quite enjoyed the texture of both the crumb and the crust of this bread, but the crumb itself was not quite as desired overall. For now, I’ll attribute this failing to my failings in properly monitoring temperature through bulk ferment and proofing. Hopefully I can manage these variables better next time.

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