Steam burns hurt. Like really, really hurt. The small mark on my left forearm begs the question every day: Maurizio, was it really worth it?
But before we talk about my new baking badge of honor, let’s concentrate on overcoming the challenges of baking good bread at home. While many of these challenges present themselves early on in the two-day process (fermentation, flour selection, mixing, shaping, and so on), there is that key component at the end of this whole ordered procession: baking with steam in a high-temperature home oven.
I’ve been separated from my good friend ‘baking’ for a short stint, but only because I traveled out to northern Italy, specifically the Veneto region, to attend a very important wedding: my brother’s! His fiance and her family live in the area but most of my family is in the south, with just a few up north, and so it’s a convenient central point for everyone to congregate and celebrate — and we sure did. Countless bottles of prosecco, sent back for recycling with nary a drop, provided ample proof of the full-day event. Prossecco is the life-blood of this area and every square inch of farmland has a vineyard placed on it, soaking up the rich soil to produce those lovely little pale grapes.
I have made whole wheat sourdough in the past but never a fully whole grain version, I typically mix in some white flour or sift out the bran, never to return. However, this entry is a true 100% whole wheat sourdough, through and through, and I have to say its taste really surprised me. Not too wheaty, not bitter, and a beautiful rise with a just-dark-enough colored crust. Some of this is due to the exceptional whole wheat flour I’m using (see below), but of course bread doesn’t just bake itself, the process is just as important.
Should we take a break from baking for a bit? How about just one entry… Trust me it will be worth it when you try a few of these starter recipes. Plus, it still is related to baking when you get down to it, this entry is just going to help us make even more incredible food from our family member Brutus1, or whatever you named your sourdough starter. There is no limit to his providing.
The following recipes are tried and true here in my kitchen. Being that my sourdough starter is always feed twice daily I have plenty of excess in the morning & evening and you can add in a bit more to your feeding if you need a little more. Many people see this excess as “waste” but it’s something that can be used for many things besides going into your trash bin. After all, this “waste” is the levain we typically use to give life to our sourdough loaves from a mixture of simple ingredients — the life of your bread if you will.
My starter was donned the name Brutus after trying to get a few of his kin started unsuccessfully. I was just in the middle of reading a brief history of Julius Caesar and the name seemed appropriate for such a stubborn character in my life.↩
I’ve baked many Tartine-style loaves through the years, but really only a few from their third book, Tartine No. 3: Ode to Bourdon whole wheat and their oat porridge loaf. Both extremely good loaves and worth the little bit of extra work required, but why haven’t I made more of the several dozen, sometimes very unique, recipes? The answer is simply that I haven’t had the time to derail my focus on the constant improvement of my country loaf. Each time I get the opportunity to bake I want to do a “simple” country loaf to try and open up the crumb, get a more gelatinized interior and increase the caramelization of the outward crust.
However, we recently had a need in the kitchen for millet and I just knew there was going to be a recipe in Tartine No. 3 for this whole grain. Sure enough, a millet porridge recipe almost opened up to itself as I was perusing the tome. Before heading to my local market to pick up the small amount we needed, I decided to double it and attempt this porridge recipe a few times. My previous oat porridge bakes produced some of my favorite sourdough to date and I just knew, if executed properly, a millet porridge bread would rank equally high on my favorite recipe list.