Stout Country Sourdough

In winter one of my favorite beverages has got to be stout. That dark, malty, and filling beer really takes the edge off the cold outside. Early in the week I went to my local brewery, La Cumbre, here in Albuquerque and picked up a growler of their exceptional Malpais Stout to drink throughout the week. Somehow by the end of the week I still had a bit of the growler left and decided to incorporate it into my weekend sourdough some way or another. With the success (I think so at least) of last week’s Tartine Sesame Country Sourdough I thought to myself, why not? Beer and bread go together, don’t they?

I didn’t have a recipe to go by for this by so I just did what I thought made sense. My method here was to simply replace a quantity of water during mixing with the stout. I’ll tell you wholeheartedly that adding in the stout made the dough smell like it was from heaven. Really though, how could it not? The sugars in the beer could only be a good thing in bread dough.

Stout Country Sourdough

Since I had a bit of time for this weekend’s bake I decided to do a double batch of sourdough: 4 loaves. One batch was the Stout Country Sourdough and the other was my typical Tartine Country Sourdough. This is probably the first time I’ve done 4 loaves of bread at the same time and boy, that’s a lot of work. I definitely appreciate how challenging each day must be for a professional baker.

For this journal entry I will just outline what I did for the stout loaves. The other pair is essentially my usual method for sourdough. Check out my other post on just a straight Tartine Country Sourdough if you’re interested in just that side of things.

Make sure you read to the end before starting this bake for an important conclusion!

Prepare the leaven – 10:00pm

Friday night I prepared a 100% whole wheat leaven with the following ingredients:

  1. 34g ripe starter
  2. 125g whole wheat flour
  3. 125g H2O @ 81ºF

After mixing the above in a glass container, cover and set out on the counter for an overnight rest. If you start reaching for that stout… put it down.

Mix the flour and water, autolyse – 7:45am

Luckily Friday night I stopped myself from having a glass of the remaining stout in my growler, as tempting as it might have been… Grab your early morning espresso and your ingredients and let’s get ready to rock this bake.

Intelligentsia Coffee

Ingredients:

  1. 250g (25%) of your new leaven
  2. 800g (80%) white bread flour
  3. 200g (20%) whole wheat bread flour
  4. 20g (2%) sea salt
  5. 200g La Cumbre Malpais stout beer (20%)
  6. 510g H2O @ 82ºF and 50g H2O (56%) in reserve for next step

Stout Country Sourdough

Method:

  1. Add the 250g of leaven to a large mixing bowl
  2. Pour in 510g H2O @ 82ºF and mix with your hands until the water and leaven are completely mixed & dissolved
  3. Pour in 200g of stout
  4. Add 800g white flour and 200g whole wheat flour and mix with your hand until all the dry flour is incorporated
  5. Cover your bowl with a towel and let autolyse for 40 minutes
  6. After 40 minutes add 20g salt to the dough and slowly pour your 82ºF water on top. Squeeze the dough with your hand to incorporate the salt
  7. Now reach your hand under the dough and pull a side up and over onto itself. Do this several times until you notice the consistency of the dough to turn sticky
  8. Transfer your dough to a large bowl for the bulk fermentation step

Don’t forget to take the temperature of your dough at this point. It should read around 78º F. Mine came in just shy at 77º F, and that tells me it might mean a bit longer during bulk fermentation.

Bulk Fermentation – 8:50am

During bulk fermentation you want to do 7 turns spaced out 30 minutes apart. The turns should be quite intense to strengthen your dough over the next several hours.

  1. 9:20am – Turn 1
  2. 9:50am – Turn 2
  3. 10:20am – Turn 3
  4. 10:50am – Turn 4
  5. 11:20am – Turn 5
  6. 11:50am – Turn 6
  7. 12:20pm – Turn 7
  8. 12:20pm – 2:20pm – Rest on counter untouched

At 2:20pm the dough in my bowl had risen at least 30% and there were little air pockets all throughout, even some bubbles on top. It smelled incredible at this point and I had really wanted to just start the bake right then and there.

Stout Country Sourdough

Stretch your arms and hands and get ready to do your shaping.

But before, I decided to take a few minutes and break for a snack. The previous day I had made a batch of some of the best cookies I think I’ve ever created. Whole wheat chocolate chunk with sea salt that were way too good for their own good. Eating a single one of these just does not happen.

Whole wheat sea salt chocolate chunk cookies.

Am I right or what? In fact, I think I need a cookie break right now while I’m writing this. Be right back… Yup, still good.

Pre-shape – 2:30pm

Take the dough out of the container onto your unfloured work surface and sprinkle some flour on top before dividing. Divide the mass into two halves and flour the top of each half. I continued the process of using one half for a longer oblong batard and the other a boule. I ordered several more oblong bannetons for future bakes as I really enjoy the batard shaping process and much prefer the end result. In a future post I’ll talk about my shaping and even show some experiments I’ve performed on the different shapes and how they affect rise, crust thickness, etc.

After shaping I inverted a bowl on top of each shaped mass to keep it from drying out and set a timer for 35 minutes.

Lightly dust your two linen lined bowls with white rice flour. These bowls will hold our fermenting dough overnight in the fridge to proof.

Shape – 3:05pm

By 3:00pm the dog was ready to go out and do some exploring, running, and general harassment of all the rabbits near my house. She pretty much sleeps all morning and then by the later afternoon if she doesn’t stretch her legs it’s going to be a long night for us. After this shape she’ll get her chance to hopefully catch a rabbit (has yet to happen).

German Shepherd

I’ve discussed a few times how I perform my shaping and for this Stout Country Sourdough batch I followed the same procedure. One as a batard and one as a boule.

Proof – 4:15pm

After they have been shaped, into their respective baskets and into the fridge for a long overnight proof.

Speaking of which, I was recently asked by one of you readers if I felt the long cold proof added flavor to the resulting bread. Short answer: yes! The long proof really gives your fermenting dough a chance to build up a very subtle complex sour flavor that you just cannot duplicate with a short, warm proof. At least I haven’t been able to duplicate.

Stout Country Sourdough

Score + Bake – 12:00pm (the next day)

Well, I can confirm Arya (our dog) got really close this time to snagging one of the 4 legged friends near our house, but still no dice. Next time I have got to bring my camera out there on our long walk through the desert to catch a few action shots of her bounding from bush to bush. But I digress, let’s get these loaves into the oven.

A little bit of a late start for me on Sunday morning, had a brunch outing with some friends (hazelnut French toast and Intelligentsia Coffee cannot be refused) and so the bread had to wait. If you do the math, this means my dough was resting for a full 20 hours! That’s a long proof.

Gather your tools:

  1. Razor blade for scoring
  2. Parchment paper
  3. Pizza peel
  4. Pizza stone
  5. Oven mit
  6. Lodge Combo Cooker

Place your baking stone in your oven at the middle position and turn it on to 510ºF for a 1 hour pre-heat.

After one hour, take one of your loaves out of the fridge and cut a piece of parchment paper to place on top of the basket containing the dough. Take your peel and then put it on top of those two and quickly invert it so the dough is now resting on the parchment paper and the peel.

Get your razor blade out and score the top of the loaf to allow the bread to expand while rising in the oven. For the larger batard I did a single slash down the middle starting from the very top to the very bottom. For the boule I did my typical “X” score centered right on top.

Place the dough into the combo cooker and turn the heat down to 450ºF, cook for 25 minutes. After this time, open the oven and cook for an additional 35 minutes at 440ºF.

Repeat for the second loaf.

Conclusion

Stout Country Sourdough

Look at the rise on that beauty! Wow, great oven spring, in fact all four of the loaves had great oven spring. I just love popping off that top and seeing the dynamic tearing and shifting so visible in the crust.

Crust: Nice and crackly, thin, and crunchy. Can’t beat those three adjectives. Lovely colors on the caramelized outside, you know it’s going to be tasty.

Stout Country Sourdough

Crumb: The crumb, while relatively airy, could have been a bit more open. I’m not exactly sure the cause of the more dense crumb on the stout loaf. It could simply be that I over shaped the dough, knocking out built up gasses, or it could be that my flour has a bit lower protein than what I normally use. For this bake I used what’s more closely related to an “all purpose” white flour instead of a “bread flour”. You can also see that even though I used 800g white flour here the dark malty stout has imparted a dark coloration on the inside of the loaf. Almost looks like it’s more whole wheat than white.

Stout Country Sourdough

Taste: Well the taste was pretty damn good! I’d say the beer caused the crumb to be a bit more chewy than usual, which can be good or bad depending on your tastes. But the subtle malty flavor was a very welcome addition.

And for my important note I mentioned above: I think next time I’ll add more than 200g of stout. I’m thinking of removing an additional 300g of water and adding a total of 500g stout to impart even more malty flavor in the loaf. If we’re going to make beer bread we should go all out, right?

I’m sure I’ll have a follow up post to this one once agin this winter, a Stout Country Sourdough Part II if you will. Until then, if you have a local brewery in your area with a good stout, pick up a growler, have a few glasses, and use some to make an excellent winter time loaf.

Buon appetito!




  • Josh

    Really nice loaves. I make something similar at work. I add toasted oats as well. I think the hydration is about 1/2 beer and 1/2 h20. Might you share the cookie recipe? I’ve been wanting to develop a spelted chocolate chip cookie but it seems you have it somewhat figured out.

    Nice Baking
    Josh

    • Josh,
      Thanks! Toasted oats would be a great addition, I’ll try that next time. I think doing 50% beer would be the way to go, these loaves didn’t have quite enough of the flavor.

      I’ll definitely be posting my modified cookie recipe on this site, they are so good. If you want to get started, I originally based things on the “Cooks Illustrated whole wheat cookie” recipe. Check that out and let me know what you think!

      Maurizio

  • Rafi

    Hey Maurizio,
    Thanks for the inspiration! Though stout is not my favorite, I certainly want to try an IPA bread. I’ve been making loaves for about a year and a half using active dry yeast, but your instructions on how to make a starter finally gave me the tools I need to get started with sourdough. I’m currently on day 3 of breeding my first starter and due to the hot climate here in Brazil, it really seems to be picking up steam.
    I love that you share your measurements in grams… It really helps to reach the exactness of ingredients. What I wanted to ask about is the percentages you also noted in this recipe. As they don’t add up to 100%, what are they percentages of?
    Thanks for hosting such a helpful blog. I hope to one day I get my act together enough to share my recipes in such an informative manner as you do.
    -Rafi

    • Rafi,

      Thanks for the kind words! Stout is definitely one of my favorite beers, but only in the winter. IPA is the king for warmer temperatures. An IPA bread would sure be a good choice.

      I’m glad my post on starting a sourdough starter is helping you out! I would imagine that down in Brazil you’d get some really great results given the humidity and warmer climate.

      You are right about my percentages in this post, they do not add up to 100 as they should. I need to go back and tidy that section up 🙂

      You’re welcome, I hope my future posts give you more inspiration and assistance. I have some great stuff planned for this year.

      Happy baking!
      Maurizio

      • Rafi

        Wow, thanks for the quick reply.
        Since posting my comment I’ve been browsing further and just learned about Baker’s Math. With this in mind, your percentages of flours do add up to 100% and the other ingredients seems to be the proper percentage of the total flour. I guess the only questionable ingredient is the leaven, which although contains flour, I don’t know if it should count towards the total flour or should be considered a separate ingredient for calculation purposes.
        In regards to my starter, it seems to be eating through the available food very quickly. When I went to feed it today, it had reached the top of the jar, then fallen back down into a bit of a soupy consistency. After re-reading your post on the starter I realized that I had been underfeeding my starter… I used 2:1:1 starter, flour, water. As soon as I realized that I went back and re-fed my starter by just adding more flour and water, as it had only been a few hours since feeding.
        I’ll keep you updated on the progress and let you know how the IPA loaf turns out eventually. Can’t wait to see what you have in store for this year. =)

        • Correct, everything should be based on a 100% flour calculation. Here is a really good article on the “math” behind it.

          It sounds like your starter went too far before you fed it again if it had fallen quite a bit before you fed it. You want to try to feed it enough, based on your ambient temperature and water temperature, so that a feeding occurs right as it’s at its apex.

          Looking forward to hearing how your IPA loaf turns out — good luck!

  • marDiet

    Du machst echt Geile Brote!!! 🙂
    Hier ist echt ein Rezept besser als das andere
    Lg. Dietmar Austria
    ( I am a great fan about your Blog)

    • Vielen Dank, froh, Sie werden es genießen!

      Glückliche Backen,
      Maurizio

  • I’ve been making beer bread recently. I noticed both Hammelman and Chad use 300g of beer in their formulas. I tried that out as a good place to start but more is needed so take it out of the realm of subtle. I’ve settled on 400g which seems to give excellent balance to my taste. Did you re-try with 500g? how was it?

    • I have not yet tried with 500g but it’s on my to-do list sometime soon. I really liked the flavor of that bread but like I said in the entry, just not enough beer flavor. 400g sounds like it would be right on as well, I’ll have to do some more experimenting soon.

      Did you use a stout beer or some other variety?

  • I used Guinness. I did try 700g of beer……that wasnt good LOL but the chef over the road from me was talking about using loads of beer and making a reduction. That might also be a good option.

    For texture I think 300g is best which must be why both Chad and Hammelman use it in their loaves. It seems to be the sweet spot for lightness of crumb, over that has the effect of making it more chewy…..the keeping quality goes down the more beer you add as well. The 700g one I tried was like a dry brick the next day LOL also the fermentation of the loaf was massively sped up by that amount of beer…..I could of literally done the bulk fermentation and proof at room temp in under two hours…..it was hot that day though as well.

    • WOW, 700g!? Man, that is a lot of beer. Reducing a stout might be a good idea: it would cook off a good amount of the alcohol and keep the sugars around. I would think it would lead to a seriously “thick” loaf (in terms of taste).

      300g does seem to be the sweet spot, but I’m going with 400g next go. The other thing I was thinking about was perhaps trying a different variety of beer, maybe a wheat…

      Yup, I’m sure the high sugar content in stout beer just amps up your starter!

  • Mike

    For bulk fermentation step 8, you mean 12:20pm, not 12:20am, right?

    • Mike,
      Yes that’s correct, 12:20pm. Thanks for catching that, I’ve fixed the post!

  • Mike

    I tried this with 300g of Duck Rabbit Milk Stout and it turned out great, though not a lot of beer flavor. Next time I’ll increase the beer to 400g or try a heavier stout. This now has a place in my regular rotation. Thanks!

    • Excellent! I agree, there isn’t a heavy beer flavor to the bread. I’m going to attempt this one again here very soon with some modifications, I’ll do a writeup on any new discoveries. A couple things I’m going to try: add more beer in place of water and let the beer go flat before baking with it.

  • Norm Schneiter

    I have found with beer volumes greater than 300g that the dough is VERY sticky and difficult to work with.
    Is anybody else seeing this and how do you handle it?

    • I haven’t yet tried it with that much beer added, though I want to!

  • maccompatible

    Quick question about the early part of this recipe. Why did I make 455g of levain and then only use 250g of it? That seems very wasteful..

    • I wrote this recipe quite a long time ago back when I used to make excess levain to propagate my mother culture but also as a sort of “buffer” to ensure I had plenty of time to use my levain. I find when you make just enough levain to cover a recipe you have to catch it at the right time — that said this is what I do nowadays to reduce waste, as you said. I learned this buffer method from the Tartine book which does the same.

      No need to make extra levain and in fact, I should update this recipe to eliminate that. I’ll do that soon. Thanks for the comments on this, it needs to be done!