The evening before baking: Dissolve the sourdough in the water in a bowl. Add the flour and knead this very stiff dough until it is smooth. It will be very hard at first but it will smooth out. Place the levain in a covered container and let it ferment until it is fully risen and deflates when pressed, 8 to 12 hours.
MIXING THE DOUGH by stand mixer: Combine all 4 flours and the wheat germ in the mixing bowl. Measure the malt in an oiled tablespoon and dissolve it in the water. Pour the malted water over the flour mixture and mix the dough with your hands or a wooden spoon just until it is combined. Cover the bowl with a plate and let rest (autolyse) for 20 to 30 minutes.
Add the levain and salt to the dough. Using the dough hook, knead it on medium speed until it is very smooth, about 5 minutes.
The dough should feel smooth, dry, and firm at the end of the kneading.
FERMENTING AND TURNING THE DOUGH: Place the dough in a container at least 3 times its size and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it ferment for 1 hour. Turn the dough once (page 16), then continue to let it ferment until light and well expanded but not yet doubled in bulk, 3 to 5 hours more.
ROUNDINGAND RESTING THE DOUGH: Flour the surface of the dough and your work surface and turn the dough out. Cut the dough in half; each piece should weigh about 24 ounces (690 grams). Lightly round the pieces. cover them loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest until well relaxed, 10 to 15 minutes.
SHAPING AND PROOFING THE DOUGH: Shape the dough into bâtards about 10 inches long. Set them seam side down in a couch or lined banneton to proof. Cover the loaves well with plastic wrap and let the breads proof until well expanded but still springy when lightly pressed with a finger, 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours.
PREHEATING THE OVEN: At least 45 minutes before the dough is fully proofed, arrange a rack on the oven’s second-to-top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all racks above the one being used. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
BAKING THE BREAD: Gently place the breads on a sheet of parchment paper, as far apart as your stone will allow (breads that are close together will "burst," that is, crack open at the sides instead of expanding at the slash) Slash each bread 5 times, beginning each slash at the middle of the last one, forming a grapevine pattern. Slide the breads on the paper onto the hot stone and quickly spray them with water from a plant mister or a pressurized garden sprayer filled with water. To create extra steam, crack of the oven door, insert the nozzle of the pressurized garden sprayer, and fill the oven with water n for a minute. Bake the breads for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating them around halfway into the bake. The breads are finished baking when they are dark and evenly browned all around. Let the breads cool on a rack.
:Time: About 24 hours, with about 20 minutes of active work
:*Levain: Fermented firm sourdough starter (55 % Hydration), refreshed 8 to 12 hours before
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