It’s Not Me: Bread Failure


All right, I had a sourdough crash. Maybe it wasn’t fed enough, or maybe it got too cold. The life went out of it and all my valiant efforts to restore its vitality failed. Add warm water and sugar: Fail. Add flour: Fail. Immerse the whole jar of starter in hot water and cover it: Fail. It was dead as a door nail.

But because I already had an autolyse started (flour and water combined), I went ahead and made the poolish (sponge thingy) with dry yeast. I had been reading about all these top drawer, high hat chefs experimenting with high ratio doughs, with about twice as much water as I usually use, and then a bare, gentle kneading. I have tried these twice before, and both times I was not satisfied with the end product.

And I wasn’t this time, either. I forced two risings in the oven, and got good yeast action, but after kneading (lightly, in the bowl) the dough barely peeked over the top of the cast iron skillet I had it in. It was a lovely, crusty, paisan type loaf in the end, and I checked the interior temperature at the center to make sure it was done, but after cooling overnight, unwrapped, it was still way too damp inside, and the light kneading had left streaks of flour in it.


It tastes all right, although a bit bland for a whole wheat loaf, and it soon got soggy. Yes, we are eating it anyway, with lashings of sun-dried tomato hummus. It will get toasted under the broiler, as well, to go with soup. It isn’t a loss, but it isn’t the nutty, slightly sour flavor a slow rise whole wheat load should have.

It isn’t as bad as the no-knead, overnight rise “artisan” loaf we have all seen on Pinterest. That is an unmitigated disaster. When I made it, it not only collapsed in the oven, it was full of holes big enough to drive a VW Bug through. It was soggy on the bottom and generally nasty. The goats and the chickens got that loaf, an occurrence so rare I don’t think I have done that since my first attempts at bread baking had the occasional momentous failure – oatmeal molasses bread, without salt…brick-like to a point where no farm animals would have accepted it as food.

So I have had it with the wet doughs and high ratios. I am going to give the bread a decent, proper kneading as it deserves.


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