One day I decided to use my plastic proofing basket that the dough always stuck in to make bread. I had read that high hydration breads tend to stick in these baskets so I figure if I did a normal 67% hydration bread that it might just work out alright. I had some bread flour left over and thought I would just use that for the dough. The flour wasn't enough for the simple formula that I had come up with so I said to myself no problem I'll just add in a little bit of my home milled flour. It was a winter night when I mixed it up and the house and water were cold. I had left out dough on the counter over night before when the house is cold and it rises just right during the time I'm sleeping. That is what I did with the first loaf that I made this way. When I got up in the morning it had fully raised so I baked the bread. That bread had such a wonderful flavor I just had to figure out what I had done to make it taste that way. I started looking at bread books and reading about breads that were similar in technique to the bread I had made. In the end I came to the conclusion that I had combined two different techniques to make my bread. I think if a person would translate the names of these breads from French to English you would get Old Country Bread but I'm not sure. Here is a picture of the last loaf that I made, I think it is just beautiful.
Whole Wheat Flour
Preferment 67% hydration
The only question after I had made the first bread was could I do it again or would the discovery be lost forever? I have made the bread four times now and the last bread is very close to the first bread that I made so I feel that this is what makes it taste so good.
The starter is a 100% whole wheat starter kept at 50% hydration. When I want to make bread I take a piece of it and feed it bread flour and water at the 67% hydration level. This is done in two builds at 8 to 12 hour intervals because I want the starter to be fully active.
The dough is mixed up in the evening so it can be put into the refrigerator over night. First I take and mix the preferment in with cold water and our water is cold because it is winter. Possible alternative is to use ice water. Then I mixed in the flours and salt. The dough was mixed until the gluten had developed. I then put the dough into an oiled bowl and rolled the dough around in the oil to coat it. I put a plate on top of the bowl and placed it into the refrigerator. The dough had a couple of stretch and folds done to it that night. The next morning I take it out of the refrigerator and look at the dough, it hasn't raised a bit. I place the bowl on the table and go to work. When I get home from work the dough has raised about half way, the house way really cold that day. I place the bowl in a warm water bath to help get the show on the road. Three hours later I shaped the dough and placed it in the proofing basket that is first oiled then dusted with rice flour. I let the dough proof in the basket for almost two hour. The basket was placed into a warm oven with the light on and covered with a tea towel.
Cooking is done at 460°F for 45 minutes. First the oven is heated up to 460°F with a cooking stone in the oven. When the oven is ready I inverted the dough over onto some parchment paper then slashed. I love how the slashes turned out on the last loaf they remind me of bamboo leaves and very artistic. The dough is then placed in the oven and covered with a roasting pan lid. I cook the bread covered for 30 minutes then I remove the lid. The bread has a nice deep redish brown color to it that I really like. I heard somewhere that the darker brown colors of a bread's crust has more flavor. This bread looks like I have cooked it to long but there is nothing wrong with the flavors of the bread. When I grab the bread out of the oven the crust is crisp but when squeezed it cracks and gives way to the soft crumb underneath it. The whole house fills with the aroma a wonderful toasty wheat smell, cutting the bread will have to wait until tomorrow when it has cooled down.
Still some new areas to explore by using different whole grain starters to make this bread. The adventure in exploring bread has only just begun.