I have been enjoying baking breads from Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast, especially with his recipe of Field Blend #2. The combination of three flours (17.5% whole rye flour, 12.5% whole wheat flour, 70% bread flour) seems to be ideal to bake a flavorful loaf with rich complex tastes, benefitting from two kinds of whole grains while keeping the crumb soft and light. Since my previous loaves with sesame seeds were successful, I tried another variation with toasted walnuts.
In my version, I changed the ratio of whole grains to 17.5% whole wheat and 12.5% whole rye. I added toasted walnut pieces (110g) into the dough 10 minutes after the final mix, just like I did with my sesame breads. I again also left out the instant yeast from the recipe. The mixing process was the same as my previous loaf of Field Blend #2 with Sesame Seeds.
Benefits from good quality salt
In the last couple of loaves, I used a special sea salt I brought from Japan, named Umi no Sei Yakishio. It is a traditional sea salt made with an old-fashioned formula - 100% pure sea salt dried in the sun, then roasted at 600C high temperature to be completely dry. It contains rich minerals (sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, iodine, iron, copper, manganese). According to the King Arthur Flour website, "high mineral content salt helps to feed yeast, resulting a higher rise of a loaf". My last two loaves had in fact a pretty good rise (and the dough has risen faster), and the crumb structure was also great. The taste of the final loaf was noticeably better and sweeter, with many complex mild flavors melded into one. I normally use La Baleine French Sea Salt (Fine) for general cooking besides this one, and when comparing the tastes, this Japanese roasted sea salt tastes a little milder and sweeter with round aftertaste than La Baleine salt. In artisan bread baking with such simple ingredients as flour, water, salt and yeast, the quality of salt seems to affect the taste of the resulting bread quite a bit, which was surprising to me when I actually tasted the difference.
Active starter is important
One thing I noticed recently was that my sourdough starter became more active than usual after feeding it twice a day for a week or two at room temperature. It was more vigorous than just being taken out of the fridge a few days before I baked a loaf. The active starter seemed to improve my bread crumb structure recognizably over the last couple of weeks. (I remember the story that Chad Robertson keeps his Tartine starter at room temperature all the time, and I can see why his starter seems to always be so vigorous.)
Mixing leaven - autolyse - bulk fermentation
The levain was ready after 5 hours and passed the float test (perhaps because the room temperature was a little warmer than before), so I started to mix the dough 1 hour earlier than I planned. The levain was 5.5 hours old at the final mix, which was still fairly young. (Mixing instruction is in my previous post.)
The bulk fermentation time was 5 hours at 74F room temperature until the dough rose to double. I stretched and folded the dough 4 times in every 20-25 minutes during the first 2 hours. The dough temperature during the bulk fermentation was 80F at the start, and ended at 76F.
The final proof was 3 hours and 40 minunes in the refrigerator. I put the shaped dough in an oval basket this time. (Final shaping instruction is in my previous post.)
With a finger-dent test, the dough was ready after 3.5 hours, so I decided to bake it earlier than I planned. The outside and room temperatures were a little warmer, so the required time for final proof seemed to be shorter than the freezing cold days when I baked the previous loaves. (*Here is a very helpful discussion on finger-dent (poke) test on a cold dough from The Fresh Loaf.)
Scoring and baking
Scoring was a little bit difficult this time, since the walnut pieces were right in the middle of the dough where I was going to slash, so the crack on the final loaf was not so elegant ...
… But the oven spring was pretty good. (Baking instruction is in my previous post.)
The blend of whole wheat flour, whole rye flour and the crunchy toasted walnut pieces made the loaf so flavorful and delicious. I really like this Field Blend #2 recipe, since it worked fantastic every time I baked loaves with it, whatever extra ingredients I mixed in - with sesame seeds or walnut pieces. It seems to be a very reliable recipe to me.
It also tasted great with goat cheese (Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove), or goat cheese and caramelized onions on a toasted slice. This is definitely one of my favorite sourdough breads.
11:05AM Float test (passed)
11:10AM Autolyse (flour + water)
11:40AM Final mix + add toasted walnuts
11:55AM Bulk fermentation starts (DT=80F)
4:55PM Bulk fermentation ends (DT=76F)
4:55PM Pre-shape / Bench rest / Shaping the loaf
5:14PM Final proof starts (in the refrigerator)
8:40PM Final proof ends
7:55PM Oven on @475F
8:40PM Baking (30 min. with the lid, 20 min. without the lid)
9:30PM Take out the loaf from the oven
*room temperature = 73F
*outside temperature = 44F