Sourdough bread with muscovado sugar

Sourdough bread with muscovado sugar

When I first read about this recipe, I was skeptical. Muscovado sugar in bread? Now, I love muscovado sugar. The aroma and taste are outstanding, and I’m always looking for a reason to add it in something. But bread?
Well, there’s only one way to find out, I said to myself. Just bake it. And so I did.

But I had to mess around a bit with the original recipe first. It called for both fresh yeast and sourdough starter. Nothing wrong with that, but I always try only to use a sourdough starter if possible. It gives me better control of the baking process, and the taste becomes far superior. It takes longer time, of course, but that is signifiable for a lot of food that tastes good.

Before we go on, I wold like to say something about hydration. Hydration can be a tricky thing if you’re sitting in Sweden and trying to write for both a European and American audience. The flour in US and Canada is stronger than what we are used to in Europe, so don’t be surprised if you American readers has to add some extra water to the dough.

For this bread, you need a smooth, not too loose dough. The crumb should be a little bit tight. It should be suitable for an open-faced sandwich with lots of ingredients on top. Therefore I advise you to be careful with the hydration. In this recipe, I have used a hydration of 58%. You can start with that and perhaps add more water if the dough feels too stiff.

Another thing I decided to do was to reduce the amount of sugar. I know, I’m a coward, but I’m not fond of very sweet bread. I have however included the original amount in the recipe list for those who want to give it a try.

The dough got one hour of autolyse and then I used the stretch and fold technique instead of running the dough in a dough mixer. I like to work with the dough by hand. It may be because I’m an engineer and working with machines all day long. It’s simply nice to get rid of machines sometimes. Except for the oven of course. You can follow the process described here. Thanks to the low hydration, the dough is easy to handle.

Try to spread the sugar as evenly as possible. Muscovado sugar has a tendency to lump together so pay attention and try to find all of those sugar lumps during the stretch and fold process. Or run everything in a dough mixer if you have one. Then you don’t have to care about autolyse either.

This bread will be quite dark when you bake it. I suspect it’s because there is some sugar left that is caramelized. The dark crust adds flavor so don’t remove the bread too early from the oven.
I have baked this bread two times with different fermentation times. One longer in a colder environment and one in room temperature. I’m blessed with a basement with a maximum temperature of 60ºF / 16ºC, but the fridge will do just fine. It only takes a little longer.

A longer fermentation time increase the tanginess, something I recommend for this bread. It will have a hint of sweetness, something I prefer to balance with some acidity.
This is a tasty bread that fits best with similar foods. I have tried it myself together with a hearty lentil soup, but also as a sandwich with salami and other Italien cured meats. Or why not with some slices of cold smoked salmon. I wonder if there is still something left of that bread? I think I have to go to the kitchen and find out.
See you.

Print Recipe
Sourdough bread with muscovado sugar
A sourdough bread with lots of taste and a hint of sweetness. Perfect for a salami sandwich, or why not with some slices of cold smoked salmon.
Cook Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
  1. Mix all ingredients except salt in a kitchen bowl. Let the dough autolysing for an hour.
  2. Add salt and stretch and fold the dough 8 to 10 times. Perform 3 sets of stretch and folds during bulk fermentation, spaced out by 30 minutes.
  3. Let the dough rest until it has risen about 20 - 50 %.
  4. Dump out the dough on a lightly floured working space. Divide it into two pieces and form each piece into a loaf. It's up to you to decide what type of shape you prefer. Boule, batard or whatever. There is a link in the recipe notes showing my way to form a loaf.
  5. Place the dough seam side up into bannetons or lightly floured towel-lined bowls. Use rice flour for the best result.
  6. Let the loaves rise in room temperature or fridge depending on how much sourness you want. Colder and longer fermentation results in a more sour taste. You can also start the fermentation at room temperature and end it in the fridge. Experiment until you find the procedure for your perfect loaf. I let my loaves ferment for 6 hours in 60ºF / 16ºC. Always cover the loaves with a plastic bag to prevent the surface from drying out.
  7. Preheat your oven to 480ºF / 250ºC with two oven plates. One to bake the bread on and one just below. If you have a baking stone you use that of course.
  8. Score each loaf and place them in the oven. Lower the heat to 440ºF / 230ºC. Pour some water on the plate below and bake each loaf for 35 minutes or until the inner temperature is 208ºF / 98ºC.
  9. Let the bread cool on wire racks.
Recipe Notes

In this post, you will find a description on how to form a loaf.

Continue Reading

Different ways to wake up your sourdough starter, post no. 1



Sourdough starter

Sometimes it just doesn’t work. You have bought high-quality flour and secured a warm place in the kitchen. You may even have used bottled water because you are not sure how much chlorine there are in the tap water. But can you see any activity in your starter?

At best, you may see some small, pitiful bubbles on the surface.
But you want more. You want lots of bubbles. You want a starter that’s trying to break out of the glass jar you keep it in.
A starter that’s overflowing is a beautiful sight for a sourdough nerd.
It doesn’t matter how messy it is. You just feel pure happiness when it occurs. Why? Because you know you can’t fail with such a starter.

But most of the times the activity is a little bit more restrained. And that’s ok. You don’t need a starter that looks as if it’s going on steroids to get a good result. All experienced bakers know that. But you need some activity. You can not bake something with a starter that looks dead or appears to be in some sort of semi-coma that had made Maleficent in Sleeping beauty jealous.

It happens to everyone. Even experienced bakers suffer from this problem now and then. A sourdough starter is something very complex, sensitive to all sort of things that we sometimes can’t control.

It is on such occasions that it is tempting to try to take a shortcut. To add something that will kickstart your starter. You have probably heard about it. People add fruits, juices, yogurt, and all sort of stuff to their sourdough starter to get some activity. This kind of experiments often meets criticism from at least some sourdough aficionados. They claim that you can’t jump-start a sourdough starter. It has to take its time. Besides, you’re adding bacterial cultures that don’t belong in a sourdough.
Personally, I have never tried anything, except raisin yeast. But that is a well-known concept in the sourdough world. Some bakers claim that a real levain must be started with raisin yeast.

Raisin yeast. The only starter for levain?

But what about pineapple juice? Or yogurt? Does it work? I honestly don’t know. But that’s what we’ll find out.
I’m planning to write a couple of posts about different methods to increase the activity in your starter. I will make a simple test where I compare two batches of starters. I will present my result, and then I hope we all can have a discussion about it.

OK, let’s start. And the first one out is Yoghurt.
When you read in different forums, you will find many who think yogurt works well in their starters. Others, however, are skeptical. I have to admit that I belong to the latter. Let me explain.
There are bacteria from the lactobacillus family in both the yogurt culture and the sourdough starter. So far so well. However, most of the bacterias in yogurt are homofermentative. That means that they only produce one product from the sugar they consume. And most of them produce lactic acid.
Now, you want lactic acid in your starter, but you also want a small amount of acetic acid, carbon dioxide, and alcohol. And bacteria that produce these substances are quite rare in yogurt. That’s my theory. But I’m not an expert when it comes to microorganisms. That’s why I have to test it.

For this test, I used my wheat starter that I have had for many years. I chose the wheat starter because they are normally the most troublesome. I feed it with flour and water and divided some of it into two half-cup batches. But in one of them, I also added a tablespoon of yogurt. I then left them for 8 hours.

And the winner is

Nobody. It ended in a draw. As you can see on the picture below the levels are almost identical. The batch with the red rubber band that contains yogurt has no higher rise than the one with just flour and water. As you may see, the starter has quite high hydration. I made it like that on purpose because I wanted a quick result. Higher hydration means quicker fermentation time. A bit too quick perhaps. If you look at the left batch, you can see that the level has already started to sink back. Maybe I should have reduced the hydration a bit to get better pictures, but I don’t think it had affected the result. I should also mention that I repeated the test three times with the same result.

That confirms my theory that there is no point in adding yogurt to the starter, right? Or does it?
Have I overlooked something? Or is the test incorrectly performed? Do you agree or do you think I’m totally out of track? Please make a comment. I would love to hear your opinions about this.

Continue Reading