The “Covid Times” has seen all of us try our hands at a number of things we never thought and even imagined of trying. For our team, baking with sourdough was one of them, all thanks to Joyce who graciously shared her starter (all the way from Germany? Via New Zealand?) with us. Prior to this I’ve barely tried making any loaf of bread, the closest experience I’ve had was an attempt to focaccia a decade ago, which ended up as good paper weight to keep our table napkins from flying away. (You know the tagalog phrase “Kapag binato ka ng bato, batuhin mo ng tinapay”? Let’s just say the tinapay would’ve hurt a lot more).
I enjoy working in the kitchen a lot, I’d describe it more as play time, a time to be creative more than anything, but as you’d imagine, it’s quite hard for me to follow recipes let alone come up with one. So hang in there! I am also by no means an expert cook, and moreover an expert baker, I barely qualify as experienced even. FYI I don’t have a kitchen scale, I just take out a pen, paper, calculator, measuring cups, and a Googled sheet of conversion tables. I just enjoy figuring it out on the fly and the spontaneity of all of it. I call it #rebelbaking. So I’m sure you’ll be fine, if not better than my attempts! 😂
Pre-fed starter (100% hydration)
Flour (I used bread flour for this)
Rosemary (I find dried thyme works very well too)
Time (we should have a lot of this)
Patience (we should have even more of this)
You’re probably wondering why there are no amounts on the ingredients list. If you’ve tried baking with sourdough, it’s mostly about the percentages and ratios, and depending on what you’re making the percentages change. So you don’t have to muster so much of a certain ingredient if you don’t have it, flour is always 100% so it usually is the limiting ingredient (aka runs out the fastest)
So for example, the basic percentages I like to follow for focaccia is, 60% leaven, 100% flour and 80% water and 2.5% salt. So if you have 100g of flour, leaven should be 60g, water 80g, and salt 2.5g.
I usually start of by pre-weighing all the ingredients. I then proceed to mixing the water and the Beet puree/soup, then add in the leaven. Make sure it’s well mixed otherwise you’ll end up with an uneven distribution of sourdough in your bread. Then slowly incorporate your flour, mixing well (I don’t have a mixer so I just mix everything by hand) before adding more flour, so that you’re dough doesn’t get lumpy. Be prepared to add in more flour depending on how watery your puree is. You want a good firm pliable (can be held as a ball) consistency on your dough. I find a higher hydration on dough makes for softer bread but also means more difficult to handle. When you’ve finished mixing all the ingredients (you can add your herb earlier if you’re using dried ones, later if you’re using fresh ones), leave the dough to rest for 30mins before proceeding to your stretch and fold (you can Google the best way to do this, I prefer the coil method). Stretch and fold your dough 3 to 4 times depending on (well mostly you haha) every 30 mins or so. After the stretch and fold, let it rest for 6 to 12 hours (depending on your schedule and the room temp.) hotter it is, the faster your dough ferments. Also the later it is through the night, the more groggy and impatient you get and might end up tearing the dough apart hence, your schedule. I find baking with sourdough is more flexible to your schedule, at least in my experience.
When the bulk ferment is done, transfer it to your baking vessel of choice (I find cast iron is best, I don’t have a Dutch oven but they say it’s good too), at this point you may opt to let it ferment for another hour, or you may proceed to putting dimples on your dough. Add your topping of choice, don’t forget to preheat your oven and blast it up to its highest setting. Depending on your vessel and oven, baking may take about 20 to 30 minutes.
Beet focaccia approximate ingredients I used:
227g preferment 45%
487.5g bread flour
0.5 cup Beet puree
Few sprigs of rosemary