Friday, October 8, 2021

Chestnut Sourdough with Aged Gouda, Brown Butter, and Rosemary



I’ve been planning on making this bread the entire summer. But I waited for seasons to turn, because hey, there is a time to every purpose. The right time and the wrong time. There is an invisible rhythm to every breath, every move, every line of code, every bread we bake, and baking a chestnut bread in July just did not feel right. Nevertheless, the entire summer, I thought about it, planned for it, and made it like a million times in my head, so that when the time finally came, it was so easy-peasy.

I like breads that stand on their own. Wholesome and rich. Breads that tell stories. Breads that make people happy. Breads you can serve to someone with almost nothing else - a slice of cheese, a piece of salami, a spoonful of chutney -- and upon the first bite you see a glee in their eyes. Pure delight.

I served it to my friend the other day and she gave me a hug.

This bread has enormous depth. There is the hint of chestnuts -- woodsy and kindhearted. There is the nuttiness of the brown butter interwoven with the savory flavor of aged Gouda, with notes of butterscotch and caramel. There is the tingly sensation of rosemary, herbaceous yet warm, that envelopes all those wholehearted flavors, and gives them a new meaning. It’s the bread you will want to make and eat forever.

Baker’s Notes:

For this bread I am usually using 10% to 15% chestnut flour. Chestnut flour has a strong flavor and little goes a long way; if you want a more pronounced chestnut flavor, you can up it to 20% of the total formula. For the rest, I am using a combination of white bread flour and all-purpose flour. Chestnut flour is gluten free and it may make the crumb dense and heavy; substituting a portion of bread flour with all-purpose will help lighten the crumb. About 2/3:1/3 ratio of bread to AP is how I like it, if you prefer your sourdough on a less chewy side, go with 50:50 and decrease hydration by a percent or two. 

Don’t let 74% hydration fool you. The formula calls for 15% brown butter, which is a liquid at room temperature and is hydration-similar to water. As a result, especially in the early handling, this dough will behave like a 89% hydration sourdough. 

Adding brown butter or other fats inhibits gluten development in sourdough. Think of all the lipids coating the gluten-forming proteins and depriving them of water. I usually increase the mixing time and add additional stretches and folds, and coil folds, to develop a dough with the same gluten strengts as a dough without the fat. Adding fats and reducing access to water also means that the dough may ferment slower. I usually add about 30 minutes to my typical bulk fermentation schedule. 

The oven spring in a loaf with fat will be slightly less than the oven spring of a loaf with no oil. Perhaps 3/8 to 1/2-inch less. But this is not a race to get the tallest bread possible. Hope we agree on that :)

And of course, the baking schedule below is not carved in stone, it's really a guidance on the process. We all do things differently and adapt depending on the parameters of our kitchens and work habits. I sometimes cut or extend the rests between the folds, skip a fold, or adjust the total bulk time, depending on how the bread feels and behaves.

Total formula

195 g (60%) King Arthur organic bread flour
 94 g (29%) King Arthur organic all-purpose flour
 35 g (11%) chestnut flour
241 g (74%) water
 65 g (20%) levain at 100% hydration
  6 g (2%)  kosher salt
 49 g (15%) brown butter (from 60 – 65 g unsalted butter)
 91 g (28%) aged Gouda, cut into 1/8-inch dice
  3 g (1%)  finely chopped fresh rosemary

Kitchen temperature:

Dough temperature:

Location: New York City (low elevation)

My baking schedule: 

  8:00 am prepare levain
 12:30 am make brown butter
  1:00 pm autolyse
  2:00 pm add levain
  2:30 pm add salt and brown butter
  3:15 pm one stretch and fold, one coil fold
  3:45 pm one stretch and fold, one coil fold
  4:15 pm one stretch and fold, one coil fold
  4:45 pm laminate, add rosemary and cheese
  5:15 pm coil fold
  5:45 pm coil fold (optional)
  7:45 pm shape
  8:15 pm cold fermentation

-- next day –

  9:30 am bake

#1 Prepare levain (8:00 am)

In a small bowl, mix 20 g strong starter, 36 g white bread flour, 4 g dark rye flour, and 40 g water. Transfer the levain to a clean glass container and cover loosely with a lid or plastic wrap. Wait until the levain has almost tripled in volume. In my kitchen it takes about 4 to 6 hours at 76-78°F.

#2 Make brown butter (12:30 am)

Cut the butter into pieces. Place the butter in a small light-colored pan over medium heat. (You need light colored pan to see when brown butter is ready, while medium heat ensures that the butter cooks evenly). Stir the butter the entire time. Once melted, the butter will begin to foam and sizzle around the edges. After about 5 minutes, the butter will turn golden brown and smell intensely nutty. The foam will subside and the milk solids at the bottom of the pan will begin to turn dark brown. As soon as it happens, quickly remove the pan from the stove, and pour into a heat-proof bowl to stop the cooking process. Measure out 49 grams and set aside.

#3 Autolyse (1 pm)

In a mixing bowl, combine the flours and the water. Mix until no dry bits remain. Cover the bowl and leave for 60 minutes.

#4 Add levain (2 pm)

Add the levain to the autolyse. Using your fingers, pinch in the levain at first, then keep gently scooping the dough, stretching it, and folding it over itself for about 5 to 6 minutes. (The Rubaud method.) Gather the dough into a ball, cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

#5 Add salt and brown butter (2:30 pm)
Incorporating liquid brown butter into the dough takes some (messy) work, so use a mixer for this part. Place the dough into a bowl of a standing mixer. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and add the brown butter. Mix for about one minute on medium speed (KitchenAid 4) to get all ingredients in, then reduce speed to low (Kithchen Aid 1 or 2) and mix for about 3 to 4 minutes. It will take a while for the brown butter to fully incorporate -- be patient and do not increase the speed. After 3 to 4 minutes the dough will be cohesive again and will begin to pull away from the bowl. Mix for another minute, then transfer the dough to a bulk container. The dough will be sticky and almost liquid and will require some work throughout the bulk fermentation to get into shape. Cover and leave for 30 minutes.

#6 1st stretch and fold + coil fold (3:15 pm)
With wet hands, perform one set of stretch and folds in the bulk container. The dough will still not resist much, so you can add one or two coil folds. The dough will become noticeable stronger, but still slack. Cover, and leave for 30 minutes.

#7 2nd stretch and fold + coil fold (3:45 pm)
With wet hands, perform the second stretch and fold in the bulk container, followed by one or two coil folds. You will notice that the dough is getting stronger but will still need work. Cover, and leave for 30 minutes.

#8 3rd stretch and fold + coil fold (4:15 pm)

Perform the third stretch and fold in the bulk container, followed by one or two coil folds. Cover and leave for 30 minutes.

#9 Laminate, add rosemary and cheese (4:45 pm)
By now the dough should have developed enough strength and is ready to laminate. Lightly wet the work surface. With wet hands, release the dough from the bottom of the bulk container on all sides and place it onto the work surface. By pulling the dough from the middle and not the sides, stretch it into a large square as much as the dough allows you without tearing it. Spread the rosemary evenly on top. Then spread the cheese dice. Fold the dough into a packed and return to the bulk container. Cover and leave for 30 minutes.

#10 Coil fold (5:15 pm)
Perform a coil fold in the container to organize the dough and give it a pre-shape. The dough should have decent strength anf structure now, but if you feel that it still needs work, you can squeeze in one more coil fold before letting it rest.

#11 Shape (7:45 pm)
Lightly flour the work surface and the top of the dough. With wet hands gently release the dough onto the work surface, so that the dusted top is now facing the surface. Shape the dough and place it into the banneton. Leave the dough in the banneton for 20 - 30 minutes.

#12 Cold fermentation (8:15 pm)
Put the banneton into a plastic bag or cover it with plastic wrap, and transfer to the fridge. I keep my fridge at 35°F, to inhibit any further rise of the dough. Total time between adding levain and reatrd for this loaf was 6 hours and 30 minutes.

#13 Bake (9:30 am)

One hour before baking, place your baking vessel in the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F. When ready to bake, remove the banneton from the fridge. Flip the bread onto a parchment paper. Lightly spray the bread with water – this helps develop nice crust and makes scoring easier. Wet the bread lame too, score the bread, and transfer it to the baking surface. Spray a little bit of water around the bread and cover. Bake for 25 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, reduce oven temperature to 420°F and continue to bake for another 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least one hours before slicing. (Yes, I know, it will be difficult to resist.)