Saturday, October 30, 2021

Chocolate Stout, Molasses, and Dark Honey Sourdough

I've been waiting for a long time to post this recipe. It's just that life sometimes interferes and we have to yield.

But it also could be that the forces from upstairs wanted me to post this on Halloween. 

Black magic I suppose.

It's black magic that comes to mind when I think about this loaf.  This bread is full of secrets and tricks it plays on you with every new bite. It's rye, yet it's not. It's wheat, but perhaps not. It’s dark and stormy, with notes of moody sweetness, yet it’s unmistakably a sourdough. You expect it to be dense, but it has a light texture and an open crumb. You think that will taste of beer, but it's cocoa that comes forward. Black magic indeed.

This is my favorite bread to serve with aged Cheddar. Camembert too, because opposites attract. And let's not forget Robiola. It adores butter and orange marmalade. It’s magnificent with pumpkin soup. This Oktoberfest, we had it with sauerkraut and sausages. No surprise, because it loves cabbages of all kinds. It loves salads too. Arugula with nuts, apples, and aged balsamic comes to mind. I am also thinking roasted chicken, when you need something to dip into all those gorgeous pan juices. And after a couple of days, when it gets old, try making a grilled cheese sandwich. It will make you scream with happiness and then run to feed that starter, so that you can make another loaf ASAP.

Forgot to mention -- my daughter eats it with Nutella. Generation gap I suppose.

Happy Halloween!

Baker’s Notes

Here are several things I considered in making this bread:

choice of flour -- For quite some time, I've been using 40% white bread flour, 30% whole wheat flour, and 30% rye flour formula. Bread flour for strength, whole wheat and rye for hearty flavor. I switched to using T85 flour from Cental Milling because it’s one of my favorite flours. In terms of flavor and color it falls between white and whole wheat flour, but it’s more elegant than whole wheat and makes for a silky and supple dough. If you do not have access to it, a 50/50 mixture of whole wheat and white flour is a decent substitute. 

choice of beer -- if you can't get hold of Sam Smith or other chocolate stouts, feel free to use Guinness with 1 teaspoon of Dutch processed cocoa.

-- 84% hydration corresponds to 80%, 82%, and 91% hydration for bread flour, T85 flour, and rye flour, respectively. This is somewhat conservative, as these flours can take in more liquid. However, this formula has a significant amount of molasses and honey; they will make the dough runny and sticky, and it will behave like a highly hydrated dough. I recommend starting with 84% and increasing it as you get to know this dough better.

-- It's not easy to get open crumb and airy texture with a significant portion of rye flour. To do so, it’s best to keep it separately. That means performing the autolyse with wheat flours and skipping the autolyse for rye. (Because rye flour doesn't develop gluten the way wheat flour does, and ferments more quickly, extended autolyse can cause the dough to deteriorate.) If you substitute T85 with whole wheat, you can even separate bread and whole wheat flours, and do a one hour autolyse with bread flour, and a longer, 3-hour autolyse with whole wheat flour. 

-- Calling in the right bulk fermentation time for this bread is a fun challenge. There are a lot of sugars in it, and they will compete for liquid with the levain. That means longer fermentation time. On the other hand, rye flour ferments faster. So, we have competing forces here. Overall, you want to give this dough a bit longer bulk than say a “basic”  -- 85%, 15%, 5%, white, whole wheat, rye flour -- sourdough. I usually end the bulk fermentation about six and half to seven hours after adding levain. When calling the end of the bulk, look for the usual signs – jiggly and bubbly dough, and about 70% increase in volume. If you are in a dilemma, for this bread it is better to go over than under.

Total formula

 70 g (20%) King Arthur organic unbleached bread flour
175 g (50%) Central Milling organic T85 malted flour
105 g (30%) Barry Farm Foods whole rye flour
295 g (84%) Samuel Smith chocolate stout, divided: 199g, 86g, 10g
 70 g (20%) levain at 100% hydration
 49 g (14%) unsulfured molasses
 17 g (5%)  dark honey (I use bamboo)
  8 g (2%)  kosher salt

Kitchen temperature: 72°F

Dough temperature: 77°F

New York City (low elevation)

My baking schedule:

 8:00 am prepare levain
 8:30 am prepare beer
11:30 am autolyse bread and T85 flour
12:15 pm mix in rye and levain
12:45 pm mix in molasses, honey, and salt
 1:30 pm coil fold
 2:15 pm coil fold
 2:45 pm coil fold
 3:30 pm coil fold
 6:25 pm coil fold as a preshape
 6:45 pm shape and retard

-- 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 proofing oven at 78°F it takes about 4 to 5 hours.

#2 Prepare beer (8:30 am)
Once you are done making the levain, prepare the beer. Measure out 295 grams of stout and pour into a bowl. Leave it uncovered to let go of the carbonation and the alcohol. (We will be using the beer as follows: 199 grams to autolyse the bread and T85 flour, 87 g to mix in rye and levain, and 10 g to mix in salt, molasses, and honey.)

#3 Autolyse wheat flours (11:30 am)
In a mixing bowl, combine the bread flour, the T85 flour, and 199 g of the stout. Mix until no dry bits remain. Cover the bowl and leave for 45 minutes to an hour. (My kitchen temperature tends to vary a lot in the fall and winter. For the best results I keep the dough in my proofing oven at 77-78°F. You can also use an oven with a light on, it will keep about the same temperature.)

#4 Mix in rye and levain (12:15 pm)
In a small mixing bowl, combine the rye flour, and 86 g of the stout. Add to the autolyse. Add the levain. Using your fingers, pinch in the rye mixture and levain at first, until they are fully incorporated. Then keep gently scooping the dough, stretching it, and folding it over itself for about 5 minutes. Gather the dough into a ball, cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

#5 mix in molasses, honey, and salt (12:45 pm)
In a small mixing bowl, combine the molasses, honey, salt and the remaining 10 g of the stout. Mix well. Add to the dough. Pinch in slowly with your fingers. The dough will become very slack and almost disintegrate. Begin to gently scoop the dough and fold it over itself to work the molasses into the dough. It will take about three minutes of gentle hand work until the molasses is fully incorporated. Do not rush and do not be aggressive, because it will damage the gluten network. Once the molasses is incorporated, it's time to work on the dough to help it regain strength. Keep scooping the dough, stretching it, and folding it over itself, for 5-6 minutes. After a minute or two, you will notice that the dough has become coherent again and is getting stronger. After 6 minutes of mixing, the dough will be significantly stronger, but still extremely sticky. Place the dough into the bulk container, cover and leave for 45 minutes.

#6 Coil folds (1:30 pm – 3:30 pm)
With wet hands, perform 4 sets of coil folds in the bulk container, at 30 to 45 minute intervals. After each coil fold the dough will become slightly more structured, tad less sticky and will be able to hold its shape better. Leave the dough for the remainder of the bulk period. Check out the dough from time to time, if you notice that it's becoming slack, feel free to add another one or two gentle coil folds throughout the rest of the bulk.

#7 Preshape (6:25 pm)
Perform one coil fold as a pre-shape. Leave the dough for 20 to 30 minutes.

#8 Shape and retard (6:45 pm)
This dough is sticky, so make sure that the banneton is lined and dusted with flour generously. Lightly flour the work surface and the top of the dough. Flip 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, seam side up. Put the banneton into a plastic bag or cover it with plastic wrap, and transfer to the fridge to proof overnight.

#9 Bake (9:30 am)
One hour before baking, place your baking vessel in the oven (I bake in Emile Henry cloche) and preheat the oven to 500°F. Make sure that the bottom and the lid are separate as they will heat up better. 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 a 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 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least two hours before slicing.