Friday, January 3, 2014

A bit less water may make your bread just right!

One of my readers sent in photos of her Teff Carob Pumpernickel loaf. The bread looked excellent but I noticed a slight dip in the top of the loaf. From my own many trials and errors, this usually means there is too much moisture (water) in the overall dough. I suggested that the next time she make the bread, she reduce the water in the last feeding of the starter. Sometimes, reducing by just 1-2 tablespoons makes enough of a difference to get it just right. 

Here's the first bread. Notice the slight dip in the top.



This recipe is Teff Carob Coconut minus a bit of extra moisture.
Instead of a dip, a nice arc on the top!



The sliced bread shows a perfect form: a nice arc and nearly uniform texture



There are many factors that affect the moisture balance in gluten-free sourdough bread:
-Some grain mills reach very high temperatures.

If the grain was heated when it was milled, it will dry it out causing it to absorb more water.
If it wasn't heated when it was milled, it won't absorb as much water.

-The humidity in the kitchen will affect the starter.
Very high humidity causes the flour too absorb less water.
Very low humidity causes the flour to absorb more.

-The grind of the flour
A very fine grind will absorb more water.
A medium to coarse grind will absorb less.

Another interesting piece of information:
A reader wrote to me wondering why I used volume measurements (cups and spoons) rather than weight measurements (a scale) for my recipes. She reminded me that the most accurate baking uses weight and that professional bakers use weight.

A few years ago I tried to convert from volume to weight but discovered something very surprising. I measured 1 cup each of home milled brown rice flour, Arrowhead Mills brown rice flour, and Bob's Red Mill brown rice flour. Each of these has a different fineness of grind resulting in a slightly different weight per cup!
Instead of an exact weight I was looking at even more variables in a sourdough process that already has enough variables.

The more coarsely ground flour particles leave more air space between the particles. The finely ground flour takes up less space, filling up the spaces between particles with more flour. The finer flour will weigh more per cup than the coarse.


I did not see how I could give an accurate  measurement given the fact that people use all sorts of different brands of brown rice flour and use all different types of grain mills to mill their own. I decided to stay with the volume measurements and give helpful information about how to work with the flours and what the visual and tactile goals are for the final texture.

I wish I could say " Just follow the recipe and it will be perfect every time". I wish it were true! Sourdough is a living entity that is affected by everything around it. To receive the benefits of sourdough, we must respectfully, and sensitively, learn to work with it.

Keeping this in mind, when you make starters and breads, you gain experience as to what thicknesses and textures you are looking to create.

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