My Baking Challenge, Autumn #4

I was supposed to make a Fougasse this week.  However, the rye sourdough starter I have been nursing suddenly seemed ready to bake with… so this week’s recipe is a Chocolate, Currant, and Cinnamon Babka from Sourdough by Sarah Owens.

Chocolate, Currant, and Cinnamon Babka. I just cannot believe this is a sourdough loaf!
I borrowed this book from the library and was immediately intrigued to see the starter method. In the past, all my starters have come to life by mixing flour and water from day one.  On many occasions, I have been instructed to add a raisin or something similar to speed up fermentation.  But this book is totally different (for me, at least).  She starts with a yeast water, simply shaken often for about a week, before finally adding the flour in when fermentation has occurred.  You can read about her method here.
The babka itself is fairly straightforward, so here are some photos of the starter phase instead.

Starter Day 1. I started with dried sultanas in a jar, some sugar syrup, and honey.
Starter Days 2-6. Ahh, who doesn’t love lazy sourdough starter days. No sir, I didn’t have to mix flour; not even once! She simply asks to shake the jar many times a day. My jar is right beside the sink, on the kitchen countertop. Everytime I wash my hands, I give it a little whirl. By the third day, the lid popped up slightly to indicate gas being released. On Day 6, there were bubbles rising up to the surface.
With the excess yeast water safely stored in the fridge, I began to mix the flour in according to her instructions.
And will you just look at that rise? This is just Day 7… I kept feeding the starter daily (twice if it was hot day), until I felt it was strong enough to bake with. I did run out of rye flour mid-way, so I popped it into the fridge to rest.
The day before baking. Taking some starter and mixing water and flour for the levain…
… which promptly turned into this, after a few hours. The dough is now ready to be mixed (not kneaded). I simply leave the dough in the big glass bowl, lift one side, and fold it into itself. Then I turn the bowl, lift and flip again. I did this for about 2 hours, allowing a rest time of 20 minutes in between. The dough really feels different near the end — it becomes less sticky and tends to hold itself together even without the traditional kneading.
I laid the dough into a rectangle, spread the chocolatey filling, topped it with the currants, and rolled it into a log. The instructions were a lot more complicated, but I simply folded in half, twisted the halves together; folded and twisted them again. Now the dough is ready for a rest in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I just let it come to room temperature and rise gently until about midday. An egg-milk wash is brushed on top, and into the oven at 190 degrees for about 55 minutes.

The verdict:  this sourdough starter method really works!  It is so much simpler than the others, so I might stick with it in future.  The recipe for yeast water made too much though;  I might cut that in half next time.

The loaf itself is superbly rich, I wouldn’t have known it was a sourdough loaf if I hadn’t made it myself.

Next week’s recipe will be the promised Fougasse from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes.

6 Replies to “My Baking Challenge, Autumn #4”

    1. Exactly what I thought nannachel. We are cutting back on sugar too, however that was the only recipe which I had all the ingredients for yesterday. Very tasty though, so no regrets there…

      It is a good book Chel. I hope you are able to find it. Lots of good recipes inside and some are just your type of loaf.

  1. Aaaaah your first photo looks so good. You are making hungry. I don’t know a thing about sourdough starters etc. but it sounds as though this method is easier and it works well too.

    Your challenges are teaching me a lot actually. I keep coming across certain words, names, methods and look them up.

    Well done and enjoy the eating part too 🙂

    1. It is teaching me a lot too Kylie. The good thing about blogging about it is I can keep it up even if I feel lazy 🙂 Thanks for your visits.

      I am drying some rye starter today for the Seymour meetup. Let me know if you want me to send you some.

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