This is the loaf of bread that took 4 days to make.
After my first taste of sprouted flour, I sprouted a couple cups of hard Winter wheat berries I had picked up from my co-op. They sprouted easily in 2 days, and I dried them in the oven with the door cracked open for about 3 hours. I let the wheat berries cool, then ground them into flour. Then, I didn't hesitate to mix up a dough with the entire amount I had just sprouted and ground.
While my end result is amazing and complex, it has little to do with me. My dough was so dense after the mixing, that I could already envision a brick emerging from the oven. And, I even broke down and added a little bit of white bread flour. Needless to say, when the dough rose for more than 24 hours and still looked like this:
I decided that I didn't have to waste this somewhat puffy wheat dough. I have a preserved magazine article from Bon Appetit, many years old in which Pamela Fitzpatrick (protegee of Nancy Silverton) uses a biga to start ciabatta bread. Walnut size chunks of dough are broken up and added to more flour after vacationing overnight in the refrigerator. Yesterday morning, about 7:30, I broke my dough into bits. I added another 1/2 cup of starter and enough water to get everything saturated. Then, I added a good amount of that dreaded white flour, along with a little extra salt. In hindsight, I probably didn't need to add more starter... and the addition of it may have contributed a bit of extra sourness.
After this doctoring, my dough came together nicely. It felt like it would no longer bake up into a nearly inedible piece of health food, but may have some character all it's own. I let it rise again, wrapped in towels and perched on my Bose Acoustimass module somewhat near a heat source in the living room until just after noon, when I transferred it to the brotform.
End of the 1st rise.
As 5:00 approached, I stuck my fingers into the dough to see how I progressed. This is the point in which I should have waited a bit longer, but was just plain tired of waiting. I started the oven, and figured an additional half hour waiting on the oven heat would be good enough. Well after 6:00, the bread emerged from the oven. Split decoratively along the fault lines I cut, I could tell it was a much heavier loaf than I normally make. It did sound hollow on the bottom, and smelled enticingly of nutty wheat. While I couldn't wait for it to raise a little longer, I could wait to cut into it. In fact I waited until after 10:00.
And so another Friday night spent at home, tinkering with bread. I know that I'll likely be the only one to eat this loaf, but I have the biggest smirk on my face while doing so. It's delicious. It's wheaty and dense, but has all of the character of a well written novel. It's complex and not just "healthy tasting". I had some for breakfast this morning with orange marmalade, which may or may not have been the correct choice. The layers of sourness were more pronounced. But, served with cheese I know it will transcend the trappings of the mortal world.
The delicate taste of the sprouted wheat may be clouded by the more assertive sourdough culture, but I'll likely make this type of bread again. This is the bread I imagine my European immigrant side of the family coming to America with. Another thing that is completely amazing to me about all of the sourdoughs I have experimented with so far is that I have not seen one trace of mold. Even after a week or more on the counter (I keep my bread on a bamboo cutting board, covered with my glass cake dome), the worst that can be said is that it is a little dry. That is something that the toaster can easily take care of.
I may have gotten a little more loft if I had been more patient, and I need to remember that next time. But impatient or not, it has been a good bread week.