I've written on this subject before and have made similar obeservations and comments. What makes this post different from earlier versions is the slideshow at the bottom -Bob dG
The bread I make for everyday use, the bread I like to eat everyday, is a crude style sour dough with stuff mixed into it. This is what I like to eat day in and out. I never get tired of it because it is extraordinarily complicated -like my wife, for example.
The bread takes a minimum of 3 days to make depending on how sour I want it to be and how much flavor I want it to have. More time means a low pH (more acidity) and a more complex flavor profile. Less time yields precisely the opposite (less acidity, simpler flavor). I not going to get into all the reasons why this is so here. But please let it suffice to say for now that it's all a function of how many and what type of microorganisms are allowed to grow and alter the chemistry of the bread. One could take all of the same ingredients I use here and produce a good loaf of bread in one day. Bu that bread will taste nothing like what I have grown to love so much that I get peeved if I have to buy bread.
No offense meant to any of you artisan bakeshop owners out there. I'm sure you love your bread as much as I love mine. This is not about me thinking that what I make is technically or artistically superior to what you make. This is about me being paternally attached to something that I think of as a reflection of my home, and myself.
I start Day 1 by mixing 6 ounces of coarse organic rye flour with 6 ounces of water. (I weigh everything. Nothing is measured by volume). Organic rye flour, like all organic flour is loaded with wild yeast and bacteria that will give the bread great flavor. But rye flour is kind of bitter and nasty so it needs to ferment for a long time to give the starches plenty of time to break down into sugars. Also add 6 ounces of softened wheat berries.
Sometimes I soften them by cooking them briefly in plain water, or soaking them overnight in cold water. Soaking them in water is kind of cool because the microflora that is on the berries does not get killed off but gets added into the the yeast and bacteria population thats in the rye flour and the air of my kitchen. (It's a "more the merrier" kind of thing if you catch my drift.)
This mixture sits covered my counter top for 24 hours. I stir it around to bring in oxygen when I think about it.
On the morning of Day 2 I add 6 ounces of hi-gluten bread flour and 6 more ounces of water. Then I let this mixture sit for another 24 hours, stirring it around to bring in air when I think of it.
On Day 3 I add about 20-21 ounces of hi-gluten flour, 20 grams of plain table salt, 3 grams of yeast to boost it a bit (one could omit this, but I'm not sure I see the point of taking the chance.)
and between 9-12 ounces of water. I'll not repeat all the steps here, you should be able to get them from the slide show, if not, then shoot me an email or comment. I should add that the oven set up is very crucial to the eventual success of any hearth bread, not just this one.
For the dough to jump up (spring) before the crust hardens, you must begin with a screaming hot oven (I set mine to 550 degrees F), there has to be a stone to store and exaggerate the heat from the bottom for maximum upward pressure, and there must be steam.
Everybody who rigs a bread oven set up at home has a different way of getting steam in. I've probably tried everything in print including spray bottles, wet towels on the stone, bricks soaked in water, and I can't remember what else. What I have found works best is a sheet pan on the top rack of the oven. I preheat this with the stone and dump about 10 ounces of hot water in immediately after I slide in the bread.
The reason this works is that top of the oven is almost always the hottest part of the oven (Don't believe it? Get an IR thermometer and check.). It's consistently hotter than the oven floor and an ideal place to generate steam that you want to circulate evenly through out the oven. This is because as the water heats in the pan, the steam rises and is deflected downward by the oven roof. Convection then assures that the steam will descend to the cooler parts of the oven which is, of course, around the bread. This gives me all the steam I need to delay hardening of the crust and robust and even oven spring. To say nothing about how well that water gelatinizes
the starch molecules which in turn give the crust a lovely sheen. (Poetic, non?)
The slide show below shows almost the entire job from the morning of Day 1 to the evening of Day 3 when I bake the bread. The photos of the cut bread were taken on the morning of Day 4.