I may never buy another loaf of sourdough again.
My second attempt at sourdough came out much better. Aside from a more solid “lift”, it was far easier to work with, and I planned it out so that it could have been ready (cuttable cool) for an evening meal.
This time I really let my stand mixer help me by using the dough hook while I slowly added flour in order to get the consistency I needed. Since I was so surprised by the sticky laxness of my dough last time, I decided to do a little experiment as I measured ingredients this go around. The Williams-Sonoma recipe that I used (both times) has a very wide margin of error on the amount of flour they call for in the final dough. I am asked to add (depending upon how you interpret the wording) an additional amount of flour ranging somewhere between zero and three cups to my mixture in order to get a “soft dough.” Right.
I noticed that they provided measurements by weight as well as volume, and although I almost always use weight if available, I decided to try volume this time and weight it anyway, just to see how accurate their equivalents where. The recipe called for up to 6 cups of flour, which they indicate weighs 940 grams. So I carefully aerated my flour and then measured out six level cups to a bowl on my scale. Low and behold, I came up seriously short. My flour weighed a paltry 767 grams. For all you math flunkies, that works out to an error rate of nearly 20%!
But that didn’t explain my sticky loaf last time since I measured by weight. Of course, if the editors measured by volume, then I’d be way short. Hmmmm…
Needless to say, I still didn’t have any accurate way to gauge my “soft dough” by how much flour I was putting in. Then I remembered something I had read in another recipe regarding dough in the mixer. The rule was, if more dough was sticking to itself than the sides of the bowl, then it’s ready. By that measure I added my entire six cups, and a few more tablespoons for good luck. I was also really generous with the flour on my work surface when kneading, and then again with the floured towel that stuck last time.
By the second rise, things were looking (and feeling) really good. The towel came away easy and my bread turned out perfect and beautiful. There was a little extra flour on the bottom, but you can brush that off. Yea! Take a look!