Mesquite Trailer Bread
A few days ago I thought it would be a good idea to take advantage of the great weather and wake up "Henry" my sourdough starter. He and I go way back, almost 10 years.
I stopped off at the Co-op to get some bread flour and right next to it was this brown flour called Mesquite flour. What? So I opened the bin and took a whiff and yup, slightly smokey. So I bought a pound and brought it home. Going in blind with no idea what Mesquite flour was, I decided to make a loaf.
First off, what I thought was hilarious is when I think of Mesquite, I immediately think of charcoal. True story, back in the day when flour was scarce, bakers tried to pull the wool over their customer's eyes and slip a little bit of ash into their loaves. I guess people died (or maybe they just got a little sick.) So they decided to make a law that everyone who made a loaf of bread professionally needed to "sign" it, and thus baker's loaves started having the baker's initials.
And the other thing is that I'm in Tucson and there are Mesquite trees everywhere. They actually smell smokey. The Mesquite flour is not made from the wood but from the seed pods that must come out during a different time of year because there's no seed pods in March. Anyhow, the flour has high protein, but a low glycemic index. It sort of feels like chickpea flour. It ain't got no gluten suckers cause it ain't wheat!
So before you move forward, make sure you have a nice active sourdough starter. That means you fed it, and it doubled in size and has nice small bubbles and it smells not too strong. I'm not going to go in to all the particulars about sourdough feeding and such right now because I might go into that later, but there is tons of info on the internet on sourdough starters.
Mesquite Trailer Bread
(adapted from Bread, by Jeffrey Hamelman, which I learned after meeting him was awesomely illustrated by his wonderful wife)
2.5 oz bread flour
1.5 oz water, room temperature
1 oz active sourdough starter
Mix preferment about 12 hours before you plan to mix the dough. If it's over 70°, try to put it in a cooler place overnight. You could also add a little salt to retard the dough. My starter was still not fully awake so it was ok that it was a little warm last night. Just EXPERIMENT! Bread is life after all.
10 oz bread flour
3 oz mesquite flour
9 oz water
5 oz preferment (above)
1/2 T salt
2 quart cast iron sauce pan with lid
Mix all ingredients except salt just until flour is moistened. Then leave it alone for about 30-60 minutes. This is called an autolyse and what is actually happening is the flour is starting to break down and gluten strands are starting to unfold. Take a note on how the dough feels, it will probably feel a little tight.
After letting the dough rest, add the salt and knead it until it starts to look like a baby's buns. You will also notice that the dough is really nice and soft (actually called extensible). That's the magic of the autolyse which essentially makes for better bread. (I think I may have over kneaded it as it was all nice and lovely, but then it started to tear.)
Bulk Fermentation and Proofing
This is where you will have to play around and really trust your gut. Here's some guidelines:
Once it's all soft and like a baby's butt, drop it in a bowl and cover the bowl with a wet towel. Put in a warm place and let it sit, untouched for at least 2 hours. (I touched it too early.) If you touch it too early, not enough carbon dioxide will build up into the dough you may not get as much lift in the oven which is why mine is a little flat.
Then, fold the dough in half, rotate, then fold in half again. Repeat in about one hour for a total of two, count them two folds, and a total of two hours.
So now you've invested a total of 4 hours.
Then form the dough into a boule and let it bench rest for about 1 hour. When it's ready, preheat your little RV oven to about 475° and put your little cast iron covered in it to get it ready. (RV ovens don't really take that long to pre-heat.)
Score the bread (I should have put my initials on it!) and drop it into the oven and put the lid on for about 40 minutes. Open the lid and turn the heat down to about 375° and let it cook for about 20 minutes until it feels light to the touch.