The thing I like the most in sourdough baking is that every bread I make is different. Each bread holds its own story and each also reflects the energy I put in it. This energy can be seen through the decisiveness of the score, the stability of dough's shape and its power to rise fully by seeing, feeling, and choosing the right moment to bake it.
My last sourdough breads have been inspired by a great bread story teller Malin Elmlid, the author of the Bread Exchange book. Charcoal powder sourdough bread brings an interesting twist to our daily food color palette and it's a perfect match with colorful jams and vibrant vegetables like tomatoes and radishes. And avocados!
Edible activated charcoal powder is otherwise well known for binding unwanted toxins of all kinds in our body and it is great when traveling and not being sure about the quality of the food.
I experimented with the quantity of the charcoal powder and the hydration level of the dough and both resulted in interesting outcomes and stories to be heard once again.
Charcoal sourdough bread
Yields: one big loaf
This bread was mixed in the evening, left to rise for 3 hours at the room temperature, shaped and then put in the fridge for 17 hours. It was baked in the afternoon of the following day.
400 g white wheat flour
300 g water (75 % hydration level)
100 g active rye or white wheat sourdough starter (100% hydration) - I fed it in the morning before mixing the dough
8 g fine sea salt
1 teaspoon charcoal powder
1. In the evening (day before baking), first dissolve 1 teaspoon of charcoal powder in 300 g of water. Add 100 g of sourdough starter and mix by hand. Next, add 400 of flour and mix all ingredients until they come together. Cover the bowl with the kitchen cloth and let the dough rest for 1 hour. This rest is called autolyse. Observe how the dough becomes more extensible after the rest. Letting your dough to rest after mixing it is a great option if you don't know how much water your flour absorbs. You can start with less water, let the dough rest and then see if you need to add more water.
2. After 1 hour, you will notice the dough has relaxed a little bit. Add 8 g of salt and knead the dough for 5 minutes so it becomes stretchy.
3. Leave the dough in the bowl for another 3 hours at the room temperature (if it's too cold, you might put the bowl in a slightly warm oven). Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth to prevent the surface of the dough from drying out. In the meantime prepare the rising basket and flour it well. I lined my rising basket with a kitchen cloth and floured it with whole grain rye flour and white wheat flour.
4. After 3 hours, the dough should look very alive, slightly risen, and stretchy. You might even see the bubbles on the dough surface. Take the dough out on a lightly floured working surface. Pinch the ends of the dough together in the middle, turn the dough upside down and let it rest for 10-15 minutes so that the final shaping will be easier as the gluten will relax.
5. To shape the bread, turn it upside down, stretch a little bit with your fingers and then fold the bottom part over the center, left side over the center, right side over the center and also the upper side over the center. Transfer the dough to the rising basket fold-side up. Sprinkle some more flour on the top and cover it with the rest of the kitchen cloth. Put the basket in the fridge. Let it ferment until the volume of the dough has visibly increased (at least by a third) and when the indent you make with your finger springs back slowly and not all the way up.
6. The photo below shows how the dough looked like after 17 hours in the fridge. The baking schedule can be easily modified to fit your schedule, depending on when you would like to bake the bread. If you would like to bake it in the morning, add more sourdough starter and leave the dough at the room temperature longer before and after shaping. Or you can also let it rise overnight in the fridge and take it out in the morning and let it at the room temperature to fully ferment.
7. At least 30 minutes before baking preheat your oven to the maximum temperature of your oven along with dutch oven or a baking stone. I used dutch oven.
8. When the oven is preheated, take the loaf out of the rising basket and transfer it to dutch oven. Score the loaf and put your dutch oven into oven.
9. Bake the loaf for 20 minutes with the lid on at 240°C/465F°F and 20-25 minutes with lid off at 230°C/445°F and until bread gets nice golden color. Cool on a cooling rack before cutting for at least 1 hour.
The crumb color of this bread is exceptional and its taste is not affected by the charcoal. If I had to choose, I would go for the middle path - half of the tablespoon of the charcoal powder. What you may experience with larger quantities of the charcoal powder is that it won't dissolve well and you would feel it in every bite. To dissolve the powder you can use smaller quantities of alcohol like rum or vodka (well, the quantities are not limited with the slice of this bread between the fingers ...).
Have you been experiencing with different colors of the bread crumb? What is your favorite?