Using dried sourdough to bake Swiss bread
Switzerland has a rich bread culture. Huge rounds of “Bauernbrot”, made with a dark wheat flour, the “Halbweissmehl” (“half-white-flour” literally), are eaten throughout the country. So are smaller grain-studded loaves and white fluffy rolls in many variations. When reading about Swiss bread production, one ingredient stands out frequently: “Levit”. It is a powder based on dried sourdough. Dextrose and traces of milk-fermentation by-products are in it as well.
I have used dried sourdough before, and making it is simple: Prepare a white sourdough starter with a hydration of about 100%. You do not have to let it come to full maturity, since it takes 3-4 days to dry. Spread it thinly on a sheet of baking paper and let rest uncovered in a clean place for about 3-4 days. Do not worry, it will not catch a lot of dust or misguided insects, since the surface will dry out quickly. Crumble it together in your hand and grind it in a coffee grinder. Add to yeasted bread doughs in small amounts of 2-3%.
This reipce is from Tessin, a Swiss canton that lies rather nested inside but not in North-Italy. (I shamefully admit, that I used to call Tessin the Italy for beginners.)
Tessiner Brot (1 loaf)
- 330g strong white flour, ideally Swiss Halbweissmehl*(100%)
- 200g water (61%)
- 12g fresh yeast (3.6%)
- 8g dried sourdough (2.4%)
- 3g malt powder (1%)
- 6g salt (1.8%)
- 15g vegetable oil (4.5%)
– Prepare the dough, adding the oil at the end of mixing. A smooth and silky consistency is desired, the dough being soft but not wet.
– Bulk Fermentation: 40 minutes. Ideal dough temperature: 22°C
– Divide into six rolls and put them on a floured towel next to each other.
– Final Fermentation: 35-45 minutes in a warm spot, i.e. 22°C
– Invert loaf onto baking paper and slash with a razor blade straight along the length of the loaf
Bake at 240°C for 20 minutes with a little steamed water, then reduce heat to 220°C and bake for further 15 minutes.
Source: Petras Brotkasten
* I used German Type 550 flour
Notice the large quantity of yeast. I think dried sourdough greatly improved the result. Advantages, that were apparent:
- Dough has increased stability, judging by how robust and springy it feels during handling
- Crumb is soft, regular and fluffy
- Color of the crust is an attractice reddish brown
- Flavor of bread is light but not dull or yeasty
- Bread has an “easy-going eating quality” (I don’t know what that means, but it sums up the eating experience for me)
Delicious, taking into account that proving times are short. Note to myself: Should I feel pressed to make a quick bread with a soft, fluffy and regular crumb, dried sourdough should not be missing from the dough.