There are many who treat their sourdough starter with the same love and care and devotion that they would extend to a child. It is that precious. A fact Sarah Owens, the founder of popular Brooklyn bakery BK17, understands well. An accomplished baker, she honed her skills and crafted many of her recipes from the confines of a very wee (70 square feet), very old New York kitchen. That she is also a professional horticulturalist (and former steward of the prized Cranford Rose collection at Brooklyn’s Botanical Garden), finds its way into her recipes by way of the addition of distinctly botanical ingredients. Our favorite recipe (shared with you below) in her wonderful new book Sourdough (Roost Books) makes genius use of those oft-forgotten half-drunk bottles of red so many of us have lingering in the kitchen. FV
Drunken Fig Bread
Makes 2 loaves
I am often asked how I come up with my formulas and flavor combinations. It’s not always a simple answer and usually has to do with excess produce from the garden or very specific cravings. With the day’s ingredients on hand, I’ll sit down with a calculator and start dreaming up bread dough formulas based on baker’s math.
This particular recipe began with a less-than-drinkable bottle of wine. Instead of discarding it, I doused some figs and left them to soak in the bold, oaky flavors. Because I love the combination of rye and fruit, I pulled out the grinds of rye I had on hand and started mixing by feel rather than calculations. Eventually I came around to this formula that honors the hearty quality of whole grains, which marries so well with the ambrosia of figs. My favorite is to serve it with a strong soft cheese and a bottle of quality red wine.
For the Soaker:
240 g dried mission figs
105 g red wine
For the Leaven:
15 g 100% hydration starter
40 g water
25 g medium-grind rye flour
30 g rye chops
For the Dough:
110 g leaven
370 g water
Soaker (see above)
370 g bread flour
85 g whole wheat flour
45 g rye chops
25 g buckwheat flour
17 g salt
Make the Soaker: Remove and discard the stems of the figs and coarsely chop the fruit. Place in a medium bowl and douse with wine. Cover with plastic and allow to soak until ready to build the dough.
Build the Leaven: Ten to twelve hours before you are to make the dough, build your stiff leaven. Mix the starter and water together until the starter is well distributed. Add the rye flours, stir, cover, and leave at room temperature.
Build the Dough: When the leaven is puffy and active, add the water and soaker, breaking apart the leaven with your fingers. Add the flours and mix until hydrated and no lumps remain. Handle only as long as you need to, being careful not to overdevelop the rye. The dough will feel sticky. Cover with plastic and allow to autolyze for 20 minutes. Sprinkle in the salt and mix until completely incorporated into the dough.
Cover with plastic and allow to bulk proof for 2 to 3 hours, turning and folding at 45-minute intervals.
Shape the Dough: When the dough is puffy and increased by a third of its size, divide in half and preshape. Cover with plastic and allow to bench rest for 30 minutes. Final shape into your preferred form and place seam-side up into a well-floured banneton or couche. Alternatively, you may flour the face well and proof seam-side down. (If you choose to do this, the surface will crack beautifully in the oven to release steam without the need for scoring. This creates a beautiful natural pattern similar to desert clay.) Cover with a towel and plastic and proof for another 1 to 2 hours. You may hold the dough over in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours, but it does not favor long fermentation.
This bread appreciates being baked long and slow. Follow the instructions on page 21, lowering the oven temperature to 430˚F after initial oven spring is achieved. After removing from the oven, allow to cool completely before slicing. Rye breads need this time for their crumb to set and, indeed, may be better the next day!
From Sourdough by Sarah Owens, © 2015 by Sarah Owens. Photographs © 2015 by Ngoc Minh Ngo. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com