A failed loaf of challah (lousy attempt at baker’s math–never my strong suit) on Friday annoyed me so much I just had to bake something good. After refreshing my sourdough starter, I started working on pain au levain and potato-cheddar-chive torpedoes (pictured at left).
Reviving a neglected starter is always satisfying….at the beginning, it looks terrible: flat, watery, and gray. Stir in a little flour and water, wait a few hours, and it returns to a bubbly, lively, perky state, ready to give lift to a loaf or two. Part of it went into a starter for the levain loaves….the levain dough is still resting in the refrigerator, where it can stay for up to 4 days before baking.
But the cheddar-chive torpedoes were an unqualified success. The recipe, leavened with a hybrid of commercial yeast and sourdough, is from Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice (p 278). His recipe calls for a barm (a very wet, slurry-like starter), but I substituted half the weight of my 70% hydration, firmer starter. A bit extra of the potato water and extra flour during the mixing (along with homegrown, chopped garlic chives) corrected for the difference in starter volume.
The inclusion of boiled potatoes tenderize the dough, while the potato skins enhance the rustic, chewy texture. Those pungent garlic chives are a counterpoint to thin slices of extra-sharp cheddar, rolled inside the loaves before a final proofing. Just before baking, the loaves are scored deeply enough to uncover the cheddar tucked inside. During baking, it bubbles out of the scores, making a crispy, browned cheese crust. Straight out of the oven, the bread is irresistible. Once thoroughly cooled, it retains the cheesy appeal: perfect alongside vegetable soup, a chunky green salad, or with some sliced turkey folded inside.
It feels good to cancel out a baking failure with a baking success. Plus, I think I’ll re-use the technique of rolling a filling inside a batard or torpedo shape later this week, when I get around to baking the levain. Maybe one loaf with olives and one loaf with walnuts? Adding amendments during shaping is so convenient: one dough can find many different flavors…
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