In my sourdough projects I've been alternating starters, making a "spiked" family recipe one week (spiked means I add extra yeast), and a wild yeast recipe the other week. So far the family recipe is working out better, likely because the active new yeast helps perk everything up.
So 2 weeks ago when I made this family recipe bread it worked out very well. I got some tasty, attractive loaves. But 30 minutes of kneading to get the "windowpane" is simply too much for me. It makes my hands hurt. It wears me out. And it seems kind of insane and unnecessary. I started looking for a better way.
Enter Sourdough Companion (sourdough.com), an online community for sourdough freaks where they discuss and mull problems, share formulas, tutorials and slideshows, and basically help each other out and revel in the wonders and mysteries of sourdough making. A user called SourDom seems to have a lot of good advice, so this week I decided to follow SourDom's kneading tutorial. The crux: dough is only kneaded for 40 seconds, taking it 10 seconds at a time over the course of an hour.
OK, why does this work? I think I have made it very clear that I am not knowledgeable about baking science. What I think is going on is what William Alexander describes in 52 loaves--it's "autolysing." In short: The gluten develops when you just let the dough sit. So by letting it sit for periods of 10, 10, 10 and 30 minutes, I'm STILL developing gluten, even though I'm not madly kneading. Does that sound possible? It seemed to work! The crumb of this bread is pretty much the same as the one I baked 2 weeks ago and kneaded forever. Hurray.
This week I felt ready to break out the baguette pans. On long-term loan from mom--love these loaves!
Up next: testing my theory that feeding the wild yeast starter at a different point will help my drippy, flat dough.