Welcome to Microbe Week, because sharks are actually kind of boring.
Today: Tufts University professor of microbiology Dr. Ben Wolfe of MicrobialFoods.Org shares his recipe for Miso Sourdough Bread.
I’ve made a very simple (but incredibly transformative!) modification to Jim Lahey’s basic no-knead bread recipe that makes a really funky loaf of bread. I call it miso sourdough. It’s not a sourdough in the classic sense of having a fussy sourdough starter culture that you have to feed and tend. The sourness and other funky flavors come from the overnight fermentation with the miso. Unpasteurized, naturally-produced misos have many bacteria and yeasts in them that are similar to the bacteria and yeast found in established sourdough starters. The boost of activity from the miso microbes adds a sour flavor from the lactic acid bacteria and also helps create a very beautiful chewy texture. The funky miso flavors transform into something that ends up tasting like a cross between dark chocolate and pumpernickel in the final baked loaf.
I absolutely love South River Miso and use their miso in this recipe. They are based in western Massachusetts and make really beautiful miso using traditional processes. Their 3 year old "Hearty Brown Rice Miso" is the best miso for this bread, but I am sure other brands of miso could provide the same microbial funk that makes this bread so intriguing. —Ben Wolfe
Miso Sourdough Bread
Makes 1 loaf
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup cool spring water (@ 65°F)
2 tablespoons South River Hearty Brown Rice Miso (available online and at some Whole Foods)
Whole wheat flour for dusting
1. Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together the water and the miso to make a miso slurry. Slowly pour the miso slurry into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon to get a very wet dough. As Jim Lahey says, the dough should be really sticky.
[You can adjust the miso intensity of the dough as you make different batches of this bread. I find 2 tablespoons of miso is enough to impart quite a bit of funk, but I think more or less miso could be added to suit your funk preferences.]
2. Move the dough ball to another large bowl coated with olive oil. Use plastic wrap to seal up the bowl and place it in a warm place for 24 hours. This is where the microbial magic happens. Your basic dry yeast will do some of the work of helping the dough rise. But a lot of the dough rising happens because of the miso microbes. I’ve done side-by-side comparisons of this bread recipe with and without miso and the difference in dough rising rate is incredible.
If you live a really cold and drafty house like I do, this incubation step can be challenging because it will happen pretty slowly at low temps. To overcome this, I place my bowl of dough on an inverted metal cookie sheet and then place that on a seedling heat mat (a fermenters best friend, available at Amazon) with a thermostat set to 75°F.
3. After 18-20 hours, open up the plastic and stick your nose in there. It will smell like microbe heaven. Flour a work area with whole wheat flour. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and place it on the floured work area. Identify four points around the perimeter of the blob and pull the edges of the dough toward the center to form a nice round pile of dough. Loosely wrap this with a cloth napkin that has been coated with whole wheat flour and let it sit for 2 hours. The dough will rise again.
4. About 1 1/2 hours into the second fermentation, pre-heat your oven to 475°F. Preheat a heavy pot (4.5-5.5 quart) with a lid (see Lahey’s My Bread for specific details on this pot-in-oven approach) in the oven.
5. When the second fermentation has finished, carefully place the dough in the preheated pot. Place the dough into the pot so that edges that have been folded inward are on top. Cover the pot with a lid and bake for 30 minutes.
6. Remove the lid from the pot and bake for another 15-30 minutes. Exact cooking time will vary from one oven configuration to the next. After 15 minutes, check that the bottom of the loaf isn’t burning by sliding a knife a long the edge of the loaf to lift it up.
7. Let bread cool on a rack for 1 hour.