The Fresh Loaf

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Hamelman Vermont Sourdough

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dwg302's picture
dwg302

Hamelman Vermont Sourdough

hello,

has anyone had a chance to make the "vermont sourdough" recipe in the bread book by jeffrey hamelman.   i believe he gives about one to two hours for the final rising time which seems ridiculously short.    most basic sourdoughs that i've made (e.g. from Rose's Bread bible) take upwards of 4-5 hours for the final rise.    am i missing something with hamelman's recipe? 

david 

 

browndog's picture
browndog

Hey, David, Vermont sourdough was the first sourdough I put together. The  maiden batch  was disappointing, the second time, as per Bill's recommendation and my own shaky judgement I let it go longer for the first ferment and the final proof, by a good hour or more each. I was happy enough with the results. I know more experienced hands have tackled this one, though.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

David,

I've spent some time looking at the VT sourdough recipe and figuring out how long it would take if I used my starter and a temperature of 76F, which he specifies. I would expect that if I did a 1 hour autolyse with the levain mixed in the dough but not the salt, then let it rise for 3 more hours after mixing in the salt, it would have doubled. Then, I would expect to proof the loaves for about 2.25 hours at 76F. Since the shaping and mixing may take a while, maybe he is adjusting down to include those times, since the dough will be fermenting as of when the levain is mixed with the flour and water. Of course it will take a different amount of time depending on the rising properties of your starter vs. mine. As a point of comparison, my starter will rise by double at 72F after a 1:2:2 feeding by weight in 4.5 hours.

I have not looked at the recipes you mention in Rose's Bread Bible, so I can't say why those would be different, but different fermentation temperatures would be one possible reason. For example, doing the same recipe at 70F, I would autolyse for 1 hour, bulk ferment for another 5 hours, and final proof for 3.25 hours.

Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

I made this bread today, and the fermentation and final proofing times were pretty much right on. I had a tight schedule so I knew I would have to stick to the recommended times, whether or not the dough seemed ready. Luckily, it did. It same out of the mixer at 74F instead of the desired 76, and could have proofed a bit more, but overall I'm very happy with how it turned out. The taste is fantastic. David, give it a try and see what you think!

Vermont Sourdough Crumb Vermont Sourdough Batard

Susanfnp

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Susan,

You are an inspiration. Those loaves are just perfect.

If you have a chance, what kind of starter do you use and what typical rise times, hydrations, and temperatures do you use when feeding as a routine? 

Thanks, Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Bill, thank you very much for the kind words.

My starter is 100% hydration, fed (approximately) every 12 hours. I keep it on my kitchen counter all the time, and the temperature lately has been mid-70’s during the day and around 70 at night. Now that the weather is warmer, I am feeding 1:5:5 (starter:water:flour). Usually I use only white flour (organic but malted), but every so often, especially if it seems a little sluggish, I use 5% rye flour in the feeding.

For the Vermont Sourdough, instead of building the levain at 125% hydration as Hamelman specifies, I just used my regular 100% starter that had been fed 12 hours prior, and adjusted the amount of starter, flour, and water in the final dough to maintain the overall formula and the percentage (15%) of prefermented flour.


Susanfnp

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Susan,

Thanks, that's useful information, as I've been changing my routine from a 1:2:2 every 6-8 hours, to something that would work every 12 hours. I had tried 1:9:10, but I think that works on more like a 14 or 15 hour schedule. It seems like for a 12 hours cycle, 1:5:5 would be just right, especially with warmer temperatures.

It would be interesting to know for your 1:5:5 feeding how long it takes to double and the temperature. I'm just trying to get some comparison points. Lately I've also been talking w/Zolablue about her starter, which rises much faster for the same flour multiple/temperature/flour type/hydration.

Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Bill,

I’m not exactly sure how long it takes for my starter to peak in volume, since I’m usually not home or not awake when that happens. I can tell you that after the 12 hours it looks like it has begun to recede a little (so probably I could be feeding a bit more), and the volume at that point is maybe a bit more than double. Room temperature in my kitchen lately is usually mid-70’s during the day and upper 60’s to low-70’s at night. The flour and bottled water I use for feeding are also at room temperature. I’ll start paying more attention to how the starter is behaving, but what I’m doing seems to be working reasonably well to get the bread I want.

Your questions got me thinking more about the factors that could make one person’s starter behave really differently from another’s, even though they are being maintained pretty much the same way. I know there is a widely-held belief that it has to do with different strains of yeast and bacteria being indigenous to different geographic areas, but I’m skeptical (please don’t hit me, everyone!). I believe rather that there are probably lots of little factors involved in starter maintenance that may have only a small effect individually but could together and over time make a noticeable difference.

In addition to feeding schedule, feeding amount, flour type, temperature, and hydration, there are some more things I’ve thought of that might have an effect. I don’t really know whether or not they do, but I can come up with a theoretically logical explanation for why each one might. I’m also certainly not saying that anyone trying to maintain a starter should obsess over all these details; I certainly don’t, and my starter is perfectly functional. The geek in me just finds it interesting to think about why starters can behave differently. The specific brand/composition of flour and water used for feeding, the amount of starter maintained, the size/shape/material of the container, and the amount of mixing or other handling at or between feedings are a few things I’ve thought of.

OK, I know that’s way more than you asked for. I’m shutting up now.

Susanfnp

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Susan,

I agree there are a lot of subtle things that can change the behavior of a starter, some just apparent as far as the health of the starter, others perhaps having a real effect on the health of the starter or on the relative proportions or even the types of organisms that live in it. Even just mechanical differences, like the way something is stirred or the length of stirring, small differences in consistency, and so on can change the rise times. So, no question about it, you can get very tied up thinking about minute details that don't matter in the end. Also, comparing the behavior of starters over the internet is difficult because of all those small differences that aren't observed in one person's procedure vs. another person's. Nonetheless, I've been curious to gather information from other people about how their starters work.

Thanks for the information on yours.

If you want to continue the discussion on starters, maybe we should create a blog entry, your blog or mine, and go from there, just so we don't clutter this thread too much. You mention being a geek. Are you in a scientific or engineering field?

Bill

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

If you want to continue the discussion on starters, maybe we should create a blog entry, your blog or mine, and go from there, just so we don't clutter this thread too much.

Good idea. I'm going to keep a closer eye on my starter, and when I have anything to report, I'll start a blog entry about it. I've really enjoyed reading your very informative and well written posts about yours on your blog.

 

You mention being a geek. Are you in a scientific or engineering field?

I'm a software engineer turned healthcare provider (with a couple of not-so-scientific detours along the way).

 

Susanfnp

dwg302's picture
dwg302

hi susan,

so to maintain the proper amount of flour in the recipe do you add more to the starter to make it 125% or do you add it to the mixing flour?   the bread really looks terrific.  is the bread proofed in a banneton or couche?   also the holes look tremendous and much better than what i've gotten.  do you bake it on parchment that is put directly on the stone?  i've been putting the risen loaf on silpain sheets on a baking sheet and placing the baking sheet on the stone, which i'm not sure if that effects it at all.  

david

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Hi David,

It's actually the amount of water, not flour, that needs to be changed. Here's what I do to adjust the recipe to maintain the proper hydration and percent of prefermented flour, while using my 100% starter instead of one at 125% (actually I made a spreadsheet that makes the calculations very quickly):

First, look at the overall formula (Hamelman gives these in his book, which makes it easy; otherwise you'd have to calculate the overall formula yourself):

Bread flour 1 lb, 12.8 oz

Whole-rye flour 3.2 oz

Water 1 lb, 4.8 oz

Salt 0.6 oz

Now, looking at the liquid levain build formula, I see that 4.8 oz of the flour that will wind up in the dough is supposed to come from that levain (this is actually about 16%; guess he rounded). But I'm using my own starter, not doing the levain build. So I need to put enough starter in the final dough to give me that 4.8 oz of prefermented flour. Since my starter is equal parts by weight flour and water, this is 9.6 oz of my starter, instead of the 10.8 oz of liquid levain.

Finally, to figure out how much water I need to put into in the final dough, I just subtract the amount of water in my 9.6 oz of starter from the amount specified in the overall formula. So I have 1 lb 4.8 oz, less 4.8 oz, or 1 lb of water.

I hope that a) makes sense and b) answers what you were asking.

My batards were proofed upside down on a floured couche and baked directly on a hot stone. My inclination is to say that your oven spring will not be as good if there is a baking sheet between your bread and the stone, because then the heat has to go through the pan before it gets to the loaf. However, I know others have reported good results without preheating the oven at all, and I'm not going to argue with success!

Susanfnp

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi Susan,

I saw David asked about the holes in your bread in the photo you posted. Normally, I have a hard time getting larger holes in my bread without increasing the hydration above 65%. It would be interesting to know any tips you have on how to get the big holes in this recipe.

By the way, the 15% prefermented flour ratio looked right - 4.8/(24 bread + 3.2 rye + 4.8 levain) = 4.8/32 = 15%. I got fermented flour as levain/2.25 in his final dough recipe = 10.8/2.25 = 4.8 oz.

Bill

 

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Oops, yes, I forgot about the rye flour when I was recalculating everything this morning in order to write this. Thanks for the clarification.

About the holes: I truly do not know. They came out larger than I expected they would, given, as you say, the relatively low hydration. I do remember the dough being really gassy (is that a word?) after the first fermentation, and that I was especially careful not to degas too much in the shaping. And my starter has been behaving really well lately; I think it likes this warm weather. Other than that… sometimes you just get lucky? Next time I make it we'll see if was just beginner's luck.


Susanfnp

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Susan,

What flours did you use? I wonder if that had anything to do with the large amount of gas and the holes?

Bill

dwg302's picture
dwg302

hi susan,

yes it makes total sense, thank you.   i haven't had any experience proofing bread in a couche.  when you said you proof it upside down do you mean with the seam side up?   and i'm guessing you just roll it onto a piece of parchment paper and slide it into the oven when its ready for baking?  i know king arthur sells a couche in their catalog, but is it just heavy linen which i could probably buy at a fabric store or would you recommend buying it from KA?   alot of questions for one day.  thanks,

david     

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi David,

For what it's worth, I ordered and use the KA couche cloth, and it works well for me. It was the easy way to be more or less confident I was getting the right type of fabric back when I was learning. SFBI has couche fabric for sale. You can call in a phone order with them. They also have lined bannetons made of wicker, linen banneton liners, and coiled and plastic rising baskets - all useful items, depending on what you become comfortable with for proofing your loaves. They have a number of other very useful tools, as well.

Bill

SDbaker's picture
SDbaker

I too have been using a KA couche..then during my visit to SFBI I toured the back and saw a big bolt of linen.  I asked the price, forgot what it was - but remembering feeling ripped off by KA.  Mine isn't even sewn on the edges where the fibers are peeling off.

 SD Baker

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

The traditional Couche is made from a special Flaxfiber ... I'd go with the original since it really works great . I have two and even in hindsight don't regret the expense. These couche 'mature' and - I guess if you want to believe it - get better over time.

BROTKUNST

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Susan,

- First of all: great loaves and excellent photographs ! I like the slashing too. -

Your feeding schedule for your barm is way more intense than mine and I ask myself if I am missing out by keeping my barms in the fridge (except of about 3 hours after the feedings). 

I just know my barms first hand and I'd call them very (?) active since they respond quickly to the feedings every other day by doubling in 2-3 hours. However since some time I am entertaining the thought to feed my white barm more often ... maybe just an offspring of the main culture. That I would like to do then with a practical minimum quantity in order to limit the 'waste'.

How much barm (in weight) do you (or others) maintain at room temperature?

BROTKUNST

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Susan, that is absolutely GORGEOUS bread!!!  I mean GORGEOUS!  It is going on my long list of "must bake" - OMG!  Superb job, truly.

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

and it is superb - the crumb and flavor are wonderful. The only problem I had was with browing - the loaves had the correct interior temp (205 F.) but were pale - I'm having a heck of a time with my gas oven so not sure if it's still not calabratec correctly. Could a little malt syrup be added to recipe for color?

Thanks for a great recipe,

Trish

Prairie19's picture
Prairie19

 

David,

I've just started baking sourdough bread and this is my favorite so far. Here is the mixing schedule I've used:

I start the liquid levain the morning of the day before I bake. Then I mix the dough that evening and let it ferment overnight (at about 65 to 70 degrees fahrenheit). The next morning I fold, bench rest and shape a round loaf. I proof the loaf on a sheet of parchment paper dusted with cornmeal and covered with a bowl to keep the loaf moist. Two the three hours has been sufficient at 75 degrees fahrenheit. Then I score the loaf and bake in a cast iron pot as in the NYT article (30 minutes covered and about 10 to 15 minutes uncovered. (The parchment paper is a great help in getting the loaf into the pre-heated pot. Cut the parchment paper just enough larger than the loaf so you can pick up the loaf by grasping the edges of the paper. You can then drop a shaped loaf into the pot with less risk of burning your fingers. I haven't figured how to do baguettes or oval loaves in a pot as yet.)

I bake about once a week and my starter has been very active.

With summer heat coming I will probaly have to retard the dough in the refridgerator overnite.

Prairie 19

dwg302's picture
dwg302

i notice that hamelman builds up his sourdough starter over the course of 2 or 3 steps for the larger amounts of dough, but for the one loaf recipe does anyone have a recommendation as far as just using one feeding and then mixing the dough?   or should you build it up over 2 steps and then mix?  i'm thinking of just feeding the sourdough as normal every 12 hours for 2 feedings and get the culture awakened and then mix the dough.   it also occurs to me that the Vermont sourdough recipe doesn't call for a large percentage of starter, does anyone have an opinion?

david

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi David,

The way you build it up is very flexible. For example, I am maintaining both a firm and a 100% hydration starter at the moment. I can take either one and feed it in such a way that it ends up with the right amount of active, ripe starter of the right consistency. The basic things you want are as follows:

1) Fed enough times to be fully active.

If you keep your starter in the refrigerator or if you feed it less often while in a storage or maintenance mode with the starter, then you would want to feed it repeatedly at room temperature as many times as necessary for it to be fully active. Different starters have different signs of activity and different numbers of feedings to "wake them up", depending on the consistency and storage or maintenance methods, but the principle is the same.

2) End up with the right hydration.

If Hamelman says he wants 10.8 oz of 125% hydration culture, then sometime before the last feeding for the build of the levain for your recipe you need to adjust the water. I don't think it matters a whole lot when in the build process you switch to the desired consistency. It could be done at the last feeding conveniently in most cases, since you don't really want to change the consistency of your "mother" starter. Actually, you can even use a levain with a different consistency from that specified in the recipe, and then adjust the water in the final dough so that the overall formula is still as the recipe states. However, to stay closer to the author's intent, you normally would build your levain with the same hydration as specified. I think Susan said she just used her 100% starter and adjusted the water in the recipe, for example.

3) End up with the right quantity.

Over the course of the number of feedings you expect will bring your starter to a fully active state, you want to end up with a quantity of starter that is enough for the recipe. That's usually easy, since at any reasonable feeding ratio, you can multiply your starter by large multiples in the course of a day.

David, what style of starter are you using?

As far as starter percentages in the VT sourdough recipe, it doesn't seem unreasonable. He is building up the levain using 20% mature culture, which is a fermented flour ratio of about 8%, I think. That should ripen overnight, as specified. The recipe itself uses a fermented flour percentage of 15%, which again should work well.

Bill

 

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

David: I agree with what Bill and Brotkunst said about buying a “real” couche. I have them from both KAF and SFBI, and I use the SFBI more often, only because it’s a bit wider. I initially bought some natural linen fabric (heaviest I could find) from an online fabric store but it’s not really stiff enough to use for couche. Works well to line my bannetons, though. And yes, by upside down I do mean seam side up. And then, as you surmised, roll off the couche and onto… whatever. I usually don’t use parchment except for baguettes, I use a peel for transferring into the oven, but parchment works great too.

SDBaker: FWIW, the couche sold by SFBI has raw edges too, and I guess this is pretty standard; none of the couches they use in their bakery/classroom have finished edges either. But you’re right, the SFBI is more reasonably priced.

Bill: The flour I’m currently using for both starter and final dough is Heartland Mills’ Unbleached All-Purpose Malted (UBAP). Protein is in the 11%-11.5% range. I like it a lot but could only find it through their website and shipping costs are really prohibitive, so once this is gone I probably won’t use it again, now that I think I’ve found a locally available source of organic malted flour. For the rye flour, I used KAF Pumpernickel. Also, I went back and checked my notes on this bread to see if I might have added a bit more water, since I adjust consistency by feel and not strictly by the numbers, but in this case I used exactly the 65%.

Brotkunst: Since I use my starter fairly often, I just find it easier and more logical to keep it out and feed it twice a day rather than taking it out and bringing it back up to snuff over three days or so before I use it. Unless it is the final feeding before using it, though, I maintain a really small amount. I usually start with 8-10g of starter, sometimes even less -- literally just what remains clinging to the inside of the container after I discard the rest of it. So after feeding at 1:5:5 I have about 100g, more than enough to elaborate to usable amounts at the next feeding if I want to, but not so much that the waste seems really frivolous. That said, it sounds like your starters are working very well for you (and you definitely have the lovely breads to show for it), so why not just stick with what you’re doing?

Prairie: It’s cool that you bake this bread in a pot. I’m curious how big your loaf is and if you’re baking at the same temperature as Hamelman specifies? Also curious to know how you maintain your starter to keep it active.

Zolablue: Thank you, and I look forward to seeing yours when you make it. You always make such beautiful breads!


Susanfnp

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Susan,

I use almost the same process now that I'm trying a 12 hour cycle. I use amounts like 4-9 grams of starter in a 1:4:4 or 1:5:5 feeding that seems to work well in a 12 hours cycle. I have also routinely done a 1:2:2 cycle with refrigeration in between, as mentioned in my blog entry on starter maintenance.

I started a blog entry on comparing notes on starters, if you, Brotkunst, ZB, prairie, dwg, and anyone else interested would like to post entries there on your starter maintenance process. I thought it could be useful to get a bunch of examples of methods listed in one place, if people are willing.

Bill

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Good idea, Bill.

 

BROTKUNST 

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Susan, actually what you describe is very economical and at least the same if not more effective. You see, I kept several ounces of the barm and doubled the quantity (at 100% hydration) every 2-5 days . Since I bake also breads with other preferments like pate fermente, biga and poolish, I don't get to use the starter every day. I observed that the barm keeps it's vigor very well (functional) at the low temps if I use a good amount as mature base culture.

 

I'd have no trouble to maintain a 12-18 hr schedule and I could limit the amount of flour used if try an adaption of your schedule. On top of that, the higher temperature and the more steady 'flow of food' for the barm may have a more positive effect on the taste as well.

 

Thank you .... this is very interesting to me.

 

BROTKUNST

Prairie19's picture
Prairie19

Susan,

What size loaf? I use half the quantities in Hammelman's "Home" column, which yields a baked loaf of 690 to 700 grams.

The baking temperature I use is 450 degrees fahrenheit. (I haven't calibrated my oven but this setting seems to work well for me.)

I keep my starter in the refridgerator. When I'm ready to bake, I mix 80 grams of bread flour, 100 grams of water and about 150 grams of the starter. (That's a higher proportion of starter than in Hammelman's formula, but the hydration is the same.) I keep the liquid levain at about 70 degrees fahrenheit for 8 to 12 hours. Then I measure the amount of levain I need for the dough (153 g) and return the remaining levain to a clean jar in the refridgerator. Hooch usually forms by the third or fourth day. I always mix the hooch back into the starter so that is stays at 125% hydration.

Prairie19

 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I'm dying to make this bread.  I keep a 60% hydration starter so I would need to adjust the recipe.  If I understood Susan correctly she didn't make the overnight levain rather she used her 100% starter in the dough on the same day and adjusted the water. 

Which leads me to a question. Does it matter to the flavor of the bread which method you use - building into the levain Hamelman calls for or just using the straight starter and adjusting water on bake day?  I'm asking for accuracy purposes only.

I'm wondering because with the emphasis placed on the necessity to adhere to the correct percentages it makes me wonder how the recipe is effected when we adjust to the feel of the dough when adding water and flour during the mix (as I do and Hamelman recommends in his recipes) and also the amount of bench flour used. 

We all must do those things differently.  So it just puzzles me why these formulas are so critical to be possibly incorrect if off by even a small percentage.  I'm only asking to learn and not to be confrontational, btw.  Me <--- needs lots of help. :o)

xma's picture
xma

Hello zolablue.  I'm Hamelman's #1 fan but I am not a perfectionist and would cheat my way through a recipe to get freshly baked sourdoughs in time for breakfast without waking up at 2am. :p  Having said that, I obviously cannot answer your question.  But I can say that among his recipes, I have tried doing his sourdough/levain starters according to his exact percentages and also by merely maintaining my starter's hydration and adjusting the water in the final formulation.  I think I read Bill (forgive me if I'm wrong) say somewhere in this site that the temperature and length of fermentation makes more difference than the hydration of your starter, and I agree.  I know Hamelman says it affects flavors and the crumb, but I like the fact that starters with higher hydration are easier to integrate in the final dough than stiff ones.

Going back to the 'subject' of my entry, based on Eric's and Bill's inputs, I have also tried his Vermont sourdough using one-step method, and I love the way it fits my schedule.  I've even ditched my liquid starter and just stuck with my rye starter for all my sourdough recipes (please don't shoot me, I just can't stand throwing out all that flour and bottled water during feedings with multiple starters, and I do love the flavor of rye). 

So, I don't know whether I've been any help but I guess you'll have to try it either way with the hydration of the starter and decide for yourself if you prefer one over the other.  But do post the results and who knows, I just might get converted to becoming more of a stickler for hydration of starters!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

 

I keep a 60% hydration starter so I would need to adjust the recipe.

Why adjust the whole recipe? Just add enough water until it adds up to the percentage needed. (If you need 125%, then give the 65% water to your 60% starter and blend before continuing. It's even easier than that.... weigh the starter only, divide in half, that should be 60% plus a little to make 65% now add that in water to the starter) If off by a teaspoon or two, it shouldn't make any difference.

Mini Oven

browndog's picture
browndog

Zolablue, I wish I could remember where I read this, it had to be Hamelman I think, where it was said that the difference between good bread and great bread is the preferment. Initially it meant next to nothing to me and my coarse pallette--but then I made Rustic Bread, and now every time I make a loaf without starting hours before, I footnote to myself that the bread will be lacking. It really does seem to make that much of a difference in depth and character of flavor.

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Zolablue,

Your questions are great ones and I did not interpret them as confrontational in any way. I don’t have answers, just some thoughts:

I do believe that the hydration of the starter plays a role in the flavor, all other things being equal: a firmer starter produces a more sour bread. Not that the other things that people discussed in that thread are not important too.

When I tweak a formula, I do so knowing that I may not produce the exact same bread as the original author of the formula, but hoping (and having some reasonable basis for believing) that I will end up with something good. And if I don’t, that’s a learning experience, so all is not lost. Especially when I make a particular bread for the first time, I almost always follow the original formula to the letter, or if I make any changes it is in such a way as to keep the overall formula the same, as I did with Vermont Sourdough.

And even if I follow a formula exactly, I know that my bread will not be as good as, say, Hamelman’s or Reinhart’s, because the skill of the baker plays such an important role. Their artistry and craftsmanship certainly includes, but goes way beyond, the hydration of the starter or the percentage of salt in the formula; it is incorporated into their hands and their neural networks in a way that mine never will be, and, although they are great teachers with great books, in a way that can never be fully communicated with words.

As far as adding water and/or flour during the mixing, see my thoughts on that here. And I always use as little bench flour as possible.

I’m looking forward to your report on the Vermont Sourdough!

 

Susanfnp

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I have the dough rising in bulk right now.  My experience so far with Hamelman recipes is that his fermentation times seem too short.  He also never says how far he wants the dough to expand. 

Did you let the dough double in bulk?  Glezer always states to allow dough to become well expanded but not yet double.  That is also a bit vague and is something I continue to struggle with.  It seems I've read in several sources though not to allow sourdough to ever double.  Gawd, I am so rambling here.

I know it sounds like I'm bucking the system but I've found my firm starter to be distinctly mild tasting.  I actually had the occasion to make some bread with liquid starters that ended up making a more sour bread.  I think it was due more to the ripeness of those starters at the time I used them based on some experiments but I can absolutely state that my firm starter produces very mild bread.  I don't think I'll ever be convincing about that however. 

We'll see how this bread turns out.  The dough really feels more like the Columbia bread dough does being more stiff feeling.

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Zolablue, when I made the Vt Sourdough I did it mostly by the clock because I was running around on a tight schedule that day, but I would say that the dough was about doubled after the first fermentation. I have not heard that sourdough shouldn't double as a rule; I would be interested to know more about that.

So how did the bread turn out?

Susanfnp

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Mine is not nearly as beautiful as Susan's.  You can see how beautiful Susan's slashing is on her loaves and the jagged edges on mine.  (hehe)  At any rate, it was absolutely fabulous bread!  It was really quite mild, in fact, to my taste it perhaps was even milder than the basic sourdough of Hamelman's I made a few weeks ago - also delicious.

I cheated - HORRORS!  I flew by the seat of my pants and not only used my firm starter without calculating but it was 3-day old "discarded" starter taken cold from the fridge.  (Ah, gosh, that felt so good.) 

It had a really nice open crumb which kind of surprised me based on the heavy texture of this dough.

 

We liked it so much I mixed up the liquid levain last night, as the recipe calls for, and am working on the dough again today.  I thought it would be fun to compare the two batches.  I'm not sure if I'll bake it tonight or retard for baking tomorrow.

Susan, I will try and find wherever I think I have read about sourdough and not letting it double. 

xma's picture
xma

that's a really nice open crumb you got!  I really prefer Vermont sourdough to Hamelman's basic sourdough, although that could be due to the flavor of my has-since-been-discarded liquid levain.  I'm looking forward to your post about the difference between using a liquid levain and firm starter. :)

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Oh, just beautiful, Zolablue. Let's hear it for cheating!

Susanfnp

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

The crumb is beautiful, picture perfect! I have to admit I tend to fly by the seat of my pants with formulas. I see math calculations and I have brain freeze, just as painful as the ice cream type! I know I am going to have to face it, there are quite a few formulas I want to play with..maybe tomorrow..I keep saying that!

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I think I was cheating my way through many recipes and quite happy until I discovered the fine folks on this site who know so much about baking bread.  I just don't want to have to solve math problems every time I bake.  (hehe)  Really, I have been dragging my feet not wishing to take the time to look at baker's percentages.  Well, either that or just fear that I may take an ice pick to my eyeballs if I have to resort to that to make mighty fine bread. :o) 

Sorry, I know that sounds like too much drama. I am making this bread tomorrow.  I'm not sure yet how I'm going to do it but hopefully I'll figure out the best way before bedtime.  I'll report later.

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Your breads are out of this world. I want to hang the photos up in my kitchen. I'm going to try this bread tomorrow or the next day to see what happens. I'll faint from shock if they come out any where as beautiful as yours and Susans. weavershouse

dwg302's picture
dwg302

wow, zola and susan, you really have a knack for getting those big beautiful holes in your bread.  i would love to know the secret for getting that all the time.  sometimes i get lucky and the bread comes out like that, but more often it doesn't.   i know high water content is important for getting those big holes, but are there any other tricks of the trade that work for you?

david

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Thanks to you all for the lovely compliments.  I can't adequately express my surprise though when something actually turns out well.  It is all so much fun.

Yesterday, I made this bread again (didn't get to photo until today) and I have a few things to report.  First of all, I made an important personal breakthrough.  I could clearly see, from the bread I made the day before, that I have been allowing my sourdough to way overproof.  Yesterday's bread not only slashed way better (whooo hoooo) but it really sprung up in the oven and held its shape better.  I think I learned a few things about slashing like perhaps I was going to far to the outside edges and just plain allowing the dough to proof to far. 

Here is the Vermont sourdough I made exactly according to the recipe except I made the liquid levain the evening before.  I did, however, use my 60% hydration starter and did no other adjustment to water or flour.  The bread I made above (the previous day), I did in one day using 100g of discarded, very cold stored 60% hydration starter which had been in my fridge for about 3 days thus had not been refreshed for at least 24 hours or more before that.  For that bread I followed the recipe except to use my firm starter and add about 1/2 cup more flour. 

The big news is that both breads looked exactly the same.  Well, I guess not exactly because the ones I baked yesterday were not as proofed in the final fermentation and they really had a huge oven spring for a small batard.  (I made 3 batards each time, btw.)  And I should say they kept their shape better due to that as well and I was super pleased with the slashes.  The crumb looked the same to me and are you ready for this? 

Drum roll...they tasted exactly the same both plain and toasted.  Really good bread.  And no math calculations.  Me <---cheating baker and loving it.  :o) 

Hey, I'm not disparaging in any way those of you who understand a lot more about baking than I do especially the formulas.  I just want to show, if there are others like me, that you can still bake really good bread and not worry that you are off a bit on the overall formula.  Really, I wanted to prove this to myself.  It is part of the process of learning, for me.

Crust

Crumb

xma's picture
xma

...for convincing me to keep cheating the way I've been doing. Phew! For a while there I've been having second thoughts about cheating hehe. Those are really beautiful loaves you've got.

I have questiions for everyone following this thread. What tool do you guys use for scoring/slashing? I just use a knife and wondering if I should get a lame.

Secondly, just like most people, the holes of my breads can be unpredictable, in the sense that sometimes when I handle the dough as delicately as I could during final shaping, aiming for big holes, I end up with smaller holes than when I feel like I'm squishing those bubbles right out because I want a perfectly shaped bread. We all know higher hydration = bigger holes, but this Vermont sourdough at 65% is a contradiction of that. So, the questiion is, how delicately do you handle the dough for final shaping?

 

Prairie19's picture
Prairie19

xma,

Have you tried using a scissors for scoring? (see Hamelman's book p. 81) I think it works really great for round loaves. I like to cut a star pattern in the center of the proofed loaf. You get a nice symetrical pattern that promotes expansion. Here is a photo of a finished loaf (Baked in a pot). Prairie19

Vermont Sourdough Scored with ScissorsVermont Sourdough Scored with Scissors

xma's picture
xma

Yes I have tried using scissors once, but umm.. ahh... I guess I don't resonate with it?  In a few other threads I have been poking around for new looks for my loaves.  I'm pretty much an expert on one long proud score (courtesy of a serrated knife), for my batards, but it's getting difficult to keep track of them because they all look alike. A friend would say, "Hey, you know that bread you let me try?  It was great!  Could you make me one? "  And I'd say, "What bread is that?"  To which I'd get a reply, "The one that looks like an oval with pointy ends and a cut down the middle."  You see where my problem lies.  And in all my baking life I have never made a baguette, so I haven't tried the look that susanfp, bluezola and weaverhouse have on their loaves.  This will be my next project, but in my first attempt I found myself at the bottom of a learning curve.   

Sorry, I know I was just going on and on.  But thank you for sharing a photo of your beautiful boule. I have tinkered with round loaves also, but I love bringing sandwiches to work and my problem with round loaves is that the middle part makes slices that are too big, and the ends too small. And oh, I just love free form loaves!

BROTKUNST's picture
BROTKUNST

Zola, the pictures and the loaves are great !

The starter variation you mentioned is very interesting ...actually, I think, using the firm starter (1 oz) with 60% hydration instead of 125% hydration yields a way more potent levain (at least by factor 1.4) . If you used 100g of the firm starter in place of the 1oz-125%-starter, your levain was about 5x more potent (assuming the fridge starter had it's full strength which is not all that likely after three days).  I am looking forward to try that out tomorrow !

Veeery tasty !

BROTKUNST

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I baked this bread yesterday and I have to say I loved the taste better than most. I used Hodgson Rye and maybe that made a difference because it was delicious. I'm going to make it again tomorrow just because I want to have enough to share. 

I made two loaves, one I baked in my long covered clouche just to see how it would work. I didn't see much difference except the clouche loaf rose much higher.


Thanks zolablue for your words about making really good bread without all the math. I agree totally. Too each her own, of course.                                                            weavershouse

browndog's picture
browndog

weavershouse, what kind of crumb did you get? When I've made this bread, although I'm happy with the taste and texture, it's nothing like as open as Susan's and Zolablue's. I find it so curious-- what makes the difference, given that we're all using the same recipe? Starter strength, mixing, hydration?

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

You're making me put my bread photo's up so close to zolablue's??? There is no comparison, she's got some kind of otherworldly help on her side. :)

 

Anyway, my crumb is not near hers or susan's as you can see and I don't know why. I'd love to sit at their table and watch them through the whole process....then we'd know. I do love the taste of this bread and will make it again tomorrow. The top photo shows the loaf baked in my long clay baker.

 

ps...I ordered my summer reading. Thanks.Vermont Sourdough in La CloucheVermont  SD in LaCloucheVermont SourdoughVermont Sourdough weavershouse

browndog's picture
browndog

 

Well, you've seen mine,

and it's less holey than yours:

But yours is beautiful, weavershouse, different doesn't mean inferior for goodness sake! and see, you're making more to give away! That's a success story in my book... :) that lush, dark crust that I don't believe has ever come out of my oven...*sigh* I just wonder what the difference is that Zola etal get such a result. Yes, wouldn't it just do to be flies on their walls come bake day? I used KA organic ap. What about you?

EDH, DON"T give up on your starter, or sourdough! There are such gracious and helpful experts around here-- I'm still struggling, but I've learned so much and though the battle's sometimes lost, the war is most certainly ours!

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I used KA all purpose because my store was out of the organic. Another thing I forgot to say is that I mixed the salt in with the rest of the ingredients for the final dough rather than wait 20 to 60 min. and then adding it. So there! I really don't think the salt causes any problem with the yeast or anything else in the final dough and I think it's too hard to mix in afterward. Especially because I don't use a mixer. Look at the NYT no-knead bread...everything is mixed together including the salt and left overnight with no damage done to the yeast or sourdough (if using). Floyd's Rustic Bread recipe mixes the salt in with the first mix. I'd like to hear if anyone out there thinks I'm wrong about this. 

I started baking at 460º but lowered the oven to 450º and then 375º because the bread was browning so fast.

I have a batch rising now. This, for me anyway, is a strong firm dough. Nothing slack here. I had to add almost 1/2 cup extra water to get the flour mixed in. Everything was measured on my scale so I'm sure the weights were right. Last time I let the loaves rise with support but this time I might just let them hold themselves up. We'll see.
Thanks edh for the kind words and hang in there. I have learned sooo much in the last few months and it's all because of this site and the talented and helpful people here.

 weavershouse

edh's picture
edh

You guys are killing me! Those are some seriously beautiful loaves, Susan, Zola, and Weavershouse (did I miss some? I keep having to stop and wipe the drool off my chin)!

I've been struggling along, trying to wake up my two starters, but they are remaining stubbornly sluggish. At this point I've got one rye and one white, but they both take 10-12 hrs to double on a 1:2:2 feeding.

Despite all indications that it wasn't up to the job, I tried the Vermont Sourdough yesterday with the rye. Actually, the day got away from me, and the dough was rising so slowly that at 9:00 last night, after 2 hours of proofing in the baskets (well, bowls with cloth), I gave up and stuck them in the fridge, and baked this morning. I created two more heavy doorstops, though with an outrageous flavor.

I'm not quite beaten yet; I like the suggestion above to start the levain in the morning and ferment overnight. My kitchen is still in the mid 60's, so it shouldn't go too fast. Still, I feel sourdough defeat breathing down my neck; I made Hamelmann's Rustic Bread the other day, and it was so easy to make a light, open crumb that the whole family loved.

Ah well, never say die....

edh

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

edh, I can't stand the thought of someone contemplating giving up on sourdough! Have you tried using warmer water (maybe around 80F) when you feed your starters? This might help to overcome the relatively cool temp in your kitchen.

Susanfnp

zolablue's picture
zolablue

First I just wanted to say I have been joking about cheating on a recipe and I truly don’t wish to appear flippant about something I haven’t grasped which is to learn to figure out percentages when I want to change a recipe slightly.  Rather than cheating I have to say I’m just a very free spirit and I strongly believe while science is extremely important in baking I also think it is an art to bake wonderful artisan breads.  I think there is a place for both and I freely admit I am learning every single time I bake.

 

Weavershouse – your bread looks fantastic!  You must be nuts (:o) being hesitant to post those results because you have some beautiful photos.  Wow, that crust just looks fantastic. I really don’t know what the crumb structure is meant to be on this bread because I couldn’t find a photo of it in Hamelman’s book.  I think mine begins to resemble ciabatta and I’m not sure that is correct.

 

Edh – It sounds like your starter is just too sluggish especially working in a colder environment. I think if you look up some of Bill’s (bwraith) excellent posts on starters you will find a boatload of great info to help you get your starter in a more active state.  That really is key.  Don’t give up.  It is so rewarding and I know you’re up to the challenge.  What if you could wrap your starter in a blanket? 

 

Xma – I can’t answer about all the things that go into getting the more open crumb.  I was so surprised this dough yielded such an open crumb because it was such dense, heavy dough.  I usually am pouring dough from my mixing bowl like really thick pancake batter.  So I’m not much help here as I keep plugging away trying to follow these recipes the best I can.

 

For scoring – I’m really not the best at this which distresses me.  I think I have found one of the keys it that I have been so confused about proper proofing.  I’m going forward with new knowledge and will be able to test this theory.  If I’m right about my problem it was not as much my slashing rather it was the overproofing of the dough both in bulk and in shaped loaves.

 

I use a lame which at first I did not like.  Now I prefer it.  I’ve used a very sharp knife, both straight edged and serrated, and I bought a little slashing tool from KAF which I really do not like.  I still think there is room for improvement on finding just the right tool so I’ve always got an eye out.  I know it takes an incredible amount of practice and know how to get it right.  When I get it right it is purely accidental.

 

Brotkunst – There really seems to be a difference in starter strengths and perhaps this is another of my problems in judging proper proofing.  While I have found Hamelman’s fermentation times short in the bulk they are long in the shaped loaves by over 100% for my starter so perhaps I’ve also been way off on the bulk as well erring on the side of overproofing as most new bakers do.  I think that is where the “not doubling” sourdough comes into play but it still seems far too vague to me.  I plan to start being more bold and cutting down the bulk fermenting time just to see what happens.  It’s scary but it has to be done!

xma's picture
xma

Zolablue, I didn't mean to cause any offense about 'cheating'. I know we're all serious in our pursuit of improving our loaves; I was just glad to have found a kindred spirit. For my part I use a calculator like crazy, but I don't let percentages inhibit me and in the end, I go with how the dough feels. And oh yeah, getting away with fresh bread at breakfast without waking up at 2am (you can tell by now that this is my thing, right?).

I finally made myself a makeshift curved lame using the I-had-to-go-to-Starbucks-yesterday-to-steal-a-coffee-stirrer-to-stick-into-a-blade. Alas, as with everything new I find myselt at the bottom of a learning curve. The scores I made on my three loaves barely opened, and the bread rose a lot, resulting in an unsightly crack down the length near the bottom part of the loaves! (Sniff.) I guess that means my cuts were too light?

With all this talk about Vermont sourdough I'll have to go for it in my next bread making session. Today's loaves were Hamelman's 5-grain and helend's rye.

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Silly, no offense taken at all.  I said it, too.  I thought it was funny. 

My husband, a non-baker, actually helped me about a week or so ago by mentioning that he thought part of my problem was not slashing deep enough.  So cutting deeper and now in conjunction with not letting my dough overproof I'm getting much better results.  I just baked Silverton's Country White today and made it into 4 batards and they sprung to the moon and had some nice big ears.  (Hey, and xma, I cheated on that recipe, too!  Hehehehehe.)

edh's picture
edh

Thank you all,

I'm not quite throwing in the towel yet; my white starter proceeded to both make a liar out of me and give me hope by doubling in 5 hours today, so maybe we're headed in the right direction...

I'm nervous because I've been doing 12 hour feedings, trying to just make it all go, but I'm going to be away for a few days, and will have to leave them in the fridge. I know this is fine, but I'm afraid of losing ground! I wonder if the kennel would agree to take them...

On the slashing thing; I'm no artist, by a long shot, but I've been using a homemade lame with tolerable results, then switched the other day to a knife that I'd just brought back from the near dead, and found it much easier to get neat, deep slashes. I think the key is that the knife was in such bad shape that I had to use a grinding wheel, then a very coarse stone to bring back the edge. As a result, there was still a very fine burr on the edge that acted like a super-fine serration.

edh

zolablue's picture
zolablue

While I'm not in the position to give starter advice I do know that a firm starter lasts a very long time unattended.  Even people that don't wish to maintain a firm starter for everyday baking often will mix up a firmer version of their liquid starter to store in the fridge if they have to be gone a few days.  Again, I'd do a search for starter maintenance or other info Bill has posted about for exactly what to do or perhaps someone else here can offer you some advice to mix for storing while you're away. 

You are definately on the right track though if you have it doubling in 5 hours.  You still want it faster to be optimum so keep it going.  I believe for liquid you want it to at least double in a 4-hour period.  

edh's picture
edh

Zolablue,

Thanks for the suggestion; I so enjoyed reading the exchanges between you and Bill about firm starters that I took out Maggie Glezer's book (hooray for inter-library loan; we don't have anything like that in out library) and was fascinated! I did try following her directions to convert one of my starters to a firm one, but it didn't do a whole lot and, more to the point, life is a little too nutty here right now to remember to feed two starters in two different ways. I xeroxed those pages and might try again next winter.

I can't say enough how grateful I am to everyone on this site; it's like having a resource library, discussion group, and self-help for bakers group all in one! My husband and son love to tease me about how often I check this site (but they also love the bread), but honestly, I learn so much every time I do!

Now I'm going to go read some more on Bill's starter maintenance blog...

edh

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Hi edh,

You can compromise to keep your starter fresher during storage by just thickening it a little. If you add 10-20% more flour than you would normally, you'll get a very thick paste that you can still stir, rather than knead. It won't keep as well as a firm starter does, but it will last for at least a couple of months refrigerated. I've refrigerated my liquid starter slightly thickened up for 2 months and fully revived it with three feedings at room temperature. I suspect it would last many more months, but I've never tried it.

As far as rise times, it may well help to keep feeding it at room temperature to build up its stability and strength, but you won't lose much ground at all by refrigerating it for a while, especially if only a couple of weeks. It's fine to refrigerate it for much longer. Also, starters vary a lot in how fast they rise, so I wouldn't go nuts worrying about the rise times, as long as you can raise a loaf in a reasonable amount of time.

I was mentioning to browndog that my starter's rise time varies tremendously depending on temperature, hydration, and type of flour. For example, after a 10g:45g:50g feeding at 77F with bread flour, my starter will rise by double in  about  4:50, while at 70F it might be more like 7:20, just to give you an idea of how much it can change with just 7F degrees change in temperature. Also, as another example, my starter rises in about 1 hour less time with KA organic AP compared to KA Bread Flour. So, don't mistake a starter health problem with a change in temperature or a change in flour type.

Bill

edh's picture
edh

Thanks Bill,

I guess I'll calm down, since I'll only be gone 3 days; I will thicken them up first though.

So these are probably slow but healthy starters that just need a little warmer environment (like my garden at the moment!) to do their thing. That's good news except that it removes my excuse for repeatedly producing bricks rather than bread. It's frustrating because I had several months of beginners luck back in the winter, and have gone steadily downhill in the sourdough department ever since.

I'm starting to question my intellectual capability; it feels like there are more variables than my brain can process, and I'm scrambling them all!

On the other hand, it's still fun, and therefore worth doing.

edh