The Fresh Loaf

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Vermont Sourdough

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weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Vermont Sourdough

Today's Vermont Sourdough came out better than the last. I tried to be brave and really work the slashes and I think they're better but need work. It made me a wreck because I thought the whole thing would collapse. They didn't and next time I will cut deeper. I was really happy with the crumb this time.Vermont SourdoughVermont SourdoughVermont SourdoughVermont  The bread did not get a dark crust like last time probably because I put it in a cooler oven this time. 460º then down to 450º. Also I let the loaves rise 2 1/2 hrs. till they were light and puffy but still (I hoped) had more room to grow and they did once they hit the oven. I thank zolablue for that. This bread is so delicious it's my new favorite. I'm going to make it again for friends on Tuesday. I made today's bread to give away and as you can see I cut them in two but the breads going to my sister and she doesn't care. I had to see inside, right?

 

I hope many of you try this, it's an easy one. Also, like I said I added the salt along with the other ingredients in the final dough and there's no problem that I can detect.VERMONT SOURDOUGH

Comments

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I forgot to say that I did not spray the finished loaves with water and I did not spray or add any water to the oven. I was being a real rebel today. I think I mentioned that I used Hodgson's Rye and KA all purpose flour. In the levain I used 1 oz. of my refreshed (that day) sourdough starter and I have no clue about its hydration %. Hope you'll try this.

weavershouse

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

I can't read all of your blog. I'm having problems, for some reason the right side is cut off. I think you have this one down pat!

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Weavershouse, those loaves are awesome! I am green with envy - hope your sister appreciates the bread. I must be the only member who doesn't know which book the recipe came from and now it looks as though I will have to buy a copy. Could you please give me the details? Again, my congratulations, A

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Try here ostwestwind.twoday.net/stories/3707371/  for the recipe. I hope this link works. The Vermont Sourdough is from the bread book by Jeffery Hamelman who works for King Arthur Flour in Vermont.                           weavershouse

ehanner's picture
ehanner

weavershouse,

I must be the only one on TFL site that hasn't tried the Vermont Sourdough recipe. The link to the recipe above doesn't work for me. I get a page but not the actual recipe. Do you have it in text or a link with your refinements that I might find? I like the rugged nature of the loaves. It looks like a blend of AP and WW and maybe rye?

Thanks weavershouse, your work is always so well done!

Eric

susanfnp's picture
susanfnp

Weavershouse, the loaves you pictured on the the other thread were beautiful but these are even better! The slashes look perfect to me. I hope your sister appreciates it! This bread is my new favorite basic sourdough too.

Susanfnp

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Thank you so much, Weavershouse. Did you use a mixer? Also, do you bake on a stone? Hate to bother you with so many questions but what do you use to slash - I think yours look perfect? Guess I will be adding another book to the collection, A

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Wowsa, that is beeeoootiful bread!  That crust is simply amazing, beautiful big grigne from great slashing, gorgeous crumb - just wonderful looking loaves!  Isn't it a trip to get them to come out like that. 

I think this is really a good tasting recipe as well.  I mentioned on the other thread I finally baked something from Silverton's book which was the Country White.  While the loaves came out so beautiful I felt the bread was a bit bland compared to Vermont sourdough.  I know I won't repeat that Silverton recipe.  But I will make this one again. 

You really did good, Weavershouse! :o)

browndog's picture
browndog

Look at you, Weavershouse! What a treat, first thing in the A.M. Is perfect good enough? Let me join the chorus of congratulators, and you might try the whole wheat variation sometime. That's just different enough to be interesting. Hearty cheers! as my uncle used to say.

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I felt good when I pulled these out of the oven. I can see progress.

Annie, I don't have a mixer, I let the loaves rise on their own piece of parchment and bake them on a stone. I used my bread knife to make the slash. And you can ask any question you want and I'll try my best to answer.

I have two more batches retarding in the fridge. I thought I'd try it. I promise no more pictures of Vermont Sourdough but I'll let you know what I think of the overnight retarding. I probably shouldn't be trying it a new way because I plan to take them to a get together tomorrow and I hope I won't be sorry I didn't stick to a proven way. We'll see. Thanks again.                                                                                           weavershouse

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Weavershouse, thank you for the kind offer - I'll try not to be too much of a pest. I suddenly have the day free tomorrow and decided I HAVE to try the VS. I had fed my starter last night and I have never known it rise to much so I figured it was raring to go. I am a bit concerned because it appears to have turned into a less than liquid starter, positively brawny and I swear I could see muscles. Of course it was in the frig when I decided to use it so I warmed the water slightly and hope that will encourage it to work. I used KA bread flour for the levain and then noticed you had used all purpose flour. Maybe I will use ap tomorrow for the dough. I have no idea why my starter has become so "thick" - I'm sure there is a proper name for this but it escapes me. I have left the bowl in the oven with the light on because my kitchen gets pretty cool at night. I am really anxious to hear how the cool retardation affects your latest loaves and whether you think it makes enough of a difference. Isn't that what causes the nice little "freckles" on the crust? Oh dear, there really should be some sort of therapy for this obsession! A.

browndog's picture
browndog

>Oh dear, there really should be some sort of therapy for this obsession! A.<

It's called the fresh loaf!

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

The loaves I retarded overnight are so different from my other batches and not for the good. When I retarded the Columbia loaves in the fridge they were very good but these didn't rise to the occasion. The color is drab and the browning is dull. They didn't rise as well as my former batches.

 I had two batches in the fridge. One was in 16 hours and one was in 8 hours. The 8 hour loaf rose more than the other. You might think the 16 hour batch overproofed but when it came out of the fridge it didn't come back when poked till an hour or more later so I don't think so. Who knows. I'm sure my friends will love them without even looking at them. They're just happy to have homemade bread. None of the 10 of them ever come to THE FRESH LOAF so they don't know what we know :D

I know that some among us look at baking bread at home as a science and I do to a point but I think there are so many variables that we'll never get it right all the time....I say just make bread. Know the basic rules and use them but be ready for the surprises. I got four of them today.                                                            weavershouse

zolablue's picture
zolablue

I have loved using this method but in discovering my refrigerator was running far too cold I can see why I had troubles gauging warm up the next day and proper proofing (still my problem but getting better).  I planned to try this with the Vermont sourdough later this week as it now appears, finally (just yesterday), the darn fridge was fixed - keeping fingers crossed.  I'm going to be very anxious to try Columbia again using this method to compare but anyway I have a couple questions.

How long did you leave the loaves out the next day before baking?  Is it possible that your loaves were actually overproofed?  Again, so confusing, but in one of her books Glezer says often the next day they only need about an hour to warm up and sometimes can be baked still cold.  It depends on the softness of the initial dough.  That could be a reason they did not rise as much.

Another thing, do you have a thermometer to test your refrigerator?  When I finally bought mine a couple weeks ago I was horrified to see how cold it was keeping food.  Or rather freezing food.  I am so anal about keeping thermometers in my ovens I don't know why I had not done this before.  So could it be that perhaps your loaves were still too cold?  I know I jumped the gun with some Columbia one day when I was taking it to a dinenr party.  The loaves tasted fabulous but they did not rise as much and also were not as dark as usual.

At any rate now I feel I'll have way more control with overnight retardation which I love to use so if I get the Vermont sourdough made this week I'll let you know how it compares to when I retard the Columbia.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Sorry you were not so happy with the overnight retardation results, Weavershouse, but I'm sure your friends will be thrilled. Have you got a thermometer in your refrigerator? Zolablue's comments make a lot of sense and I should buy one - I will be getting my own refrigerator back now that the kids' house is finished and they have their own. The one that came with my house is old and probably not doing a good job. Well, here on Wonderful Whidbey the weather has gone from cool to 80* today, so my kitchen will be very warm. Always seems to happen on baking day. My levain was fine this morning and it took the entire thing to make the weight. I am doing the Mike Avery stretch and fold and gave the dough 2 stretches immediately. I have learned that I am not very patient so will find something to do until the 45 minutes is up, AND I will let the loaves proof long enough. Fingers crossed, A

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Paving stones, anyone? My loaves wouldn't have even made decent doorstops and I didn't even finish baking them. Straight to the dumpster. My dough looked great with small bubbles under the skin, but I'm sure it was too wet and the loaves spread out into sullen puddles. For some reason I forgot about TT's kitchen towel couche but I doubt it would have helped. The only thing I can come up with is that I must have worn the starter out with maybe too many folds? So, I have to decide - should I just go back to my quilting, paper quilts, gardening and bonsai trees? Or grit my teeth, rev up my starter and try again? I really hate to be a quitter and I know I have made good bread, but days like this are a bit disheartening. A

xma's picture
xma

I'm green with envy by your scoring!  I attempted to do this for the first time last weekend, with disastrous results.  I'm determined to try learning it.  What scoring tool did you use? 

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I'm just home from our visit and have to say they loved the bread and I had a piece and was very happy with the taste even though they weren't as nice looking as I hoped for. Whew!

ZB..I think you might be right about the fridge being too cold. We have a little house attached to ours that we sometimes rent out and since no one is in there now I used the refridgerator over there. When the bread was taken out this morning it was COLD. I waited an hour and a half and put it in the 500º oven and turned down to 450. I baked the second batch right after the first came out and it did better. I'm going to check the temp in that fridge. I love the overnight retarding too. It's so fun to just take the loaves out and bake with all the work behind me. I'll try this again. Let us know how yours goes.

Annie, rev yourself up and try again. Maybe it was just that the dough was too wet and some support would have helped. I didn't use support with this batch and maybe it needed it because they had to sit overnight. I don't think two folds would have hurt your dough. How did it look after you folded the second time? If it was too wet maybe a little flour and another fold would have firmed it up. I hope you'll try, try again even though you have some other great hobbies.

xma....I used my serrated bread knife and I cut deep, a little more than 1/2". Made me a wreck! But now I'm brave. Well, almost brave :D. I was surprised to see the floured tops because I didn't see any flour on the loaves when they went in the oven.

                                                                                                   weavershouse

xma's picture
xma

You could create this look with just a serrated knife?  I thought I'd need a curved lame to do it.  Wow.  Did you orient the scores almost parallel to the loaf?

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Hi xma,Yes, I would say that's just what I did when I slashed. Maybe there's a good explanation of where to put that first slash but I haven't seen it. Do you start right in the middle and go left or do you start over to the left so that by the third slash your still on the bread!! I winged it. Sometimes we get lucky :=).                                                                     weavershouse

xma's picture
xma

I'm preparing for the weekend's baking now and a thought crossed my mind about scoring the way you guys did, baguette style.  Do you do your final proofing seam side up and flip over before scoring and baking, or do you final proof right side up already and just score?

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I do my final proof right side up and score when ready. Good luck with your baking, let us know how it goes.                                    weavershouse

xma's picture
xma

Hi weavershouse, zolablue and mountaindog,

Here is the result of this weekend's experiment on baguette-style scoring. It's Hamelman's oatmeal bread. Yes, all three loaves were from the same dough. The one with oatmeal on the crust is intended as a gift.

I think this came out more of a lesson on oven positioning; as far as I could tell, the depth of my slashes were pretty much the same. The darker loaves went on the upper rack and the paler one on the bottom rack. It's easy to see that the crust of those on the upper rack hardened faster, hence the scores didn't bloom as much. Because of this, the bottom edge was the weaker point when the bread expanded, and therefore cracked to accommodate oven spring. I thought last week that the cracks on the bottom edge were due to my overcrowding the loaves, but now it looks like it's more due to oven placement.

And you know what? The two dark loaves were scored with different tools, one with my makeshift lame and the other with a steak knife. I couldn't tell the difference.

It was my first time trying no pre-heat for this recipe. They all went in the oven at the same time, and because one was at the bottom, I left it a bit longer to acquire more color. To prevent its bottom from burning, I lined the pan with a silicone mat. I've read on the internet that some people complain of their baked goods tasting of plastic, so I used parchment paper so the bread didn't have direct contact with it.

Thank you for all your help. I will keep trying to improve.

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Really nice neat scoring and looks like crackling crust...love that. Will you have a favorite, top or bottom shelf now? I'm going to try a steak knife for scoring next time and I bet it will be easier than my bread knife like you and browndog said.  

I haven't baked since last Monday or Tuesday and think I'm suffering from withdrawal. One good thing is that some of the breads taking up freezer space got eaten. I'm so glad I finally started clearly marking the frozen loaves so that I know who's who. 

Again, Beautiful Breads.                                                            weavershouse

browndog's picture
browndog

Pretty loaves, xma, but I'm afraid I like the kitty even better...I don't have much luck baking two tiers of bread, the bottom loaf never does seem to get brown. I have to when I make pizzas, and both levels take more time and are harder to color. Maybe it's my low-end oven. It probably works better if you shift the loaves midway so they bake more evenly. What did you think of cold start?

xma's picture
xma

Hello again weavershouse and browndog, and thank you for your kind words.  Browndog, I'm green with envy again because of your walnut bread post.  My foray into cold start is documented in mountaindog's 'giving no pre-heat a try' and that business about seawater bread.  I get fairly good oven spring, and as others have noted, the crust is slightly thinner but I became a convert because I love the idea of not wasting energy while pre-heating.  I have been into it for only about a month, and as you saw, I still have a lot to learn.

The question I find myself grappling with every week is where to bake my bread, especially when I'm making more than two loaves. (Three loaves were a bit crowded but worked fairly well in my 15" round baking stone.)  Now that I'm using no pre-heat, the largest sheet pan I've found that fits my oven is 13"x18", and I'm honestly having a difficult time with it.  Last week's baking resulted to the Siamese twins fiasco because I put all three on one sheet.  This weekend I tried different racks with the results above. 

Weavershouse, I'm really confused about oven positioning right now.  My oven has four rack height options, maybe 2" difference between each tier.  For purposes of discussion, let's call the top "1", through to "4" being the bottom most.  The two darker loaves on the photo were on rack 2, and the pale loaf on rack 4.  When baking bread in one layer, I use rack 3.  I've had mixed results with both racks 2 and 3.  My theory is that either one could work, as long as I don't have anything on rack 4 and I don't overcrowd my loaves, and my problems lie on these two factors when making more than two loaves.

The trouble with rack 4, obviously, is that the crust don't darken as much.  However, darkening is less of a problem to me right now, compared to getting the most oven spring.  I can always move the loaves around for coloring, but I can't do that in the first 10-15 minutes into the bake. 

I recently saw a pastry baking sheet that's got holes all over it, and I'm wondering if that will perform better with three loaves because of better air circulation.  Has anyone tried that?  

browndog's picture
browndog

Hi, xma and the pretty kitty. Maggie Glezer has a few things to say about where to bake bread, if you have her book. She favors the second shelf from the top if you have electric, and one shelf lower if it's gas, with caveats depending on if it's a tall loaf, a short loaf, a pan loaf, etc. I used to bake primarily pan loaves, three abreast center shelf. Nowadays it's mostly artisan rounds, and I've given up trying to bake more than two at a time unless they're smallish, then I can just squeeze three or even four on to my biggest sheet. I have something like six shelves and place the sheets in the center or next one up, depending, gas oven. I've thrown up my hands over the whole baking-in-tiers issue, I won't even do it with cookies, but I think your refusal to admit defeat is the more honorable position. :)

I haven't tried a perforated sheet yet myself. Do you have Hamelman's book? He's got an interesting series of photographs of baguettes baked on different platforms including a perforated sheet, with and without steam. As one might expect the loaves baked on a stone with steam are the holiest, but none of them look like bad eating. I have an insulated two-layer sheet with which I have a love/hate relationship. It seems to slow down baking and certainly coloring, but it also rarely scorches the bottoms of my loaves, which is a problem I get unless I double-pan, otherwise. I have not been using a stone because of the preheat issue, but will start up again when I can leave it on the woodstove til bake time.

 

xma's picture
xma

Yes I have both Hamelman's and Glezer's books, but I think neither of them were talking about a cold start, right?  Hamelman is an advocate of really flaming hot oven, and I only got Glezer's book last week so I haven't gone through it as thoroughly yet.  But I'll take your advice and look at Hamelman's photographs again.

I just don't like the idea of being limited to two loaves per baking session.  And much as I like doing boules every now and then, it's not a very practical shape for me because I usually make sandwiches, and with round loaves, the ends are too small and the middle slices too big.  I also realize, after reading your entry, that pan loaves would solve my problem very neatly, but what can I say, we love the look of free form artisan loaves, eh? :)

I'll check out that perforated sheet again (thank you for the term, I didn't know that's what it's called).  I'm having second thoughts about buying it because it's quite pricey at about $15, it's just the same size as my biggest sheet, and I really have more than enough baking sheets and pans already.

Oh and I'll tell you something about the cat.  It's not ours, or at least it wasn't, but it, well, adopted us.  It started coming over for visits, probably checking us out.  It had no tags, and putting up 'lost pets' posters is unheard of here.  Stray cats are common too, so I hope we didn't deprive anyone of a pet.  The kitty's visits grew in frequency and before we knew it, she's a full time resident.  By now we've given her shots and everything, so I don't know if that makes us pet thieves or if we've earned the right to call her our pet.  But this story is common where I live, and though I don't think it applies to dogs, it certainly gives cats the power of choice, hehe.

browndog's picture
browndog

I'll stick my neck out here and allow that I think either of them would scoff at cold-start, as one sure route to inferior bread, *sigh*. I assume you can still generalize the info, though. That's what I've been operating on. When I first went 'artisan' I was chagrined from a sustainability perspective that only two loaves at a time worked for me. Now I rationalize by telling myself I get to bake that much more often (and still have too much bread) and give more away. Weak, no question. Every time I consider batard shaping I remember I haven't any oval bannetons, but yes, I could certainly improvise, and I guess it's time. The boules are a beautiful pain, aren't they? Because we're a sandwich clan too.

Can't you fit three batards on a big sheet, since you mention it? I can fit a couple of 9X3 bread pans and an 8" round pan (assuming I have to have a boule) on one shelf of my oven, that's definitely the limit but it works. I realize it's all about compromise. I give me a dope-slap every time I start thinking I need a bigger oven...there's only three of us and my son doesn't really like bread! (Except ciabatta and sourdough.)

Thanks for the cat tale. You're in Australia is it? I think cats have that generic "whoever feeds me gets to keep me" quality almost world wide.

xma's picture
xma

for saving me $15. After looking again at Hamelman's pictures, I decided against the perforated sheet because the baguettes baked on the sheet pan looked even better. And I'm one with you in thinking that he and Glezer would, most probably and in all likelihood, scoff at cold start.

Must say, I love the pun on the 'beautiful pain'. I don't even use banettons for whatever shape I make. My oven's racks measure 15" by 22", and as you know, I've once ended up with Siamese twins doing three batards on the same sheet (the right-sized loaves for me start with 300 grams of flour). Maybe I should look for sheets that are 7" in width so I can fit three on one rack? The problem with that size is that it's usually a brownie pan and not a sheet pan.

And oh no, I'm not Australian, but I am on that side of the globe. I'm a tiny Asian girl on the western rim of the Pacific, an aberration in a region that eats rice from breakfast all the way to dinner. As you can imagine, good quality breads are hard to come by here, so all the more excuse for me to indulge on this path of artisan breads. :)

 

browndog's picture
browndog

Hey, xma, I thought we might this move this thread out of Weaverhouse's blog.

xma's picture
xma

First, to answer your question, I started on the far left end of the dough and worked my way to the right.  Crosswise, I started off-center, and attempted to keep my scores confined to the middle part of the dough.  But the scores barely opened, and my bread rose a lot, resulting to an unsightly crack on the side of the bottom of the loaves.  (Not only that, I crowded my oven and it gave birth to Siames twins.  Argh.)

I think my problem last weekend was that I used a totally alien tool, the makeshift curved lame (blade-skewered-on-a-stick) AND attempting a new kind of scoring, all in one go.  Looking back, I had cut too gingerly, because the lame felt too unfamiliar.  My preferred scoring tool is a steak knife, because of the easy handling of a small tool, and it's serrated.  That's why I got inspired by your input that you used a serrated bread knife.  I like the clean lines the lame made though, and you're right, I need to be more brave about using it.  This weekend I'll do just that.  I'll try using the makeshift lame and the steak knife on different loaves, attempting the same look, and see how they turn out.  I'll give you an update next week.  Thanks a lot!

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Browndog, I'm afraid The Fresh Loaf isn't helping but in fact making matters worse! I spent the afternoon copying recipes I had collected from the site into a notebook so that I wouldn't lose them - and I want to try each and every one. But it keeps me off the streets and out of the bars so can't be all bad, A

browndog's picture
browndog

well, that thought did kind of cross my mind too, Annie--but maybe it's a little hair of the dog, eh?

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Hi Weavershouse, and thanks for the encouragement. I decided to make a loaf of no knead bread to help regain my confidence after a little spell of gloom and despondency. I was pretty sure I would get a decent loaf, and in fact it was one of my better efforts. I used Eric's version with steel cut oats and I was really good about letting it proof long enough. The crumb isn't super holey but open enough, and the flavor is great. Perfect for supper with soup. So now I feel ready to try something more complicated, A

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you have a kitchen timer, use it to help reduce "waiting" stress between folds.  When the kitchen gets hot, get out of the kitchen and put up your feet with a cool drink.  Using commercial yeast also gives a more flexible baking schedule.  Baking should be fun and when it becomes a chore, time to re-think.  Keep track of your favorites that work for you.  No one is expected to bake every recipe, I sure don't.  It can be like a wirlwind, getting hooked on bread but it can also get to be too much when goals are set too high.  Take your time, and relax.   Most bake less in the hotter summer months.   --Mini Oven

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

Well said.                                                               weavershouse

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I must be the only one on TFL that hasn't tried this and I can't get the recipe link to work. Thank you,

 

Eric

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

weavershouse

zolablue's picture
zolablue

Vermont Sourdough – Hamelman

 

Bread, Sourdough

Yield: 2 Loaves

   

Ingredients

 

LIQUID-LEVAIN BUILD

150 grams   Bread flour

188 grams   Water

30     Mature culture (liquid)

 

FINAL DOUGH

750 grams   Bread flour

100 grams   Whole-rye flour

462 grams   Water

19 grams   Salt

338     Liquid levain (all less 30 g)

   

Directions

 

1. LIQUID LEVAIN:

Make the final build 12 to 16 hours before the final mix, and let stand in a covered container at about 21 °C/70°F

 

2. MIXING: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl, including the levain, but not the salt. In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed just until the ingredients are incorporated into a shaggy mass. Correct the hydration as necessary Cover the bowl with plastic and let stand for an autolyse phase of 20 to 60 minutes. At the end of the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the surface of the dough, and finish mixing on second speed for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The dough should have a medium consistency. Desired dough temperature: 22 °C/ 76°F

 

3. BULK FERMENTATION: 2 1/2 hours.

 

4. FOLDING: Fold the dough either once (after 1 1/4) hours) or twice (at 50-minute intervals), depending on dough strength.

 

5. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: Divide the dough into 1.5-pound pieces shape round or oblong.

 

6. FINAL FERMENTATION: Approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 22 °C/76° F (alternatively, retard for up to 8 hours at 10 °C/50 °F, or up to 18 hours about 5,5 °C/42 °F).

 

7. BAKING: With normal steam, 240 °C/460 °F for 40 to 45 minutes. More often than not, this bread is retarded before the bake. The result is a loaf with moderate tanginess and a sturdy crust that conveys a lot of bread flavor.

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Thanks ZB, I appreciate that. I've been wanting to do a smallish bread that has a powerful flavor.

Eric

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I just came back online to give Eric the Vt. Sourdough recipe and see you did that. We had company pop in and they just left. Thanks again zb.                                   weavershouse

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Zolablue and weavershouse, you two are tag teaming me! Thanks WH for thinking about me. I wanted to get a batch started tonight.

Eric

avatrx1's picture
avatrx1

Since I'm new to sourdough, the types of directives in recipes that confuse me are sones that talk about cultures.  The phrase in this recipe that confuses me is


"30  Mature culture (liquid).  what exactly does that refer to?  I'm guessing a sourdough starter, but with all the discussions I've read on the hydrations of starters - how would I know, in this particular recipe - how liquidy (?) the starter should be?


when speaking of the final build I am assuming this means once you have made the liquid levain and then mixed it with the final dough - that is the final build?


this seems to all be over my head and I need to start out at a much lower level providing there is one.  I've used bigas, and poolish, left dough to mature overnight in the fridge etc, but never worked with a starter or levain or that type of thing.  I'm making a starter now using the directions on the wildyeast blog, but I don't know what to do with it after the weeks time is up other than feed it.


I get the "take some out and replace it with an equal amount".  that seems to be about as much as my old brain comprehends.


For the record:  I build computers, troubleshoot software, fly airplanes (even work on them sometimes) , work on technical stuff all the time, but for some reason - this whole sourdough thing eludes me...............................  :-)  Am I just doing the engineer thing and overthinking everything?


-Susie


 

apprentice's picture
apprentice

Susie, you about to go where others have gone before. Don't worry, it's not really rocket science! :) But it does take an introduction to other aspects of the whole wonderful world of levain breads aka sourdough. You've made your starter, right? And you keep it in the fridge, refreshing on a regular schedule? This is your mother starter. The French sometimes call it la mère," sometimes "le chef." Why, I don't know.


The next area of confusion now seems to be what does it mean to "build the culture," a process also known as "elaborating." I LOVE Jeffrey Hamelman's description in his book Bread. I love his book period. But what I found so charming about his description of elaboration was when he described how to take a small bit of your mother starter and feed it until you have enough to make bread.


The build should be done in a couple of stages, he said, because <here's where I smile> how would we humans feel if we had to eat a whole day's food at once? Then he explains the math to do 2 feedings and ensure you end up with the right amount of sourdough starting with about 1T of your culture. Get his book or find another description of the process. It's not hard, just lengthy to go into here.


Another area of confusion is the hydration. What's a liquid starter? What's a stiff one? It's easy once you know. Basically, a liquid culture is around 125% hydration. One caveat: we're talking bakers' percentages here. Every ingredient is considered in relation to the flour (e.g. 100 g flour with 125 g water = 125% hydration). A stiff starter is usually in the range of 60% hydration.


Whether your mother starter is stiff or liquid is almost a non-issue. For one thing, you can convert it from one to the other. For another, the small amount of mother starter in a home baker's bread recipe, usually around 1T, is not going to affect the final hydration of your dough to any great extent. And you'll create a liquid or a stiff sourdough automatically just by following the bread recipe! The decision is usually made for you by the list of ingredients.


When I was starting with sourdough, I found the language so confusing. The key for me was realizing the difference between the mother starter aka "mature culture" and the levain aka sourdough starter that I needed to build for each and every recipe using only a portion of my mature culture. Perhaps that will be the key for you, too.


In any case, I hope my reply has been helpful. With your background, I have no doubt that once you locate the pieces of the puzzle missing for you, you'll have this aced in no time at all.


 

avatrx1's picture
avatrx1

to apprentice:


I sure hope you're right about my catching on.  You're info does make sense to me and does answer some of my questions.


I guess I need to just dive in and do it.  I think, having raised 5 kids and starving most of the time, I have a strong adversion to wasting anything, so attempting something that ends up being thrown out is a horrible thing.  :-)  I have to keep telling myself - I have 4 dogs - they love my mistakes! They seem to be carbaholics.


I'm going out and about today, maybe I'll stop in at the bookstore and look for the book you suggested.  Getting a good cup of coffee and sitting in the bookstore reading is a nice way to spend some time and forget about the worries of the day.


thank you,


-Susie

Jmarten's picture
Jmarten

Can anyone please tell me how to make the Vermont sourdough starter.

Thank you