The Fresh Loaf

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advice for my first loaf

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agrossbl's picture
agrossbl

advice for my first loaf

I've been taking really good care of my starter for about a month and it seems very healthy!

 

I'm hoping to actually bake with it for the first time soon. I was going to try this recipe: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/24691/sourdough-recipe-beginners  (but if anyone else has a different recommendation that would be great too!) I have a few of questions about it--

 

1. If I am feeding my starter equal weights of flour and water, am I at 100% hydration regardless of how much starter I have? (it looks like a lot of people have 1:2:2, but I have been doing 1:1:1)

2. It says to "Create some steam" by putting a cup of water in the oven. Am i supposed to leave this water in there the whole time I'm baking the loaf, or do I just create a little steam and then take it out?

3. My scale isn't digital or of particularly good quality...will it matter much if the measurments aren't perfect?

4. It says to refrigerate it overnight. Does it matter exactly how long? I have a weird work schedule and might need to leave it in the fridge for over 24 hrs.

5. It doesn't say what type of flour to use. The flour I have at home and that I have been feeding my starter is "white whole wheat" flour (unbleached), will this be fine?

5. Any other tips for a first time sourdough baker?

 

Thanks so much!!

agrossbl's picture
agrossbl

Oh, I was also wondering if someone could explain "proofing" (i can find instructions but no definition of what it means), and also i was wondering how long before baking should I feed the starter (I usually feed before I go to sleep...if I start the recipe in the morning without feeding is that fine?) Thanks!

cranbo's picture
cranbo

"Proofing" just means the final rise of the dough before baking, after it's been shaped. 

Your starter should be fed at least 4 hours before baking. If you feed with a 1:2:2 or 1:3:3 ratio before going to sleep (and leave it at room temp), you should be able to use your starter in the morning without any issues, assuming that your starter is generally healthy and active as described in the instructions. 

 

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Hi there! 

It's a good recipe to try :) not being selfish here, it's very forgiving...and thanks for trying it! 

To answer your questions: 

1. If I am feeding my starter equal weights of flour and water, am I at 100% hydration regardless of how much starter I have? (it looks like a lot of people have 1:2:2, but I have been doing 1:1:1)

Yes, still 100%. Although at 1:1:1 your starter will eat through all its food much more quickly. I personally like 1:3:3; this should give your starter enough food for at least 12 hours. 

2. It says to "Create some steam" by putting a cup of water in the oven. Am i supposed to leave this water in there the whole time I'm baking the loaf, or do I just create a little steam and then take it out?

Steam is best during the first 10-15 minutes of baking. After that, you want to remove whatever steam source you are using. 

3. My scale isn't digital or of particularly good quality...will it matter much if the measurments aren't perfect?

That's OK, measurements don't have to be gram-perfect. As I said this recipe is pretty forgiving, but you must focus on watching how the dough behaves (instead of what the clock tells you!) :) 

4. It says to refrigerate it overnight. Does it matter exactly how long? I have a weird work schedule and might need to leave it in the fridge for over 24 hrs.

You should be able to leave it in the fridge for 24 hours without any problem. However, you may not need to leave it at room temp for quite as long after you take it out. Again, watch the dough for how it looks, and not the clock. 

5. It doesn't say what type of flour to use. The flour I have at home and that I have been feeding my starter is "white whole wheat" flour (unbleached), will this be fine?

I typically use unbleached white all-purpose flour, but white whole wheat will work, although you will get more of a nutty, whole-wheat flavor, and probably a somewhat more dense texture; it may not rise quite as much. 

5. Any other tips for a first time sourdough baker?

Yes: be patient, watch the dough not the clock. Also consider baking the finished product in an oven-safe covered container (such as a dutch oven or other pot), as described in the "Baking variation" section. I think you'll be more pleased with the crust outcome. 

Take some photos and let me know how it goes! I look forward to seeing the results. 

agrossbl's picture
agrossbl

After I took it out of the fridge, it hardly rose at all after 5 hours, so I had very little hope of this turning out. It's pretty dense but it rose a lot in the oven. The crust has a nice thickness/crunch and the inside is a little chewy. It doesn't tase very sour but there's definitely a subtle sour taste there. Overall I'm pretty happy how it turned out for my first time! Thanks for the recipe and advice Cranbo!

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Nice job on that loaf! Looks much better than my first sourdough :) Crust looks pretty good, light golden. Some nice little crust blisters from the overnight fermentation, those are always a favorite.

That greying, flat-colored quality I see on the top of the loaf (but not the sides) is still somewhat of an unsolved mystery for me. I think it has something to do with amount of steam and initial heat of the oven (perhaps too hot). I'm curious, do you use a gas or electric oven? And was the loaf placed in the middle of the oven, or slightly more towards the top (or the bottom?)

You said it rose a lot in the oven, that's good, but it also means that you could've left it to ferment at room temp for longer than 5 hours...you probably could go 6+ hours. That would help somewhat with crust browning as well as the tightness of your dough texture. 

If you try it again, try increasing the water to 330g (60% of flour weight), and reduce (or eliminate!) the kneading, instead using only stretch-and-folds to build dough strength. This will develop a very different texture, and help you get a more open, irregular crumb. 

agrossbl's picture
agrossbl

thanks for the feedback!

i have a gas oven, and the loaf was in the middle but perhaps closer to the top. it's not a very nice oven, so i wouldn't be surprised if it was off by a few degrees.

the reason i didn't wait longer for it to rise outside the oven was because it was also failing what i understand of the "poke test"--even after just a couple hours, when i poked, it did not spring back. so i thought there was no hope and just threw it in the oven, ha. 

 i think this also might have something to do with my starter. When I was feeding with WW, it was easily rising by at least double, but when i switched to AP a few days before it was still rising, but not doubling. i baked anyway due to impatience :) i just swtiched back to feeding it WW and it already seems more active. is that normal? did my starter just need more time to get used to AP?

 

cranbo's picture
cranbo

Yes, this is pretty normal starter behavior. Best to not to switch feeding (unless you want to create a totally different starter), they do take some time to adapt to change. 

fminparis's picture
fminparis

If this is truly the first loaf of bread you ever baked, forget about starters, feeding, etc etc and just bake a bread.....then another bread.....then another bread until you learn what mixing and kneading and proofing and shaping and baking are all about. Once you have a decent system of baking,  then yiou can worry about starters.  I've been baking for 20 years and never found a starter necessary to make great bread.

Levin bred's picture
Levin bred

This person just made an awesome loaf of bread with a carbon dioxide-burping fungus that (s)he collected FROM THE ATMOSPHERE, and you're here to poo-poo the effort and tell them to buy commercial yeast?  Considering the sight of their first loaf I would say that is horrible advice.