The Fresh Loaf

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Well, I finally did it!

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Susan's picture
Susan

Well, I finally did it!

Today I baked the sourdough bread I've been looking for ever since starting this odyssey. It has a crispy crust and a stretchy, holey crumb. And it's easy. As I told a couple of friends earlier, "...it's reproducible, if the weather stays exactly how it is today."

I'm not suggesting that this could be anyone else's ultimate sourdough, but it sure is mine, at least for right now. Thanks to all who have helped me over the past year or so, even unwittingly. It continues to be great fun. The recipe is below.

My Ultimate Sourdough

Susan's Ultimate Sourdough

Starter is made the way Peter Reinhart suggested to us in class: 1:3:4 (starter:water:flour)

A single small boule, made by hand:

12g starter

175g water

25g whole wheat flour

225g hi-gluten flour (All Trumps, to be exact)

5g salt (I use Kosher)

Mix starter and water, mix in flour. Rest a few minutes, then re-mix. Dump into a greased bowl, let rise until doubled, about 8 hours. Turn the very soft dough onto your counter and pat it out, then sprinkle salt over the top. Roll it up, then gently knead a few times to distribute the salt. Let relax. Do the following until the dough is hard to fold: round up, let the dough relax, stretch and fold. Round up, let relax, shape, and put it in a banneton for proofing 3-4 hours in a warm spot.

The oven was preheated for 30 minutes at 500F, and reduced to 450F after I put the loaf in. It was baked on a tray, covered, for 18 minutes. The cover was then removed and the loaf baked until dark brown, about another 8 minutes.

Comments

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Beautiful loaf, Susan! But how could you? I was just getting the hang of your other sourdough and now you tempt me with this beauty. The recipe is already in my trusty notebook and I have a question. What do you mean by the starter being made the way Peter R suggested? Did you make a different one from your usual? Will it work in wet and cold WA? (Just kidding on the last one) Thanks for sharing, again, A.

Marni's picture
Marni

That is a beautiful looking loaf.  I can see why you'd be happy with it!  I'm new to sourdough, so I hope you don't mind a question- you don't mention steam or spraying, etc.  Does covering the loaf replace that?  Does it keep it moist longer too?  What do you cover it with? Whoops- three questions! 

Marni

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

I have been looking for an uncomplicated sourdough recipe and this looks pretty darn easy! I know what my baking project for the week-end is going to be. My starter (Jim 3 named after a contributor here who has since moved on...) has been out of the fridge and warming and getting fed the past two days - I'll report back with my result. I also am interested in hearing about Reinhart's starter method - I've got the book but I'm looking forward to your interpretation...

 Trish

rainbowbrown's picture
rainbowbrown

That looks so good. I love the crust color. Congratulations on your find.

jpfridy's picture
jpfridy

Beautiful crumb and a gorgeous crust with an attractive grigne.  I look forward to when I can finally produce loaves anywhere near this level of quality.

Susan's picture
Susan

Thanks for enjoying this loaf with me. I've made it a few times, so it really is reproducible.


Annie and Trish, As our little TFL group left Peter Reinhart's class not long ago, he called out to refresh our starter using a 1:3:4 ratio. I went home and adopted that ratio, and it's been working well for me. I refresh using 15g:45g:60 or 30:90:120 depending on how much I want to keep around. btw, I've been refreshing my starter about once a week, and immediately put it in back in the fridge (Thanks, Mike A.). I can use it the next day, and for the next 5 days (so far) to start dough, without any further refreshment.

Marni, covering the loaf for about half the baking time is a standard for me. Either put the loaf in a preheated Dutch Oven or roaster, or on a hot stone or cookie sheet with some type of covering, even just a stainless steel bowl, and it will make a tremendous difference in oven spring. Give it a try. You won't need to put water in the oven or spray. I make small loaves for the two of us and we eat 'em right up, so there's no waste. I've also found that sourdough bread lasts longer than yeast-risen bread.


Annie, it had better work in WA, or I'll be terribly embarrassed!

Jpfridy, you can do it, just make the same loaf over and over again until it's like you want, making small changes. Don't switch from recipe to recipe, hoping to find one that will work for you. It's not the recipe so much as technique.


May your bread rise,

Susan from San Diego

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Susan, thank you for your speedy answer. I have been using your 1/4c:1/2c:1/2c and it doubles quickly. Next time I need to refresh I'll try the new regime - even if the math scares me! A.

AnnieT's picture
AnnieT

Hi Susan - from sunny but still darned chilly WA! Well, I made a batch of the starter using exactly the weights you recommended and placed it in the refrigerator immediately. I took it out to make the old faithful sourdough loaf and I had to wrassle it out of the jar. It had the texture of very stretchy rubber and I ended up breaking it into the water with my fingers because my whisk couldn't cope. Have I done something dreadfully wrong? I did notice that it had risen in the refrigerator. I added extra water when the dough seemed too dry - I suppose that was because of the starter being so thick? Oh dear, something else to mither about! Hope you can help, A.

Susan's picture
Susan

Rubbery sounds about right. And fingers work fine, although I usually use my kitchen shears and snip it into little bits while it's sitting in the water, then beat the aitch out of it with my chopstick. I've been using the recipe above lately, which only uses 12g starter. If you're using a recipe that calls for more starter, then you might have to add more water, which you did. How could you go dreadfully wrong? You know more than you think you do! Forget about time and do what the starter or dough is ready to do. If your starter looks like it needs a little time on the counter, leave it out. If it needs to be refrigerated to keep it from getting depleted, put it in the fridge. Nothing is cast in stone, as we're all working with our local temperature and humidity. Let me know how your bread turns out.

Susan from San Diego

MaryinHammondsport's picture
MaryinHammondsport

Susan, I've had a question about your Magic Bowl method and now seems to be the time to ask it.

In using either the Pyrex or the stainless steel bowl, do you preheat it in the oven before using it to cover the bread, rinse it out with hot water but have it otherwise cold, or just put it over the bread cold after you put the bread in?

I preheated it the first time I used it, and got wonderful oven spring. The second time I did not preheat it and the boule just sat there, but it was a different dough recipe, so I don't know whether to change the recipe or the bowl temperature.

Thanks for any help forthcoming.

Mary

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I quickly scanned the other comments. I have a question. Is it very sour? Or quite neutral in taste? It's beautiful!

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

You made a beautiful loaf that I'm going to try today. That's just what I like my bread to look like and sometimes I get it and sometimes not but your recipe looks so easy I'm going to give it a try. I've been making Nury's Rye and my own rye in the Le Creuset and I'm very happy with both but this looks too good to pass up. Great job Susan.                                                                                                                           weavershouse

ejm's picture
ejm

Brilliant, Susan! It looks fabulous. 

About what temperature is your "warm" spot for proofing?

-Elizabeth

Susan's picture
Susan

Mary, I've done both, and I really can't tell any difference. When I use a Pyrex bowl, I usually heat some water in it in the microwave, but mainly just to heat the bowl before it goes in the oven, for safety's sake. Don't know if it actually is safer, but that's what I do. I pour the hot water in the sink before the bowl goes in the oven. Make sure you put a kitchen towel over the glass in your oven door in case you drip water; don't want any broken oven windows! Using a stainless steel bowl is easier, it won't break and it's so thin that pre-heating couldn't possibly matter, imho. I don't rinse a stainless bowl. And please don't burn yourself!

Elizabeth, I put a cup of boiling water in my microwave along with the dough to proof it. Seems like it's about 83-85F. I usually change the water out once, when it gets cold.

Jane, I see where you're coming from! That's a question I find very hard to answer. I made a loaf of commercial-yeast bread the other day and found it bland compared with my naturally leavened bread. And day-old sourdough bread is much more sour than fresh sourdough bread. This bread is not neutral, nor is it like SF sourdough, it's somewhere in between. Sorry I can't give you a definitive answer. People taste sour differently, too, so it's hard to know what others consider sour.

Weavershouse, you've been a big help to me, whether you know it or not; thanks for the compliment.

Another thing, I've been very free about putting the dough in the fridge when I had to, or overnight.

Thanks again, everybody! I hope I've answered all your questions. If not, just ask. Good luck.

Susan from San Diego

ejm's picture
ejm

What a good idea to put a cup of boiling water into the microwave to warm it up! I have always used the oven with the light turned on but I don't think it's quite as warm, especially in the winter. But it always feels like a bit of a waste of energy to have the light on for such a long time.

We don't have a microwave oven, but we do have a toaster oven. Maybe this is the way to go.  

-Elizabeth

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Susan.What a beautiful loaf!It's hard to believe how easy it sounds to make compared to many sourdough breads. I'm going to give it a try!Thanks!
David

MaryinHammondsport's picture
MaryinHammondsport

Thanks for the answer, Susan. I think I will preheat, and switch to the metal bowl, although I do love the chance to watch it rise under the glass bowl.

And yes, we will be careful. We figure it's a four-handed job, which I think makes it a lot safer, as long as we don't get in each other's way.

Mary

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

and I'm going to try this also! I tried the bowl method before and had a problem because the SS bowl I have is really big and I ended up hitting my loaf with it when I took the bowl off. This time..I'll pull the rack out to lift the bowl off. Thanks for sharing!

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

... but that's a great looking loaf. Congrats Susan! And how lucky to have a class with PR. Wow.

Trishinomaha's picture
Trishinomaha

Susan:

 I wanted you to know I quadrupled this recipe last week-end. I was going to have a house full since my kids and two grandkids (2 & 3) bought a house three blocks away from us (lucky me!!) and Sunday was moving day with a crew of all their buddies helping them move. My contribution was to watch the babies and feed everyone supper after the big move. I didn't get started on this quick enough on Saturday so after its 8 hour rise I had to retard it in the fridge overnight. I got it out Sunday morning, let it warm up a bit and then formed my four small loaves. They rose for four to five hours and then I scored and popped them, two at a time onto my hot stone and covered with a huge aluminum bowl I have. The fragrance while baking was amazing. Long story short, it's Tuesday morning and I have no loaves left! My daughter in law said the four loaves laying on the cooling rack looked like a picture in a cookbook. The little ones were walking around after supper with small slices of bread with a dab of butter munching away. (No better compliment than that, right?). Sorry, no pictures this time  - we were too busy and it disapeared too fast. Thanks for another great recipe!!

 Trish

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Susan you have once again set a high standard using simplicity. This is a very nice recipe, easy to follow with super results. I love that you make small boules. The breads are always fresh and it's just enough for a dinner meal. Thanks for another great post!

Eric 

weavershouse's picture
weavershouse

I doubled the recipe and we already ate them both. It was double delicious! Thanks again Susan. weavershouse

Susan's picture
Susan

Thanks, David. You do beautiful breadwork! And I love your interaction with bwraith. Hope he's having fun on his trip.

Paddyscake, I'm always doing something like that. Just the other day I dumped a loaf right on the open oven door--splat! It was a pancake, of course, but the birds loved it.

JMonkey, I thoroughly enjoyed Peter's class. He really, really wanted us to have fun and be successful breadmakers.

Trish, so glad you had a good time with it. You are a lucky girl to have your grandchildren close by. They'll be helping you make bread before long.

Ah, Eric, didn't you know? Simplicity is my middle name. Thanks for your kind words.

And Weavershouse, your feedback is very much appreciated.

Also, if Jane's around, I did notice that my dough was very 'fragrant' coming out of the refrigerator this morning. Very earthy and sour-smelling. This loaf is 40% spelt. Now, if I can just keep from dropping it before it's baked.

Best to all, and thanks again.

Susan from San Diego

Susan's picture
Susan

I'm happy to report that I didn't drop the 40% spelt loaf on the oven door, although I did slice it a bit warm, as you can probably tell. Spelt makes for a much softer crumb. Personally, I'm a chewy-crumb girl, but it's a very nice loaf. Used the same method as at the top of this page, but with the following formula:

12g starter

162g water

150g hi-gluten flour

100g whole spelt flour

5g salt

Spelt CrustSpelt Crumb

Susan from San Diego

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Looks perfect Susan! Is spelt known by another name? It seems I recall there is an AKA that I have in stores here in flyover country. We don't have spelt on the major supermarkets.

Eric

Susan's picture
Susan

The spelt I used is Arrowhead Mills' Organic Whole Spelt flour. I bought it at a local "healthy food" store.

Thanks!

Susan from San Diego

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

First, congratulations on your fabulous sourdough loaf! It must feel wonderful to have found the bread you've been searching for.


I made the recipe yesterday, and I didn't get great results. Of course, I am pretty far from your conditions in altitude and humitity--high desert, 7000 ft. I did convert my starter to the 1:3:4 ratio, but I'm wondering if I needed to build it a little longer. (I also wonder if ww and rye starters should adhere to that ratio?)


Here's what happened: the dough was very sticky and rose slowly, although within the times you designated. Last night I turned the final rise out of the brotform when it looked like it was in danger of over-rising, and it did seem to almost collapse. It was still an hour short of the 3-hour final rise (and yes, up here things do rise faster). I also had it in a very warm place. It would be helpful to me to know what to look for instead of times, I guess...


The bread came out fairly flat and with little oven spring and no big holes. Do you think that this is all because of over-rising? Is your dough sticky? After the first mix, my dough wasn't really soft, but it softened up after the first hour. Also, the kosher salt didn't disperse well although I did work the dough as you directed.


Any pointers would be very helpful! Thanks, Patricia

Susan's picture
Susan

So sorry I missed your congrats and questions, Patricia.  Better late than never, I hope. 


Thanks for your kind words, and for trying the bread.  I've made this bread at 5800 feet with no problems, but 7000 is way up there!  Over-rising could certainly have made it flatten, and that happens at sea level, too, believe me!  I let it rise at room temp after an overnite in the fridge, and take whatever time it needs.  I check the primary fermentation by snipping the top of the loaf with scissors to check for the presence of bubbles.  At that point, I shape the dough and put it in whatever I'm using for proofing.  Poke the dough with a floured finger to see if it's ready to put in the oven.  If the dough collapses, you've waited too long.  I like a blown-out look, so heat the oven when the poked hole fills very slowly.


As far as the salt goes, I use whatever kind is handy, but always fine ground.  I weigh the salt rather than measure it so I don't have to worry about which one I pick up.


The dough is fairly sticky after mixing and resting, especially if I've used a bit of rye flour in it.  I spray the countertop with oil to manipulate the dough, and even rub a little oil on my hands.


Again, sorry I took so long to answer!


Susan from San Diego

pattycakes's picture
pattycakes

I haven't tried the recipe again, but I will try it again and let you know how it goes. Since I wrote, I haven't had any disasters, so I expect that I'm getting the hang of things...


Thanks again,


Patricia

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And there is plenty of information if googled.  Hard to believe that 160 years ago it was the dominant grain in Europe.


Mini

koloatree's picture
koloatree

hello,


i will be attempting your sourdough recipe this weekend. i cant wait to try. the bread looks awesome, thanks for sharing!

nijap's picture
nijap

I hate to seem ignorant but since I have not followed this thread, I will appreciate the componants that make up this ratio for refreshing the starter.


 


nijap

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, nijap:


1:3:4 means 1 part starter to 3 parts water to 4 parts flour. For example, 15 gms of starter mixed with 45 gms of water and 60 gms of flour.


What flour you use is up to you, of course. I use a mix of 70% AP, 20 % whole wheat and 10% whole rye. I'm not sure what flour Susan uses to refresh her starter, but I bet she'll tell us.


David

nijap's picture
nijap

Thanks David.  If I may impose a bit more, my bread, even with nice crum with holes is still not light enough.  I used Whole wheat and it is heavier then Pillsbury unbleached all purpose flour. The bread does look like Susan's, like the photo at the top, and is bit more chewy then I prefer.


Qustion is, what contributes light fluffy structure, and how much of it is the flour?  Also, how do I make it less chewy?


 


nijap

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Nijap,


If I understand what you are asking, the flour here is a high protein bread type flour. If you want to make a more even crumb I think you would be better with a different recipe. Maybe an Italian bread. Italian has a little malt and sugar usually and some oil and usually milk instead of water. I hope this helps.


Eric

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

on making the cover.  I knew you were coverbread material!  Love them boules!


Mini

blackbird's picture
blackbird

I hope I haven't tripped over my foolishness, but you write that you covered the loaf for the first part of the bake.  Please, can you say how the loaf was covered?  Or a photo?


Robert


 

Susan's picture
Susan

EHanner provided a good overview:


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/3571/covered-baking-revealed


Basically, you overturn a stainless steel bowl (or roaster cover, or anything that would give the dough room to rise) on your loaf as it goes into the oven and leave it on for 15-20 minutes.  Carefully remove it, and continue baking until the loaf is dark brown (a darker loaf has a tastier crust). 


Have fun, Robert.  And thanks for asking.


Susan from San Diego


 

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Susan,


(I just saw this post, I guess the fact that you made the front page brought your year-old post back to our attention. Congrats!) Beautiful bread too! Is this still your ideal sourdough bread?


Also, it's time I thanked you for the vital information you provided about covered baking. I had thought I was getting good oven spring, until I used a turkey roaster lid as a cover for the first time, around 4 or 5 months ago. The oven spring with the lid created "bloom" and "grigne" both, as I had never gotten with all other steaming methods. The bread-to-be stays uncolored for much longer, allowing lots of growth under the lid. The resulting bread looks so beautiful, I am still amazed at this technique!


Sample picture:


Oven Spring


David

Susan's picture
Susan

Very kind of you! 


Thanks for including your bread photo; it looks lovely.  Covering the baking loaf really does make a difference. 


With just the two of us here in the house, I keep my breadmaking simple. If you go to my blog you'll see what I've been up to.  Basically, I just add seeds or grains to my current basic recipe.  For instance, yesterday I added lightly toasted walnuts to the dough.  And we love the Faux Rye for sandwiches (with just the tiniest bit of rye flour, it's really just Caraway Bread).  Other favs are flaxseeds, poppyseeds, sunflower seeds, and steel-cut oats.


Susan from San Diego

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi Susan,


Your blog posts contain numerous nuggets of bread-baking wisdom! I like your overall "minimalist" approach, with respect both to your tools and also in your variations on a proven theme. Curiosity makes me ask: what's the chopstick for?


It's true that it doesn't take much to make good bread, but it can be a struggle for the novice figuring out how to get there! (Which is also why seemingly small changes, such as covered baking, can have such profound effects on the edible results, as well as the breadbaker's overall craft.) I also appreciate the seed and grain additions in your breads; again, small changes providing significant taste variations.


Do I detect another simplification? Your earlier SD recipe employed a "final levain", while your newer recipe goes from a small amount of starter directly into the dough, requiring a longer bulk fermentation to inoculate all the flour. Do you notice a flavor enhancement using this technique?


Keep up the great work!


David


 

Susan's picture
Susan

David, sorry I confounded you with the chopstick!  That's what I use to mix the dough, then use it to turn the dough over on itself in the tub.  It's so easy to clean, and does the job well. 


Heck, maybe I'm lazy, but I do like simplicity.  Here's a loaf I just pulled out of the oven, it's got Nigella sativa (black sesame seeds) in it. 



I'm not trying to confuse anyone, but my methods certainly evolve over time.  As you can tell, I'm not one to use cast-in-stone recipes, altho I have lots of baking books that I love to peruse.


Glad I've been able to help you in small ways.  My breadmaking certainly wouldn't be where it is today without TFL and the Bread Buddies I've made.


Susan from San Diego

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Beautiful bread, Susan! One good pic deserves another.


(For some reason I don't always get alerts on the threads I subscribe to, so I missed this one.) I love the way the bread is opening up, you can see the terrific oven spring in the finished loaf. Black sesame seeds sound wonderful!


As to confusion, it isn't always a bad thing. But you must be strong to mix dough with a chopstick! Wet doughs do create special challenges. I have found dipping my hand in water and mixing in a large bowl (from Hamelman) works as well.


My baking has improved manifold since I found TFL. I was just beginning to work with sourdough, so it feels like it's been a long time, though it's just been a year. All sorts of simple methods have popped up to enhance my technique: learning not to fight with wet doughs, but to go with them, has been high on the list.


I'll be watching your blog for more beautiful bread!


David


 

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Yet another excellent use for Susan's magic bowl (well, actually it is more like David's (dmsnyder) magic foil turkey pan too). I've been trying to use up some organic white flour that handles very strangely in that it creates an extremely slack dough that gets wetter during proofing, I've never had so many problems with dough as I've had using up this particular odd flour. More than once now, the shaped boules have stuck badly to the bannetons, where I had to pull and scrape them out, giving me a very messy ripped and deflated pancake loaf.


When this happened to me again Sunday night however, after the usual string of choice words to express my frustration, I pulled out a large foil turkey pan from my pantry, sprayed the inside of the pan with water just before loading the messy loaf into the oven on the stone, covered the loaf with the foil pan, and lo and behold 15 minutes later the messy loaf oven-springed beautifully to normal boule height! It even had a nice open crumb when we sliced into it. My second boule also got stuck, and I repeated the technique after the first loaf was done, with the same success.


The large turkey pan worked well since I usually make large boules, and my stainless bowl is a bit too small to fit over them without getting stuck to the loaf.


Thanks Susan for highlighting this great technique, and David too for pointing out the benefits of the foil turkey roaster as an inexpensive substitute for a stainless bowl. I've never had a ripped apart, deflated loaf rise as well as these ones did using this simple steaming technique. It rescued my boules from disaster! Can't wait to try it on baguettes soon...  --MD

noyeast's picture
noyeast

Being new to sourdough baking I was shocked at how little starter was called for in your recipe Susan.   I immediately began studying posts on the site on "how to" regarding sourdough starter preparation.


After recognising the importance of a healthy starter I decided to try your recipe four days ago.  I have just this minute removed my second batch from the oven which I trippled and both batches were superb, as testified by my family who can't resist slicing and eating... slicing and eating.


 


Thanks Susan, I will be whipping up another batch very soon.


 


Paul.

Susan's picture
Susan

I'm so glad you are happy with your bread!  Isn't it a wonderful feeling to make something good for your family and have them just love it? 


There's a batch of this bread in a big yogurt tub on my counter right now, thinking about rising.  :-)


My best to you and your family,


Susan from San Diego

matthewf01's picture
matthewf01

I am still new to breadbaking, and new to sourdough, but I tried making this recipe and after just managing to get the thing in the oven, I am just perplexed.


I just picked up a kitchen scale, so I did this recipe by weight, exactly. I carefully measured all the ingredients, and like Paul above me, I too was shocked by the tiny amount of starter.


After the 4 hour rise, not much activity at all. After the stretch and fold, it was still way to wet to even handle, I didn't think it would really 'form' in the proof basket, and I ended up having to throw in more flour to work it into a still very soft ball.


I had to throw it in the fridge overnight, but after I took it out the next day for a 3-4 hour rise there was little to no rise (I put it in my banneton, this is the first loaf i put in there after flouring it very well), but the dough was still so soft and a bit tacky that when I set it upside down on the peel it just kinda gooped out and spread quickly. I just called it quits and reformed it into a ball (gently)... I already didnt expect much out of it.


It was too soft to slash well... it rose maybe 3 inches out of the pancake shape it WAS in... but I just dont understand how this loaf is SUPPOSED to come together! Really not sure what I did wrong... maybe someone has some pointers. Thanks!

Soundman's picture
Soundman

Hi  matthewf01,


If you are new to sourdough, and your starter is very young, it may not yet have all the microorganisms it needs to raise and flavor good bread. I know when I began with sourdough, I jumped the gun and tried baking with it before it was ready, so it's possible you're doing likewise.


Starters, as Debra Wink has taught us, can get bubbly with bacteria in the early stages, and the yeast take longer to develop than the initial bacteria. So if your starter is really young, keep feeding it for a while.


If it's not all that new, then it still sounds like it needs some development time to really do the job. It may take longer with sourdough (than commercial yeast) to get a doubling in dough size, but it will happen, and the dough itself should feel firm, elastic, and extensible all at the same time, even with slack doughs.


Keep at it, you'll get it!


David

Susan's picture
Susan

Thanks, Matthewf01, for trying my bread, though I'm sorry you didn't have instant success!  Sometimes the bread gods just frown on us!


I suggested in the recipe to let your bread rise 8 hours.  You indicated that after 4 hours you didn't see much activity.  I take that to mean that you didn't let the dough ferment but 4 hours.  You really wouldn't see any activity until closer to the full 8 hour ferment (unless perhaps the temperature was very, very warm).  I leave my dough at room temp (68-70F) during primary fermentation. 


Each time you fold the dough (maybe three or four times with a rest in between each fold until it's relaxed), it will become stronger and puffier, until it is almost difficult to fold.  That's when you know it is ready to put into a banneton (or to leave on parchment to proof).


And here are two questions for you:  Are you using high-gluten flour? If you are not, then you should use a different recipe.  And are you sure your starter is active?  Soundman is right about using starter that's not ready.  Your bread will never be as good as it can be if your starter is not healthy and active.


Breads made with high-gluten flour should be very stretchy and chewy after baking.  If you want a soft crumb, you should choose a different recipe that calls for All Purpose flour.  If you want something in between, use Bread Flour.


Pick one recipe, Matthew, and make it over and over until you think it's perfect.  You will have learned a lot, and will be ready to progress to another recipe.


Let me know how it goes,


Susan from San Diego

matthewf01's picture
matthewf01

Susan, thanks for taking the time to reply.


Regarding my ferment/initial rise time, I think I mis-typed actually. I let it rise overnight, so yep 8 hours. Then I stuck it in the fridge after my folding during the workday. Came home, let it warm up a few hours then baked.


Since baking this loaf, I tried this one the next day (trying to recover my sense of accomplishment, haha!)


http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/08/my-new-favorite-sourdough/


(Quick note on taste, the recipe in the link above did not have as strong a sour taste as the recipe on this page, so I found it much more flavorful though I might try again with rye flour, as it lent a great aroma to the dough!)


However nearly the same results, little to no rise! There were a couple of very large air bubbles in the final loaf, but I chalked this up moreso to the water content blowing bubbles in the dough during baking, rather than yeast activity, as the crumb around the holes was still very dense (no uniform smaller bubbles like we want to see).


So I took a look back at my starter. It's a month old, but the culture itself is the 'Friends of Carl Oregon Trail sourdough' I received in the mail... it's just my particular batch that's just starting out. When I feed it at room temp, it typically does increase volume, but I find it to be inconsistent at times. Here's the catch, as it relates to these two failed recent attempts:


I took out my main jar of starter from the fridge, brought to room temp, fed it, then took out a small amount and put in a separate container and left that one out as my 'working batch', returning my 'master jar' to the fridge. This working batch DID have good rise earlier on, but it was a few days of feedings until I could finally bake with it, and by that time I think it died down. It smelled sour, it had a few bubbles, but probably not from yeast. Sometimes I put the thing in a warm oven to 'incubate' -- maybe I killed it? I dont know what, but I'm thinking something got to it. I've since thrown out that working batch, and I'm feeding my master jar in preparation to try again.


*A starter question-- should I always discard some starter before feeding? Sometimes when I feed, I just add a small amount of flour/water, like 30 grams, and leave the rest of the starter. Is there a point where it's too 'saturated' with active starter, so they don't have much work to do when I give them a small amount of flour? It seems with many people saying they "discard all but about xx grams of starter, then feed", they are in essence, avoiding feeding less flour to more yeast/lactobactilli, as opposed to more flour to fewer yeast/lactobactilli, with good chance to multiply (and thus get a good rise in the jar).


On the subject of flours, when recipes call for high-gluten, I am using unbleached bread flour. I avoid AP flour in bread as a substitute for anything unless explicitly called for.


I appreciate your receptiveness towards helping out a baking novice... but it's been fun and I will certainly update you on my next attempts. I baked these loaves under a giant flower pot I got from walmart with the top plugged, but I found a big stainless steel bowl at Ikea for $7 that's a perfect size for a boule (the flower pot I had was just way too huge!) Should give some good results :)

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