The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

patman23's picture

As most of you know I am an avid baker.  I have thoroughly enjoyed baking traditional sandwich breads, Italian breads of all sorts, and of course, our signature multi grain breads are our calling card.  We have even gotten into making some sweet yeast breads that have been a huge hit with our clients.Last week I attempted to set up 2 variations of a sourdough starter for my bread for my future recipe needs and to deepen my own knowledge of maintaining a culture in a home kitchen environment.  To help me get going I purchased the book "Secrets Of A Jewish Baker." - By George Greenstein some time ago and have finally decided to get to work on some of his recipes. For the record, the the man is amazing.  As for the book, it is well written and quite easy to follow if you are interested in getting it.  I HIGHLY recommend it. Needless to say I went with the simplest Rye starter that I could find and began working on my own variations straightway. Chef Greenstein uses this as his basic Rye Starter. I'll refer to this as my control; 1 1/4 c room temp filtered water. 1.25c 100% WW Flour 1/2 tsp of Yeast 1tsp pulverized onions. Directions: Combine to make a soupy mixture and let rest covered at room temp until it is frothy and at least doubled in size. 50 /50 Variation #1:As most of yuo know I do perfer to mill the bulk of my own flour so I figured that I'd try to see what I could capture directly off of the winter wheat berries. 1c WW Flour 1cRye Flour 2c water (Filtered) 1tsp yeast 1 tsp pulverized onions Directions: Combine to make a soupy mixture and let rest covered at room temp until it is frothy and at least doubled in size. Note:  Variation 1 is going to be about twice as large in volume as the other two so plan accordingly with your vessels and rising / fermenting locations. Whole Wheat Variation 2:This variation simply replaces all of the Rye flour with home milled WW Flour. 1 1/4 c room temp filtered water. 1.25c 100% WW Flour 1/2 tsp of Yeast 1tsp pulverized onions.Directions: Combine to make a soupy mixture and let rest covered at room temp until it is frothy and at least doubled in size. Tomorrow will be the real test to see how they do. I have high expectations so maybe this time next week, I may have some nice SD bread!  The hope is to see a frothy bubbling action at the top of the dough mixture right before the next feeding. So the whole point here is to "catch" the "right" bacteria and allow it to grow for the purpose of fermenting your own bread recipe, to help with the rising process, gluten development or all three.  Honestly, for me, the flavor of these breads are almost impossible to be beat.  The depth in flavor and the brightness of the fermented yeasts leave an aftertaste that is truly incomparable to anything that a big box store has to offer or even local bake shops here in my area. Especially when you combine it with the flavors of the various wheat berries and fresh butter or olive oil. Wow, love it... I have attempted this a few times before and it honestly never ended too well.  Sure I was able to get a loaf or two but at the end of the day I was left wanting.  So what am I doing different now?  Great question!  I am only a few days out of the hospital, I need to have a reason to get off my keister and I have very little other distraction.  My hope is that by me being confined to the house for the next week or two, I'll be able to focus, stay disciplined and take really good notes.  So I expect that I'll be referring back to this blog entry more than you will as my regular readers. So, if you're up for it, join on and we can learn and bake together! It's only fair to warn you that I do have a few other things in my arsenal.  Another book, this one by. Susan Jain Cheney called: "Bread Time"  and I also have a few of my favorite Peter Rienheart books and lastly the "Tassajara Bread Book" - by Edward Brown.  All great authors, all great chefs, all great bakers. In regards to equipment I do have a nice bread mixer, I have the right pans, a clean work surface and I'm starting with a clean kitchen.  Our oven is clean and functional and I have cooling racks to get my loaves cooled down quickly.  Lastly I do have a decent baking stone, but don't get hung up on that.  Any brick wrapped in foil will do.  A decent internal thermometer is also nice to have. You may remember, the last time I tried this, I ended up in the hospital for a week. Join me in hoping for a better outcome would ya?!  One poster said that I may be allergic to wheat.  That is something my wife would love to convince me of.  No such luck on a wheat allergy, just a bad season for headaches. :-) Meanwhile I'm onto my second feeding so lets see how we look.   Day Two FeedingAll three batches look quite frothy and active.  They are not too aromatic but I'm not sticking my nose right into the bowl either.  My feeding went exactly as follows. Control:  Add 1c Rye Flour plus 1/2c room temp filtered waterVariation #1: Add 1c Rye Flour plus 1c of WW Flour, plus 1c room temp filtered waterVariation #2:  Add 1c WW Flour plus 1/2c room temp filtered waterNow that the new feedings have been mixed in I'll let this sit for 12 to 24 hours depending on how long it takes for the dough to become highly active again.  Based on what I've seen so far, I think we will be closer to the 12 - 14 hour mark.  I'll let you know as soon as I get there!!  Ok, so it's been about 4 or 5 hours since I fed the starter and it has already literally doubled in size and is nice and bubbly. There is lots of great action throughout the dough that shows that the fermentation process is moving along quite nicely.  I decided not to feed the dough this time.  There seems to be plenty for it to feed on and as such overfeeding will actually decrease the fermentation process that we are working towards.   After stirring the starters I have noticed that they each have a very gelatinous consistency, not very pleasant if you ask me but it's all part of the process... I'll see if I have any additional containers because I'll obviously need a bigger bowl before it's all said and done.  

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