The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough

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Joe Fisher's picture

Pepping up a sluggish starter?

October 25, 2006 - 12:38pm -- Joe Fisher

For a while, my starters (white and rye) were very active, rising dough quickly and making light, open crumb.  Now I'm getting very sluggish rises and dense, chewy crumb (most notably the white starter) from the same recipes.  I do get a huge oven spring out of them, so *something* is alive in there!

I feed or use the starter once a week.  When feeding, I keep about 4oz and add 2-3oz of flour and 3-4oz of water to make a poolish-like mother starter.  When making plain sourdough, I make a firm starter from the mother starter, like French bread dough.

I've tried overnight proofs in the fridge, and using a pan of hot water in the oven to simulate a proofing tent.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

With bread in the freezer, there wasn't much reason for baking this weekend, so I contented myself with some sourdough English Muffins.  After all, the starter was due for another feeding, right?  Now that they are cooling on the rack, I suppose that I really do need to get to work in the basement. 

 

Baking is so much more fun!

 

PMcCool

cognitivefun's picture

here's how I create great sourdough loaves without kneading

October 19, 2006 - 7:19pm -- cognitivefun

My recipe for sourdough wheat bread

4 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 cup of unbleached full-flavor (dark) whole wheat flour
2 tspns fine sea salt
2 tbspns safflower or other good quality, flavorless oil
4 tbspns good local honey
2 cups wheat sourdough starter
3 - 4 cups icewater

My starter is flour and water only. It doesn't matter if you
use a firm or slack starter. Just make sure it is a good
lively starter that smells good.

In this recipe, I make my dough in a food processor in two batches
because home food processors can't handle the full amount of
dough in one batch. I have tested this with the classic Cuisinart

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

In case you are thinking that there is no way that particular sequence of dots can be connected, stay with me. You may want to send for the nice men in the white coats when I'm done explaining, but until then, think of it as a case study in aberrant psychology.

It began, innocently enough, with Floyd's suggestion (challenge?) to submit some ideas for harvest breads. Some of the things that I have long associated with Autumn are the late-season vegetables like winter squash, pumpkins, and parsnips. Squash can add moisture and texture to breads, as well as a low-key sweetness. Combine that with something savory, like sage, and you have the flavor foundation for a knock-out loaf of bread. Ah, you begin to see where this is going . . .

As I was rummaging around on the internet to see if there was a recipe that I could adapt or just plain steal, I came across a couple of interesting possibilities. Here is one of them: http://www.recipelink.com/mf/0/58698. And here is another: http://www.cookadvice.com/recipes/winter_squash_herb_bread-54827-recipe.htm.

The thing that really grabbed my eye, though, was this recipe: http://www.stephencooks.com/2005/09/roasted_buttern.html. I hadn't been aware of the StephenCooks.com site previously, but I'll definitely be back to browse some more. Sorry, sidetracked again. Anyway, I had a new recipe to try, a fresh-from-the-farmers-market butternut squash on the counter, and a note with the recipe that suggested serving the carbonara with ciabatta. Hmm, ciabatta. That's been on my list of things to try for a while now. There was a stiff starter in the refrigerator that would serve well as the biga for the ciabatta recipe in BBA . . . (Are you paying attention to the dots?)

Saturday dawned, rife with possibilities. My wife was away all day, conducting a seminar. The grass was in need of mowing and there were bare patches to reseed, now that the weather has cooled. And bread to bake. Actually, there was enough starter, after doing 3 builds, to do two batches of bread. First things first: run to the lawn and garden center for 5 pounds of grass seed. Get home, prep the squash and put it in the oven to roast. Mix the ciabatta, set it to bulk ferment. It's definitely a sticky dough, but not nearly as wet as I expected from others' descriptions. First time to follow a recipe by weights instead of volumes.

Back outside to mow the yard. Pop back in to check on progress of ciabatta and do first stretch and fold. (Yes, I washed my hands first!) Took squash out of oven. Decided to make just a plain sourdough bread from BBA. After further looking, decided that one loaf would include walnuts and blue cheese, since my wife loves blue cheese. Mixed mixed and kneaded the dough for that and set it to ferment.

Back outdoors to rake and seed the front yard patches. Headed back in for second stretch and fold with ciabatta. Sourdough rising slowly but steadily. Decided to break for lunch. After lunch, devised couche from heavily floured dish towel and shaped ciabatta loaves per Reinhart's pictures in BBA. Wound up looking like this:

Before heading back out, I put the stone and a steam pan in the oven to preheat. Oh, and separated the squash flesh from the skin and innards now that it was cool enough to handle. Put it in the refrigerator for later.

Then I went back outdoors to rake and seed the patches in the back yard. Afterwards, back in to check on breads. Oven was ready, so gave the ciabatta a final stretch, per BBA instructions and popped them onto the stone, riding on some parchment paper. Filled the steam pan and winced to see some of the spatters landing on the oven window. Somehow escaped causing any damage. Shaped sourdough loaves and placed them in the now-vacant couche.

Went back outside to make sure the seed was properly covered and then started the sprinkler. Next, started putting up new hangers for tools in the garage (that's a follow-up from last weekend's project. Checked the ciabatta when it was close to time. Internal temp read at 202F, so whisked them out of the oven. Sourdough loaves were still rising, so shut off the oven.

My wife got home about this time, so after chatting about our respective days, I ran to the store for carbonara ingredients that weren't on hand at home. (Pancetta isn't part of my standard batterie de cuisine.)

On returning home, after reading the carbonara recipe again, decided that it might take a while to pull everything together, so started working on that. A couple of notes from that process: 1. The recipe calls for 2/3 of the herbs at one point, 2/3 of the herbs at second point, and the reserved herbs in yet a third step. I suspect that the amounts should have been 1/3, 1/3 and 1/3, respectively. 2. The recipe directs you to "sizzle" some of the sage leaves in butter and olive oil as a garnish. I managed to scorch them (literally too many things in the fire at that point), but wound up not missing them in the finished dish. They are a garnish, not an integral part of ingredients, so if you want to simplify by skipping this step, go for it. Fortunately, everything else came to gether successfully. 3. Although the recipe specifically calls for butternut squash, I don't see why other winter squash (buttercup, Hubbard, acorn, etc.) or pumpkin or even sweet potatoes couldn't be substituted.

In the middle of all of this, I noticed that the sourdough was about ready for the oven, so I started the preheat. Since it hadn't cooled completely yet, it got up to temperature fairly quickly. Eventually, the carbonara came together and the bread baked as it should.

The carbonara was fantastic and, yes, pinot grigio is a very good accompaniment. This recipe is definitely in the "keeper" category. It will probably also be a once or twice a year event, because of its complexity.

The ciabatta, however, is going to require some further practice. I don't know if it was the use of the stiff starter for the biga, a too-low hydration, my inexperience with and/or mishandling of this bread, or some combination of those elements, but it wasn't a thing of beauty. Like most sub-par bread experiences, it was, at least, delicious. The crumb was, well, bready. I was looking for an open and big-eyed crumb and wound up with a relatively close-textured, soft crumb. And the shape--well, I'll keep trying.

Here's a photo:

 

The two ciabatta are on the right. You might be able to make out part of the crumb of the nearer loaf. Sorry that the view isn't clearer. The front loaf on the left is the plain sourdough; the rear loaf on the left is walnut/blue cheese sourdough. I was braced for a strong cheese flavor in the walnut/blue cheese loaf, since I'm not especially fond of blue cheese, but was pleasantly surprised that the cheese flavor was subtly blended with the other flavors. I haven't cut into the plain loaf yet.

A long day, lots of work done, good bread and a fantastic dinner to wrap it up. Not bad at all. And, needless to say, Sunday was a quiet day. Thanks, Floyd, for triggering my pinball progression.

PMcCool

Joe Fisher's picture

Dark pumpernickel, tried a cloche

September 18, 2006 - 9:24pm -- Joe Fisher
Forums: 

My wife bought me a Pampered Chef set of stoneware a few weeks ago. I wanted to make some sourdough pumpernickel, so I thought it'd be a great time to try it out as a cloche. This is a dark pumpernickel with raisins, made with rye sourdough starter, molasses, coffee and cocoa powder. Yum!

 

I made two loaves. One I baked as I usually do, on a stone, spraying water into the oven. The other I baked in a cloche, putting the loaf in with the cloche cold and sticking it in a 450F oven.

 

Here's just before being slashed:


Breadsy's picture

Wild yeast starter question

September 4, 2006 - 7:45am -- Breadsy

I'm using Peter Reinhart's BBA method for creating wild yeast starter.  I'm on Day 3, the first day of discarding the excess.  Instead of discarding, I simply divided in half.  One half I fed with unbleached bread flour (as per the BBA), the other half I fed with rye flour.  Is this how I should develop a true rye starter?  I had GREAT luck with this by-the-book method last Spring ... until I threw it away.  Now starting over.  Thanks for your help:  I'm a beginner sourdough student of this website.

cognitivefun's picture

sourdough -- how making bread fits my lifestyle

August 9, 2006 - 8:16am -- cognitivefun
Forums: 

I love sourdough bread.  And I find it fits my lifestyle better anyway.

I work at home. And with baker's yeast bread, I may forget that something is bulk fermenting and it over ferments. With my sourdough bread, I don't have to worry about it. I bulk ferment and proof in my basement at 70f. and I can forget about it for a few hours and not worry about it.

Today for the first time I proofed and then retarded in the fridge and baked early this morning straight from the refrigerator. It worked great, sourdough rye, came out wonderful.

 

Anyone else find that this fits their lifetstyle better?

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

This weekend's baking exercise focused on sourdough Enlish muffins, using the recipe from King Arthurs Flour.  The taste is wonderful!  Even my 4-year old grandson polished his off and he is at a stage where he is developing some very strong opinions about what flavors are or aren't acceptable. 

The crumb was moist, tender and fine-textured.  I had hoped for a more open texture with large, open cells.  A couple of observations: First, with 1 cup of starter (mine is approximately 100% hydration) and 1.5 cups of milk providing the moisture for 5.5 cups of flour, this isn't exactly a slack dough.  Would a wetter dough be more likely to produce a more open crumb?  Second, would the use of water, or a water/milk combination, be more likely to produce a more open crumb?  (The milk I used was 1% milkfat.)  Third, this dough gets a lot of handling, especially since it is rolled out before the muffins are cut.  Would portioning out balls of dough and then gently flattening them into rounds by hand be better for open crumb formation?  Any ideas or suggestions will be cheerfully accepted.

The notion of leaving the sponge overnight, even in a cool basement, when it contains that much milk had me somewhat concerned.  Thankfully, it did not develop an off flavor or odor from any milk spoilage, as I had feared it might.  Could it be that the sourdough starter prevents other not-so-welcome bacteria from getting a toehold?

One adjustment that I will make for future batches is to lower the amount of salt.  The recipe called for a tablespoon of salt, which made the flavor rather more salty than I enjoy.  I think that I will try cutting it in half the next time and see how that works.

I will need to focus on balancing the temperature and time on the griddle in future batches.  While I managed to avoid burning them, the griddle was probably at too low a temperature for the first group; it took a l-o-o-o-o-n-g time for the first side to brown.  So I turned up the heat a little and was surprised at how quickly the second side baked.  Practice, practice, practice!

This recipe makes a large number of muffins.  In this case, 16 muffins that are approximately 4 inches in diameter.  We'll be freezing some of these for use later.  And when they are gone, I'll be making more.

wagner's picture

sticking to the tray

July 29, 2006 - 5:07pm -- wagner

hello,

I need some help please.

I usually proof my weekly loaf overnight in the fridge and wack it in the oven as usual but it has been sticking to the baking tray. I use the rectangular shaped ,alluminium.

the loaf eventually comes out but I have to struggle a bit and gets a bit damaged in the process.

what do I do to prevent this?

thank you.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

My wife purchased a copy of BBA as a birthday present some weeks back and I finally got around to using a formula from the book; in this case, the New York Deli Rye sandwich loaf. It is a definite keeper. I have been admonished to put a big star next to that particular formula.

The bread is a wonderful base for a corned beef and swiss cheese sandwich, to start with. We'll keep experimenting and see what else works, too. The onions in the bread are a a delicious complement to other savory flavors, but somehow manage not to overwhelm the other components.

Since it was my first attempt for this formula, I made sure to follow the instructions closely. I opted out of the use of caraway seeds, since my wife does not enjoy that flavor. Next time I may try either dill or fennel seeds, since it seems either of those would make a good flavor complement.

The use of commercial yeast, brown sugar and buttermilk in the formula were a bit surprising. I think that the buttermilk (and the shortening) contributed to the finished bread's moistness. For the next attempt, I will probably skip the yeast. My starter seems to have plenty of boost, so the yeast really isn't necessary to ensure an adequate rise. I do need to follow some of JMonkey's recommendations for increasing the sourness of the starter. Mine is more mild than wild in the flavor department, even with having refrigerated the second build of the starter overnight. A longer, cooler rise with no commercial yeast would probably increase the sour flavor.

The other thing that I should have done was keep a closer eye on the dough during the final rise. When I came back in from some outdoor chores to check on it, it was almost 2 inches above the edge of the pan, instead of the recommended 1 inch! Warm day plus commercial yeast--who'd have thought it? Anyway, I got lucky in that there aren't tunnels and that the bread holds together instead of crumbling in the middle of the slice, like some other over-risen breads that I have made.

All things considered, this was a very satisfactory experiment with a new recipe. And it will definitely be back for an encore.

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