The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


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smiddlet's picture

Babysitting the starter...

June 29, 2006 - 8:15am -- smiddlet

Hi all -- Thanks for the help in my 'Seed Culture Question' thread -- I've baked two batchs of sourdough bread, all very successful and highly delicious.

I'm leaving for the long weekend (Canada Day) and will be feeding my starter tonight, but will not be back to attend to it until Monday evening. That's about four days without any replenishing. From your experience, is that all right? Or should I give it to trusted friend to double it this Sunday? It's quite vigourous and is making great bread, so I'd hate to hurt it.


Joe Fisher's picture

Sourdough rye experiment - overnight ferment

June 25, 2006 - 10:38am -- Joe Fisher

Here is a batch of sourdough rye from Bread Alone. I tried 3 new things today:

1. Adding vital wheat gluten. Last time I made this formula, it was dense and gummy. I'm hoping the VWG improves the texture.

2. Overnight ferment. I kneaded the dough, let it proof at room temp about an hour, then put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I put it in a warm spot for 2 hours until it had almost doubled from its original size.

3. Used a heating pad under the couche. Since I seem to always get a lackluster final rise (and the dough was still a bit cool from its overnight fridging), I decided to try the heating pad. It seems to have worked, as I got a nice rise out of the loaves, but it didn't happen overly fast. It took almost 2 hours for the loaves to almost double.

Floydm's picture

I made a simple dough this morning with the intent of making some type of a picnic bread today. Something with cheese and onion, perhaps olives or sausage mixed in. But then we ended up picnicing at the lake today as well. After a long day in the sun, I just couldn't face the prospect of baking in 90 degree weather. Actually, it wasn't the baking as much as having the house heat up, particularly the upstairs bedroom, which get sweltering on hot days. So I froze the dough for a later date.

The heat did not stop my son, however:

His toy broom, which has hardly a bristle left, has recently been transformed into a peel. A super peel, perhaps?


He spent a good half hour loading and unloading loaves in the oven (hot tub lid) while we made dinner.

Joe Fisher's picture

Pugliese experiment

June 17, 2006 - 10:33am -- Joe Fisher

So I had to refresh my two starters today (Clyde - 100% rye, and Gertie - white flour), and don't have time to bake tomorrow. I remembered reading in the Reinhart book that you can replace the pre-ferment in a rustic dough with the barm from a white flour - no need to feed and activate first. Hey, I'm game!

So here's the recipe, from The Bread Baker's Apprentice (still my favorite book!):

biga 2cp/10.8oz Fancy or extra fancy durum flour and unbleached bread flour, in any combination (such as 50/50 blend) 2 1/4cp/10oz Salt 1 1/2tsh/0.38oz Instant yeast 1tsp/0.11oz Mashed potatoes (optional) 1/4cp/2 oz
pincupot's picture

using organic grapes/raisins for starter growth

June 13, 2006 - 11:32am -- pincupot

Has anyone used organic grapes or raisins to kick-start their sourdough starter? I read about using either of these in several cookbooks that I own or got from the library. One was from the La Brea Bakery breadbook. Does using either of these change/enhance/or otherwise alter the starter for better or for worse? Any ideas? Much appreciated...

smiddlet's picture

Seed culture question

June 13, 2006 - 7:19am -- smiddlet

Hi all -- Started my very first seed culture following the Reinhart method outlined in BBA. I initialize the process last Saturday, June 10th at 2:30 pm. Rye flour and water, as per Reinhart.

The next morning at about 10:30 am (Sunday the 11th - Day 2), the mix had risen about 25%, which I thought was nice. I added a cup of bread flour and the required water, and after checking back on the culture in only 30 minutes, I could see some nice bubbling and rising.

Monday (yesterday), I came home from work at about 5:30 pm and noticed that the culture had doubled, but had fallen onto itself. I could see track marks up the side of my Lock and Lock container as evidence. The culture had fallen down to its initial level. I halved the culture and added a cup more of white flour and some more water, as per Reinhart's instructions.

JMonkey's picture

Naming starters?

June 13, 2006 - 6:04am -- JMonkey

I'm curious whether other folks here who keep sourdough starters give them names? On other forums, "Bubba" seems to be a popular name, as does "Pokey" (for starters that take a lllooonnng time to ripen). Others seem to have an affinity for Greek gods, with "Hercules" being the most popular.

I've got two starters going right now with another on the way. Let me introduce my sourdough kids to you.

JMonkey's picture

In addition to baking bread, I have another obsession: The ancient Asian game of Go. As the game is well over 3000 years old, a whole host of proverbs has grown up around it. One of my favorites is the following:

"Just one game," they said. That was yesterday.

Friday night, I may as well have said to myself,

"Just one loaf ...."

(Photos in the full post)

I really didn't intend to bake all night. Really, I didn't. But I'd gotten home a bit early, and I knew it would be a busy weekend. Besides, the day before I'd worked from home surreptitiously so that I could cook a special meal for my wife's birthday and our fourth anniversary (we didn't intend to get married on her birthday, but she's got a family full of academics, and it was the only Saturday in June when none of them had a conference). Of course, the meal included bread. Ciabatta to be exact.

Nevertheless, aside from a quarter loaf of ciabatta, we needed more bread to last the week. But it was going to be a busy weekend. "Hey!" I said to myself. "Here's a brilliant idea! Let the dough rise after you get home from work, shape it, pop it in the fridge and bake it in the morning! Work is done!"

I'd soaked some wheat berries, flax seeds and rolled oats that morning, so as soon as I got home from work, I set the whole-wheat flour to autolyse and started dinner. I was ambitious: two loaves of my weekly whole-wheat sourdough sandwich bread and then another two loaves of seed and oat whole wheat sourdough hearth bread.

My wife had come home early, so she had taken a ball of frozen pizza dough out from the fridge to thaw (from the BBA, though I'm finding I prefer the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion "Now or Later Pizza" recipe better. It uses 1/2 semolina flour.)and cranked up the oven to the max. No pics of the pizza, alas, but it was tasty.

After dinner, I kneaded it up and set it to rise. I figured it starts rising at 8, two and a half hours for the first rise, a little over an hour for the second -- I'll be in bed by 11:30. Woo hoo!

I was clearly snorting something.

After all, it was 68 degrees in the house and I didn't let the water warm up after it filtered down into the Brita pitcher from the faucet. We're talking cold, cold dough.

Around 11pm, the dough was 3/4 of the way to doubled. I had some explaining to do.

"Er, honey, I believe I'll be up until about midnight and ... um ... I'll have to set the alarm to get up around 2am to shape the dough after the second rise and ...."

Her reply: "Couch."

Of course, I was dead tired after a long week at work, so did I hear my alarm? Nope. I woke up at 4:15 AM to two buckets of dough that had more than tripled. Ah well. I degassed and shaped them anyway, and threw them in the fridge. I then crept into bed with my wife and slept like a stone.

They turned out OK. In fact, I got some of the best oven spring I've ever gotten from 100% whole wheat loaves.

Sandwich loaves in front. Hearth seed boules in back.

A close-up of the boules.

As it turned out, though, it wasn't a busy weekend at all. My 2-year-old came down with a nasty cold, so I made bagels (her favorite) for Sunday morning using Peter Reinhart's formula. Six poppy seed and six garlic:

Cream cheese is off-screen.

Bread in the morning works great for bagels. But I won't try this trick with sourdough again on a Friday night unless I get home at 5pm or earlier.

Joe Fisher's picture

Swedish Limpa rye with candied citrus and cardamom

June 11, 2006 - 5:03pm -- Joe Fisher

Here's a pair of gorgeous loaves from Bread Alone.

I made the candied citrus rinds the night before (4 separate boils and rinses!), as well as activated the starter. This morning I made the dough and kneaded in the chopped rinds. I tried some different scores with my homemade lame. I do like the star pattern :)

It smells unbelievable! I'll post a report on taste and texture when I open them up.

I pulled them after the amount of time suggested in the recipe. When I thumped them, they sounded fair, but a bit off. Remembering my lessons from Reinhart, I put my instant-read thermometer in, and it read 140F! The crust was solid and very, very dark, but the interior was still wet! Back into the oven they went, and I left the probe of my in-oven thermometer in it so I could just set the alarm for 190F. I covered the loaves with aluminum foil to prevent them from burning. They needed another good 10 minutes.


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