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proth5's picture
proth5

OKI Starter/Flour matters - Added some pictures

As some of you know I have been working on Okinawa and not been home since early February.  Well, I ended up staying longer than I had planned and the pace of worked picked up.  Not being able to bake, I thought I would at least start a new starter.


I haven't had to start a starter for a long time, but quickly read up on the process and it did seem familiar.  The question was that of flour. 


With some grumbling that if I were just at home I could grind up some fresh whole wheat and maybe spike it with a little fresh rye, I resolved that I would need to purchase flour - so to market I went.


I can now go so far as to reveal that my work has been among folks who pretty much only speak English and that by working with these folks I have access to stores where you can buy American brands (if you know what I mean).  Being short of time and Japanese language skills (lessons put on hold so that I might work long days) I found, not my good old KA, but an American name brand "organic" white flour and a name brand whole wheat.  The only  other "all purpose" flour that I could find was bleached - which didn't seem like a good idea. Rye flour alas was nowhere to be found.


Mixed equal amounts (by weight, bien sur!) of whole wheat flour and water - fed it a bit each day - and on day three had a bubbling crude.  Having read Debra Wink's work I knew that this was mostly bacterial action and that the solution had to become acidic enough before yeast would take hold.  I contemplated "The Pineapple Juice Solution" but strangely for an island that produces pineapples, their juice was nowhere to be found.  Not having the confidence or equipment (I flew here with only my carry on and live in a hotel)to undergo a pineapple juicing operation, I also read her advice that given enough time the starter would become acidic enough - and I had time to wait.  (oh, so much time  - the theme song for "Gilligan's Island" kept playing in my head)


With approximately twice daily feedings of whole wheat (during this period I did not always get to eat, and I worked as many as 20 hours a day - but my starter was fed)  living in the cool environment of my air-conditioned room,  it took about a week for my starter to double (just barely) reliably.  As I discarded parts of it, it seemed like a normal, healthy, although immature starter to me.


Then I started feeding it the white flour.  Almost immediately it began to show signs of starvation - the alcohol smell, a little hooch developing , a dead listless quality and no rise.  I was feeding it well - about twice a day.  What was going on?  Early one morning, coming home from work, I read the bag of flour.  It contained no malt.  Now, unmalted flour could very well have a low enough Falling Number to assure sufficient alpha amylase action - but then again, it might not.  Hard to know with the information provided on your typical bag of flour.  And I don't know of it indeed was the problem.


I do know that going back to whole wheat cleared up the problem.


But my OKI starter needed OKI flour (or so I told myself in my sleep deprived state).  After work tapered off a bit I was able to get to a Japanese grocery store. Still unable to read Japanese (or speak much of it) I allowed instinct alone to get me to the flour aisle and using the time honored method of looking carefully at the pictures on the package (or the big English words "For Bread" on an otherwise inscrutable bag of what I assume was flour) I chose bags of white and whole wheat flour that had pictures that seemed to be of bread like products.  Again, there was the question of flour characteristics, but now I was running completely blind.


So, nothing to do but experiment.  The whole wheat flour (which was really very lovely, very finely ground flour with no big flakes of bran) seemed to be a favorite of the "beasties", but was relatively expensive.  Additionally, I prefer to keep a white flour starter.  So I switched to white.


This was not entirely successful.  While not displaying signs of hunger, and just barely doubling in 4-6 hours, it didn't seem "right."  It had a sticky, silly puttyesque quality that did not seem in any way familiar.  Again, I don't know if this was the flour, or just a misbehaving adolescent starter, but it was a quality that I did not enjoy. Inspiration welcome.


So I must take a mental detour and consider how much we value our "old" starters.  "My teacher" once told me that keeping a starter alive and vibrant for many years was "the baker's pride."  There is a lot to be said for that.  To invest the time and care to keep a starter vibrant for 10, 20, 30 years or more is something in which one can take pride.  More than that, although our starters undergo minor changes, I know my starter.  I have had it for 10 years.  While not investing it with complex emotions or personality, it is a stable colony of living organisms and has predictable reactions to things like temperature, feeding schedule and flour quality.   I can read the state of its health pretty easily.  This new starter, not so much.  I will add that with this new starter, I was totally adrift. Not one factor- being at sea level, a humid climate, sporadic air conditioning, flour, or water- is something that I experience on my home turf.  I do remember that my own treasured starter produced some bad bakes when it was young and over time, without me doing much of anything, those bad bakes went away.


So back to the day to day, I decided on a feeding regimen of ¼- 1/3 parts of whole wheat flour and the remainder white flour. With this combination the beasties seem happy and I am "less unhappy" with the general texture of the starter itself.  I have been feeding at an eyeballed ratio of 1:1:1 and that starter doubles (but not much more).  The discard (about how one manages that in a Japanese hotel - don't ask , don't tell)  seemed lively enough for a day or so.  I was pretty sure I had some yeast working in there, but wasn't confident on its strength.  Inspiration welcome.


I was never really happy with my Okinawa starter and just didn't know where to place the blame.


Knowing that I would finally be leaving Okinawa, I decided to dry some of the starter and take it home.  I considered making a firm starter out of it but with the rigors of international air travel these days and the significant duration of the flight, thought better of it (advice from world travelers who travel with starter welcome!).


Once home, I dissolved the dried flakes in water and used that water to make a 100% hydration starter.  Of course, I also resumed baking and feeding my old starter which had been well cared for by my faithful house sitter.  I wondered if my good old KA flour would do my OKI starter some good.


Day 1 and 2 saw a pretty moribund container of glop.  On Day 3, like magic, the starter more than doubled.  While not looking exactly like my US starter, it was definitely looking like a very active starter.  It has been improving steadily day over day.


So what was it?  I'm asking - I don't know.  If it is the yeast in the local flour that finally took hold, this would tell us that the origin of the seed doesn't matter - the local yeasts will come on like gangbusters - but three days seemed too little for local yeasts to become so active.


I considered that it had become "contaminated" with my US starter, but I had been careful not to use the same utensils, not have the two containers open at the same time and to wash my hands before working with it.  It still has an aroma that is quite distinct from my US starter, so I would not call the two the same. 


Was it the flour itself giving the boost to the yeast that was formerly struggling to reproduce?  Was the OKI flour just not up to the task? Inspiration welcome.


Okinawa, by the way, has more of a wheat based cuisine than I would have thought.  Okinawa soba is not buckwheat - it is regular wheat - so they are a people that know the properties of wheat (and know what to do with a pig, but I digress...).  The texture of the Okinawan flours was very fine and silky and my tiny mind wanders to the impact of milling processes on flour behavior, but that's a topic for another time.


I will probably dry the starter again, save some of the dry starter to revive in the US and transport some to revive in Okinawa.  It's one thing to have a house sitter feed one 10 year old starter, I'm not going to tip over the edge to have him feed two.


I've worked most of the angles that are practical for finding an oven on Okinawa.  Obviously I am working with people who do not put a priority on home baking (and I am glad their priorities are where they are) and ovens are rare in Okinawa housing, so I don't think I will get to bake during my next hitch - which absolutely won't be as long as my last one.


What I will be doing is shipping some Japanese flours home to see how they act on the edge  of American hard red wheat country. I may even send a sample or two off to the lab to see what is going on with them.  That would be interesting. 


But it's going to be awhile...


Oh - and even though I thought I would forget - I can still bake (and still can't do photography)


Bagutte and Shisa


My recently acquired shisas - the guardian spirits of Okinawa - guard the same old baguette (levain, 65% hydration) that I always bake.


The male shisa has an open mouth to keep away the evil spirits and the female shisa has a closed mouth to keep in the happiness. 



The crumb shot.


Enjoy!

rayel's picture
rayel

Hot cereal multi grain bread

I followed the recipe from America's Test Kitchen, sort of. I used a bit less salt. 2 1/2 tsp. and not 1 tlbs. Used 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds instead of 3/4 c. called for in recipe. I substituted Sir Lancelot for the all purpose flour. Weighed the cereal and flours, and water. (I had been relying on volume measures in the past). Followed recipe guidelines for mixing and kneading, and stuck to the minimum times in the ranges given, for 1st rise and proof. Baked at 375F. per  recipe.  The cereal, after boiling water was added, wanted to settle to the bottom of the mixing bowl, despite a few stirrings while it cooled. I used the Sir Lancelot flour to give myself an edge in gluten development.(anything will rise with that flour, I think) I used the smaller amt. of pumpkin seeds, thinking it would be fewer puncture points in the dough's envelope. The slightly smaller salt qty. was to lessen my sodium consumption mainly. The flavor didn't suffer from less salt. The bread smelled wonderfull as it baked yesterday, and when finally sliced it was as deliscious as it smellled. Nice open crumb, the shorter bake time, 35 min. was all it needed. I hope it comes as good when baked again.  I think I could have used a different shaping method, as a few slices separated near the top. I followed their shaping suggestion in recipe. I am wondering if this recipe would work with all whole wheat flour, but have a feeling I would run into problems with the added cereal weight.  I am happy with my first try. Thanks to all the contributors' helpful suggestions to a previous post, I was able t  Ray

sortachef's picture
sortachef

Moderating Heat in a Woodfired Oven

Small fires over time make all the difference


 


Most woodfired oven owners only use their oven once a week or so to bake pizza or bread at fairly high temperatures. There's another level of cooking available, at lower and constant temperatures, which requires pulsing the oven with small fires. This is useful knowing about both to protect the oven from unnecessary cracking from cold firing and also to expand your cooking repertoire.


There was a time in the not-too-distant past when many home ovens were fueled with either wood or coal. These ovens were used every day, and never lost their warmth. My father remembers his mother stoking the fire at the crack of dawn to bake the daily bread. Even today, I hear through this website of people in Greek villages and Eastern European towns using wood or coal as their main source of cooking fuel.


In order to replicate this method of everyday cooking, you have to commit some time. In order to roast a chicken today, I had to find three different times yesterday - in amongst a busy schedule - to light and maintain fires. If you can find the time, however, the benefits are astounding. When I was ready to roast the chicken (see Woodfired Roast Chicken), my oven maintained a stable temperature in the 350º range for 2½ hours with no active flame throughout the cooking time. With this ability, all kinds of baked goods (including dinner rolls and pastries), casseroles, roasted meats and fish become possible.


 


Pulsing your oven: The trick is to 'pulse' your oven with small fires over time, in order to slowly heat all of the masonry components - the walls, the floor and the bed of sand beneath the floor. The operative word here is 'slowly'. After a cold spell in which your oven has lain dormant, this will prevent the components from cracking. For more normal cooking or baking operations, this will raise the temperature of your oven into the range of a conventional oven, with very little charring or direct smoke.


Here's what to do:



  • Use a piece of newspaper, a handful of kindling, 2 or 3 pieces of hardwood the thickness of your thumb and 2 thicker pieces of hardwood that weigh about 1 ½ pounds each (2 ½ inches thick) to build successive fires in the center of your oven. Maintain the fire for an hour, relighting and adding a bit more kindling if necessary.

  • After the hour of active fire, put the door in place as tightly as possible. You may have to put a wood wedge under the handle, as I do. Let the oven rest for 3 hours. This rest time can be variable in length.

  • Light another fire using the same amount of wood as above, and maintain for an hour. Let rest again.

  • With each subsequent fire, there will be more unburnt wood from the previous fire. Leave this in the oven and continue to add to it, building your fires on top.

  • Light a third fire in the early evening, maintain for an hour and let rest. During this rest period, you can move the coals to one side in order to cook beans or a casserole, if desired.

  • Close up the oven and let rest overnight.

  • On day 2, start a fire with the same amount of wood, maintain for an hour and let rest. By this time the parts of your oven are hot enough to maintain a temperature of about 350º. From here, you can safely and quickly take your oven much hotter (for pizza, say), or you can build another small fire to maintain low to moderate heat for roasting or baking.


 


Here are the temperatures I measured in my oven. As atmospheric conditions and your oven will likely be different, you will probably have different results, particularly during the first few fires.


Starting temperature: 52º, which was approximately the overnight low air temperature in Seattle (measured with an accurate thermometer).


After the first fire: 150º (measured with oven thermometer, as are all others)


After the second fire: 225º


After the third fire: 350º (I baked a pot of pinto beans for 2 ½ hours when fire was almost finished)


Starting temperature, 2nd day: 160º


After the fourth fire: 375º (I baked dinner rolls after this fire)


After the fifth fire: 425º (I let the oven cool to 350º and roasted a chicken. After 2 ½ hours, the oven temperature was 325º and the chicken was perfectly cooked.)


 


Final note: I just checked (10 a.m. on the third day) and, with no active fire since yesterday's noontime fire, the temperature of the oven is 160º. Hmm. I could just keep this whole thing going. Flame on!

ramat123's picture
ramat123

Are there any full length videos available?

Hi,


I am trying to find DVDs of bread baking hopefully artisan bread baking and can't find any.


Are there any DVDs exist?


Thanks, David

jcamador's picture
jcamador

firm starter HELP!!

Hi all- so I am a sourdough newb, but I recently made Prof. Calvel's starter which looks like it'g going to make it :) But...I do have a couple questions that I would really appreciate help with. I consider myself a pretty good internet researcher, but I haven't found anything to help me out..


 


Can a firm starter be used in place of a liquid starter? Is there a way to calculate this?


If I were to transform my firm starter to liquid or vice versa, should this process happen over a few feedings to let the beasties aclimate to their new surroundings or do I just feed one time with the appropriate percentages then use in the recipe?


 


Thank you so much in advance for the help...this site really has me excited to start my baking adventures. Thanks!


 


jason

kdwnnc's picture
kdwnnc

Hamelman's "Bread"

Today I finally got Bread by Jeffery Hamelman from the library!  I have only read a few pages, but I can already tell that it is going to be a fantastic book.  I already own two bread books, one of them being The Bread Bible by RLB, but I can't wait to bake from this one (isn't it cruel that the library deadline for returning is two weeks?).  But I suppose I could always renew it.  The big chalenge is going to be deciding what to bake from it first!  I want to make something unlike anything I have ever made before (such as focaccia, which I make a lot of), but please, please, please give me suggestions!  Is the cibatta recipe good?  I have only tried making ciabatta once, and it definately could have come out better.  I have never made baguettes either; should I try a recipe for them from this book? 


Now I am anxious for when I get a scale in a few weeks!


 

robertdmay's picture
robertdmay

Using Fibrament baking stone

So I recently purchased a Fibrament baking stone to replace my old one, which was cracking.  My problem is this: whenever I bake on it, the bottom goes too dark and the inside bakes to between 200 and 210, but the top barely browns at all.  Strange, right?  Any one have any ideas why this happens?  I've been doing artisan baking for 6 years now, and I've never encountered this problem before. 

ilan's picture
ilan

Olive and Thyme Bread

This time, I wanted bread that brings more aroma and character of its own, something that can accompany a simple meal or to be used for a not too spiced sandwiches.


The combination of black olives and thyme is not new and since I love olives in both meals and sandwiches (depend on the dishes) I decided to have bread with it.


When I opened the fridge to get the olive paste, I saw a jar of dried tomato next to it. Olives and tomato is a good combo as well and I added the tomato paste to the mix but to keep the olive base of the bread I added only small amount of it.


Olives are very salty and call for salt reduction in the recipe. The dried tomato paste brings the acidity of the tomato in the game as well and it’s better to negate with a bit of sugar. So instead of salt reduction, I added ¼ teaspoon of yeast and ¼ teaspoon of sugar to the mix.


(The dough base is the same as the one I posted in the Baguette Attempt)


The recipe:


Preferment (15 hours in advance)


-       1 cups flour


-       2/3 cups of water


-       1/4 teaspoon yeast


The Dough:


-       2 1/4 cups flour


-       2 teaspoons yeast


-       1/2 teaspoon sugar


-       3/4 cup of water


-       1 ¾ teaspoon of salt


-       3 teaspoons of black olive paste


-       1 flat teaspoon of dried tomato paste


-       Handful of fresh thyme


Preferment was mixed the evening before and let rest for 15 hours


For the dough – mix the flour, yeast, sugar and water into a unified mixture and let rest for 20 minutes.


Add the salt, olive paste, dried tomato paste and thyme and knead for 10 minutes and let rise for 70 – 90 minutes (depending on the weather).


I made two batches of this bread. One of them I folded during the rising time and one I did not. The folded dough yielded better bread (texture) 


The result: (the colors in this pictures came out all wrong for some reason)



Until the next post


Ilan

BadRabbit's picture
BadRabbit

Cinnamon Rolls- cutting out morning rise time

I have been making my mother's cinnamon rolls for the last few years but have never figured out a way to have them ready first thing in the morning (without getting up at the crack of dawn).

The recipe is a basic yeast dough with a significant amount of sugar in it. It's usually mixed up and then left to rise overnight in the fridge. I then roll out the dough and roll it up with the cinnamon and sugar. I cut it and then place them in the pan for a second rise and then bake (with cold dough the 2nd rise and bake process is often 1 1/2-2 hours).

My three options to eliminate some of the time in the morning are as folllows:


All of these assume the first refrigerated rise was done at some time previous.

1. Cut and place dough in pan the night before and place in fridge. Hopefully it will rise enough overnight and I can pop straight in the oven in the morning.

2. Follow usual steps night before and then par-bake at least until oven-spring is done.

3. Stop just shy of fully cooking the night before and just pop in to warm in the morning.


What's my best option?

Pat_'s picture
Pat_

Bee Sting ( sort of ) recipe wanted

 


my local continental bakery ( barbakan in chorlton uk) does a lovely cake he calls a  beesting but its not like any beesting I have seen before and he wont share his recipe - ( understandably)


I fancy having a go and wondered if any one recognised it and had a recipe


The cake is in 3 parts


1) a firm Genoese type sponge - soaked in a sort of almond syrup


2) then it has a thin layer of caramel with flaked almonds on top ( slightly chewy)


3) this is then cut into 2 1/2" squares and dipped in milk chocolate( up to but not over the caramel topping)


 Any one recognise this cake and / or could share me a recipe


thanks


 Pete

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