Lesson: Squeeze more sour from your sourdough
I am far from a sourdough expert. I’ve only been baking sourdough since February, and I still have a lot to learn about shaping, scoring and proofing to perfection.
However, there is one thing I have learned well: how to squeeze more flavor out of my naturally sweet starter. Here's the basic tips.
1) Keep the starter stiff
2) Spike your white starter with whole rye
3) Use starter that is well-fed
4) Keep the dough cool
5) Extend the rise by degassing
6) Proof the shaped loaves overnight in the fridge
Photos and elaboration follow.
It’s a common lament that I see on bread baking forums – Why isn’t my sourdough sour?
Personally, I blame Watertown. My evidence? I gave some of my starter to a friend who lives six miles away in Lexington. Within 6 weeks, she was making sour tasting sourdough. Her local yeastie beasties are clearly more sour than mine.
I don’t know what it is about the microflora that live in the little hollow between the hills that I occupy in Watertown, Mass., but treated traditionally, my white starter and my whole wheat starter pack as much sour taste as a loaf of Wonder Bread. That’s not to say that the loaves don’t taste nice. They do. They’re wheaty with a touch of a buttery aftertaste.
But they don’t taste sour, which is how I think sourdough ought to taste.
Anyway, I’ve finally figured out how to get the tangy loaves I love. If you’re facing the same sweet trouble as me, perhaps some (or all) of these tips will help.
1) Keep your starter stiff:
Traditionally, sourdough starter is kept as a batter. The most common consistency is to have equal weights of water and flour, also known as 100% hydration because the water weight is equal to 100% of the flour weight. That’s roughly 1 scant cup of flour to about ½ cup of water. Jeffrey Hammelman keeps his at 125%, and quite a few folks keep theirs at 200% (1 cup water to 1 cup flour).
I keep my sourdough starter at 50% hydration, meaning that for every 2 units of flour weight, I add 1 unit of water.
Barney Barm, my white starter is on the left; Arthur the whole wheat starter on the right. The bran and germ in whole wheat absorb a lot of water, so that starter is even stiffer than the white.
There are two basic types of bacteria that flourish in a sourdough starter. One produces lactic acid, which gives the bread a smooth taste, sort of like yogurt. It does best in wet, warm environment. The other makes acetic acid, the acid that gives bread its sharp tang. These bacteria prefer a drier, cooler environment.
(Or so I've read, anyway. I ain't no biochemist; I just know what they print in them books.)
A hydration of 50% is pretty stiff, especially for a whole-wheat starter. You really have to knead strongly to convince the starter to incorporate all the flour.
For example, here's my white starter after I've done my best to mix it up in the bucket. Time to knead a bit.
Here's what it looks like after kneading.
And here's what it looks like 5 hours later once it's ripe.
Conversion from 100% to 50% isn't hard to do if you've got a kitchen scale.
Take 2 ounces of your 100% starter. Then add 5 ounces of flour and 2 ounces of water. This should give you 9 ounces of starter. Leave it overnight, and it should be ripened in the morning.
From there on out when you feed it, add 1 unit of water for every 2 units of flour. I'd recommend feeding it 2 or 3 more times before using it, though, so that the yeast and bacteria can acclimate to the new environment.
There are additional advantages to a stiff starter beyond producing a more sour bread.
First, a stiff starter is easier to transport. Just throw a hunk into a bag, and you’re done.
Supposedly, the stiff stuff keeps longer than the batters. You can leave stiff starter in the fridge for months, or so I hear, and it can still be revived. Never tried it myself, though, so don't take my word for it.
Finally, the math for feeding is easy at 50% hydration, much easier than 60% or 65%. Just feed your starter in multiples of threes. For exmaple, if I’ve got 3 ounces of starter and I need to feed it, I'll probably triple it in size. To get six additional ounces for food, I just add 4 ounces flour and 2 ounces water. Piece of cake.
Converting recipes isn’t hard either. First, figure out the total water weight and total flour weight in the original recipe, including what's in the starter. If the recipe calls for a 100% hydration starter, then half of the starter is flour and the other half is water. Divide it accordingly to get the total flour and total water weights in the final dough.
Now, add the total water and total flour together. Take that figure and multiply by 0.30. This will tell you how much stiff starter you’ll need.
Last, subtract the amount of water in the stiff starter from the total water in the final dough, and the amount of flour in the stiff starter from the total flour in the final dough. The results tell you how much flour and water to add to the starter to get the final dough. Everything else remains the same.
2) Spike your white starter with whole rye flour:
It doesn’t take much. Currently, my white starter is about 10-15% whole rye. Basically, for every 3 ounces of white flour that I feed the starter, I replace ½ ounce with whole rye. That small portion of rye makes a big difference in flavor. Rye is to sourdough microflora as spinach is to Popeye. It’s super-food that’s easily digestible and nutrient rich. That’s why so many recipes for getting a starter going from scratch suggest you start with whole rye.
Here I am, about to add rye to "Barney Barm," my white starter. I haven’t added rye to my whole-wheat starter, though. It hasn’t needed it – there’s more than enough nutrients in the whole wheat to keep the starter party going strong.
3) Use starter that is well fed: Early in my search to sour my sourdough, I’d read that, if you leave a starter unfed and on the counter for a few days before baking, it will make your bread more sour.
I’ve found that’s not the case. The starter gets more sour, but the bread doesn’t taste very sour at all.
The better course is to take your starter out of the fridge at least a couple of days before you use it, and then feed it two or three times before you make the final dough. Healthy microflora make a more flavorful bread.
4) Keep the dough cool:
When I first started out, I was following recipes that called for the dough to be at 79 degrees, and I’d often put it in a fairly warm place to rise. Warmth kills sour taste. Nowadays, I add water that’s room temperature, not warmed, and aim for a much cooler rise, no higher than 75 degrees and often as low as 64.
The cellar is your friend.
5) Extend the rise by degassing:
When I make whole wheat sourdough, I usually let the dough rise until it has doubled and then degass it by folding until it rises a second time. Along with cool dough, this means the bulk fermentation usually lasts 5-6 hours.
When I’m making pain au levain or some other white flour sourdough, I usually have the dough very wet, so it needs more than one fold to give it the strength it needs. In this case, I fold once at 90 minutes and then again after another 90 minutes. Usually, the full bulk rise lasts about 5 hours.
Here's a sequence showing how I fold my whole-wheat sourdough.
First, turn the risen dough out on a lightly floured surface (heavily floured if your dough is very wet).
Stretch it to about twice its length.
Gently degass one-third of the dough, fold it over the middle, and degass the middle section to seal.
Do the same for the remaining side. Take the folded dough, turn it one-quarter, and fold once more before returning to the bowl or bucket to rise again.
6) Proof the shaped loaves overnight in the fridge:
This final touch really brings out the flavor. So much so that, if you’ve incorporated all the other suggestions, proofing overnight might make your bread a bit too sour for your taste. My wife and I like it assertively sour, however, so this step is a must.
Normally, I’d suggest proofing your loaves on the top shelf where it’s warmest, so as not to kill off any yeast, but I find that if I put my loaves in the top, they’re ready in about 4-6 hours, at which time I’m usually sound asleep. So I started putting them in the bottom, and had better luck.
I hope this helps those of you who dread pulling another beautiful loaf from the oven, only to find it looks better than it tastes. Best of luck!
I love pumpkin bread and muffins any time of the year, particularly with chocolate chips in it and while sipping a cup of dark coffee, but pumpkin bread seems particularly appropriate this time of year.
This is a recipe for your standard pumpkin quick bread; yeasted pumpkin breads are rare, though not unheard of. Fresh pumpkin can be be used, though I usually take the easy way out and just use canned pumpkin puree. Whole wheat flour can also be substituted for some or all of the all-purpose flour for a change of pace.
Because the moisture content of the pumpkin can vary, as it can in the flour, the recipe recommends between 3 and 4 cups of flour. I used about 3 1/2 cups, but don't be afraid to trust your gut and adjust according to conditions.
Makes approximately 12 muffins, 3 small loaves, or 1 large loaf
1 3/4 cup (1 15 oz. can) pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3-4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups chopped walnuts or chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350.
Combine the pumpkin, brown sugar, butter, and eggs and mix until creamy. In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients except the nuts or chocolate chips. Mix 3 cups of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, then add as much of the 4th cup as necessary to achieve the proper consistency (moist, but thick enough to stand a spoon in). Add the nuts or chocolate chips and stir in.
Pour or spoon the batter into greased muffin tins or bread pans. Bake on the center rack until a toothpick poked into the center comes out dry. At sea level, muffins should take between 20 and 25 minutes to bake, small loaves between 25 and 30 minutes, and full sized loaves between 50 minutes and 1 hour.
Autumn is here!
Want to impress your sweetheart this Valentine's Day? REALLY impress your sweetie? Then make these éclairs.
They look like they'd be a ton of work, don't they? I thought they would be, but they really aren't that hard. From first flipping open the cookbook (the 1997 edition of the Joy of Cooking) to the moment I was getting blissed out eating them was under two hours. Not bad at all, and fresh out of the oven these were the best éclairs I've ever had.
There are three parts to éclairs: the pastry (pâte à choux), the filling (crème pâtissière), and the topping (chocolate ganache). If you are strapped for time you could cut corners on one or more of the parts by doing things like using frozen puffed pastry for the pastry, pudding or whipped cream for the filling, or some other frosting for the topping. Take a look at the recipes before doing so though: none of the pieces are that hard. There are a few places where you have to bring things to a boil carefully to prevent scalding, but I've found that if you warm the ingredients in the microwave before combining them in your sauce pan you can easily cut 10 or 15 minutes of stirring out of the process.
Choux Paste (pâte à choux)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine the water, milk, butter, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil. Stir in the flour and, while mixing, cook another minute or 2 to eliminate excess moisture. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Beat in one egg at at time. When they have all been beaten in and the paste is smooth and shiny, set aside to cool. The paste may be use immediately or covered and refrigerated for later use.
Pastry Cream (Crème Pâtissière)
1/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
4 egg yolks
1 1/3 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Combine the sugar, flour, corn starch, and egg yolks in a bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes until the mixture is thick and pale yellow.
In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Gradually pour the milk into the egg mixture, stirring it in as you do so. When fully combined, pour all of it into the saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes then remove mixture from heat. Stir in the vanilla and set aside to cool.
Cover the top with wax paper or parchment to prevent a skin from forming. This cream may be refrigerated for a day or two before use or used immediately.
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
Heat the cream. Stir in the chocolate and continue heating and stirring until all of the chocolate is melted.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Form small logs out of the Choux paste on a baking sheet. If you have a pastry bag with large tips, you can squeeze them out neatly. I do not, so I just formed the logs with a spoon and my fingers.
These were about an inch across and 3 to 4 inches long.
Bake the pastries for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the eclairs you are making.
When they are golden brown, turn the oven off. Poke a hole in the small end of the eclair and place them back in the oven for another 10 minutes to dry out. Remove the eclairs from the oven and let them cool a few minutes.
For the topping, dip or dribble the eclairs in the chocolate ganache.
To fill the eclairs, you can either use a pastry bag and squirt the pastry cream in through the drying hole as I did. Or you can slice the eclairs lengthwise and scoop the filling inside and place the top half back on top.
There you have it: chocolate, creamy bliss.
The eclairs keep OK for a few days in the refrigerator in an air tight container, but they are not nearly as good as when they are first assembled. Take my advice: make all of the elements in the same session, bake them up and make a fresh pot of coffee, and enjoy them immediately. You won't be sorry!
Want to learn how to bake bread? Do it! It is about the cheapest, most enjoyable, most rewarding pastime I can think of.
I can't promise that these lessons will prevent you from making mistakes, because making mistakes is just part of learning (and something I still do all the time). But hopefully they'll give you some good ways of getting started and help you improve your understand of what is happening inside of your loaf.
- Lesson One: Your First Loaf - The place to begin.
- Lesson Two: Putting Something More in Your Loaf - Once you understand the basic principles of bread, you can begin adding new things to your loaf to get different flavors and textures.
- Lesson Three: Time & Temperature - Almost as important as what you put in your loaf is how you treat it while it is fermenting and baking.
- Lesson Four: Glazing - Not as important as what you put in your loaf but still quite important is what you put on your loaf.
- Lesson Five: Ten Tips for Better French Bread - A solid year of baking French Breads hasn't made me great at it, but I've gotten a lot better. Here are some of the tricks I've learned.
San Joaquin Sourdough: another variation produces the best flavor yet.
My San Francisco Sourdough starter from sourdo.com is now two weeks old. I made another pair of my San Joaquin Sourdough breads with it yesterday. I modified my formula somewhat. I used a 60% hydration starter fed with AP flour only. I increased the amount of starter by 50%. I used KAF AP flour for the dough. I used no added instant yeast.
KAF AP flour
BRM Dark Rye flour
Mix the firm starter (1:3:5 – Starter:Water:Flour). Let it ferment at room temperature for 12 hours.
Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. Add the starter and dissolve it in the water.
Add the flours and mix to a shaggy mass. Cover tightly and let it sit for 20-60 minutes.
Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix thoroughly using the “stretch and fold in the bowl” technique. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
Repeat the “stretch and fold in the bowl” for 30 strokes 2 more times at 30 minute intervals.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board, and do one stretch and fold.
Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Note the volume of the dough. Cover the bowl tightly. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
Repeat the stretch and fold on the board. Reform the dough into a ball and replace it in the bowl.
Allow the dough to continue fermenting until the volume has increased 50%.
Cold retard the dough for about 20 hours. (The dough had more than doubled and was full of large and small bubbles.)
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and immediately transfer it to a lightly floured board.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces and pre-shape them into logs or rounds, depending on whether you want to make boules or bâtards. Cover the pieces with plasti-crap and let them rest for 60 minutes. (Give them a shorter rest if the kitchen is very warm. You don't want them to expand very much, if any.)
Pre-heat the oven to 500ºF with a baking stone and your steaming method of choice in place.
Shape the pieces and place them in bannetons or on a couche. Cover the loaves and proof them until they have expanded by 50-70%. (30-45 minutes)
Pre-steam the oven. Then transfer the loaves to a peel (or equivalent). Score them, and load them onto your baking stone.
Turn the oven down to 460ºF.
After 12 minutes, remove your steaming apparatus. Turn the loaves 180º, if necessary for even browning.
Continue to bake the loaves for another 15-18 minutes or until their internal temperature is 205ºF.
Turn off the oven, but leave the loaves on the stone with the oven door ajar for another 7-10 minutes to dry the crust.
Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack.
Cool the loaves completely before slicing.
The loaves were already singing when I took them out of the oven. The crust developed crackles, which can be credited to the use of AP rather than higher gluten flour and the drying in the oven (Step 19., above).
The crumb was nice and open.
The crust was crisp when first cooled and crunchy/chewy the next morning. The flavor was sweet and wheaty, like a good baguette, with the barest hint of sourness. This was po
ssibly the best tasting San Joaquin Sourdough I've made. I think I'm going to stick with this version. Next time, I may use this dough to make baguettes.
Submitted to YeastSpotting
Bread Scoring Tutorial (updated 1/2/2009)
Please Note: This tutorial has been updated extensively with additional material and new and improved videos. Here is a link to the updated Bread Scoring Tutorial: Scoring Bread: An updated tutorial
What is scoring?
“Scoring” is the word used to describe the cuts made in a loaf of bread before it is baked. Some breads are not scored. For example many loaves baked in pans are not. However, almost all free-formed “hearth breads” are scored.
When is scoring done?
Scoring is generally performed just prior to loading the loaves in the oven.
Why are breads scored?
The purpose of scoring is primarily to control the direction in which the bread will expand during “oven spring.” Intentionally creating a weak spot on the surface of the loaf prevents the loaf from bursting at weak spots created during shaping.
The pattern of cuts made, the angle at which they are made and the depth of the cuts also influence the rate of expansion and the formation of an “ear” - a raised flap of crust at the edge of a cut.
The pattern of cuts also can create a pleasing visual pattern on the surface of the loaf. While there are some very traditional patterns, for example for baguettes, the baker can use the scoring pattern to identify the type of bread or to create an unique pattern that identifies the loaf as coming from his or her oven.
The effects of scoring on loaf shape are discussed in more detail below.
How are breads scored?
Breads are scored with very sharp cutting implements. These may be straight or curved razor blades, which may be held in the hand or mounted on a handle. Scoring may be performed with other sharp, straight blades, even with a straight razor. Some bakers prefer serrated blades. Some examples are pictured below:
This is a “lame,” the French term for a razor blade used to score bread. This one is permanently mounted on a handle. Others are made with replaceable blades.
This lame holds the blade in a curved position. Others hold the blade straight. The curved lames are generally used for long breads like baguettes which are scored with cuts parallel to the long axis of the loaf. The cuts are made with the blade held at a shallow angle to the surface of the loaf, about 20-30 degrees or so. The blade is held with the concave surface facing up (away from the loaf). A flap of dough is created that will lift up to create an “ear” as the loaf expands and, by lifting gradually, slows the expansion of the loaf. This prolongs the time during which new areas of dough are exposed to the direct heat of the oven and results in greater overall expansion – a larger “bloom.”
These are examples of serrated, straight bladed knives. The first one is made expressly for scoring breads. The second one is manufactured as a “tomato knife,” but it is very sharp, holds its edge well and has been found to work very well for scoring bread.
Straight bladed knives are preferred for cuts made with the blade held perpendicular to the loaf's surface. This sort of cut is generally used for round loaves (“boules”). However, they can be used for the same kinds of cuts described above as well.
The angle the blade of the knife makes with the surface of the loaf is important in determining how the cut will open up. If you want the cuts to spread equally from the cut and to open quickly, the knife should be held vertically – at 90 degrees to the surface of the loaf. This type of cut is usually made ¼ to ½ inch deep.
If you want the cuts to spread more slowly and create an “ear,” the knife blade should be held at a shallow angle with the surface of the loaf, like this:
This type of cut should be shallower than the cuts made with the blade vertical to the loaf – about ¼ inch deep. A deeper cut will result in the flap closing from its own weight rather than separating from the surface of the loaf to form an “ear.”
The scoring stroke should be firm, rapid, smooth and decisive. For the beginner, it may help to take “practice swings” or to visualize the movements and totally focus one's attention before making the cuts. Understanding the functions of scoring and the effects of the variables described can help, but there is no substitute for experience. In this respect, scoring bread is no different from an athletic skill or any other art or craft. (Tourist: “Please, sir, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” New Yorker: “Practice, practice, practice.”)
The effect of scoring on loaf shape
Michael Suas, in his book "Advanced Bread & Pastry," provides some information about how scoring patterns influence loaf shape. Scoring is not just to make a visually pretty design on the top of a loaf. It is also how the baker controls the direction in which the loaf expands. This impacts the shape of the loaf cross section (rounder or more oval), the height of the loaf and, for a boule, whether it stays round or ends up more oblong.
According to Suas, long loaves like bâtards and baguettes are traditionally scored parallel to their long axis. This may be a single long cut or multiple cuts that are almost parallel and overlap somewhat (for ¼ to 1/3 of their length, generally).
Classic Cut – Single and multiple cuts
However, for breads with high-rye content which have lower gluten and less oven spring, the traditional objective is to encourage a higher rise in the oven spring resulting in a rounder cross section. This is achieved by "sausage" or "chevron" cuts.
Sausage cut (on the left) and Chevron cut (on the right)
Boules are scored in a variety of patterns, again with differing effects on how the loaf expands. The common "tic-tac-toe" pattern and a simple cross will direct the expansion upward. More complex patterns like diamonds result in a relatively flatter loaf.
Boule scored with “tic-tac-toe” pattern
One of most interesting effects is that scoring a boule with multiple parallel cuts encourages expansion at a right angle to the cuts. This results in an oblong loaf shape.
What's the point of an ear? Controlled bloom!
This topic is not about the auricular anatomy of elves (or Vulcans). It's about scoring breads.
Scoring loaves creates a visually pleasing pattern, and it helps control the expansion of the loaf as it bakes.
These San Francisco Sourdough breads illustrate a more "advanced" aspect of scoring that is alluded to by both Hamelman (in "Bread") and Suas (in "Advanced Bread & Pastry.")
San Francisco Sourdough Breads (from Peter Reinhart's "Crust & Crumb")
Detail of bâtard crust, with "ear," grigne" & "bloom."
What Suas called "the classic cut" is parallel to the long axis of a baguette or a bâtard. The cut is made with the blade at a shallow angle to the surface of the loaf. The cut should be shallow - about 1/4 inch deep. Paradoxically, this shallow cut results in the flap lifting better than a deeper cut would, thus forming a nice "ear." Hamelman (pg. 80) points out that "a deep cut will simply collapse from its own weight."
The angle is also important. "If the angle is not achieved and the cut is done with the blade vertical to the loaf, the two sides of the dough will spread very quickly during oven spring and expose an enormous surface area to the heat. The crust will begin to form too soon - sometimes before the end of oven spring - penalizing the development of the bread. If the cut is properly horizontal, the sides of the loaf will spread slower. The layer of dough created by the incision will partially and temporarily protect the surface from the heat and encourage a better oven spring and development." (Suas, pg. 116.)
The second photo, above, illustrates a fairly nice "ear," but it also shows that the bloom occurred slowly, as it should. Notice that the color of the crust in the opening has 3 distinct degrees of browning, decreasing from left to right. The darker part on the left obviously opened first and was exposed to the direct heat of the oven for longer. If the bloom occurred too rapidly, it would have a more even coloration.
This boule was slashed with the blade held at 90 degrees to the surface of the loaf. Note the even coloration of the bloomed crust.
In summary, in order to achieve an optimal bloom in baguettes and bâtards, one must attend to 3 variables when scoring them:
The cuts should be almost parallel to the long axis of the loaf.
The blade should be held at about a 30 degree angle to the surface of the loaf.
The depth of the cut should be shallow - about 1/4 inch.
Variable shading of the bloomed crust confirms that the desired slow but prolonged opening of the cut during oven spring occurred.
P.S. I have made a video version of this tutorial. It was my first attempt at editing a video. I am not delighted with the quality, but I hope I can show it and, maybe, get some help improving it. Here is the link:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4381896920195658969&hl=en (for slow connections)
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6866686363544546201&hl=en (for broadband, e.g., DSL or cable)
Grew up eating this stuff. Custard buns. My cousin who now lives in Hong Kong sent me a recipe and I was able to make some... tears.
Firm Sourdough Starter - Glezer recipe
I’m finally getting around to posting Maggie Glezer’s firm sourdough starter recipe. For those of you having problems with your starters you might wish to give this a try. Most people here are using batter-style starters so it might be interesting to see if there is any discussion on firm starters. Plus I need help in learning to convert properly for use in recipes which don’t use a firm starter and there are always questions that come up. I have photographed my starter from mixing the dough ball and pressing it into the pint-sized jar through several hourly increments where you can see how grows and finally it quadruples in 8 hours, or in this case just short of 8 hours, which is the “gold standard” Maggie talks about for a firm starter to be ready to leaven bread.
I realize there are many opinions and methods on sourdough starters and this is only the one I’ve chosen and that works for me. But as many of you know, I’m a bread newbie and a sourdough newbie and I’m interested in all the information. Some of you were asking about a firm starter so thought this might help.
PHOTOS on firm starter:
(NOTE: Edited to correct recipe 9-25-07 so if you copied it prior to this date please recopy and accept my apologies!)
SOURDOUGH STARTER DIARY – © Copyright, Maggie Glezer, Blessing of Bread
(How to make sourdough bread in two weeks or less)
To begin a starter, you need only whole rye flour, which is rich in sourdough yeasts and bacteria, bread flour, water, time, and persistence (lots of the last two). Amounts are small because I like to use the minimum of flour practical for building the sourdough, as so much of it will be thrown away. If you are baking bread in the meantime, you can add any of these discards to a yeasted dough for extra flavor.
SUNDAY EVENING: Mix 1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) whole rye flour with 1/4 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) water to make a thick paste and scrape it into a clean sealed jar.
TUESDAY MORNING: The starter should have puffed a bit and smell sharp. Add 1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour and 1/4 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) water to the jar, stir it well, and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula to clean them. Reseal the jar.
WEDNESDAY MORNING: The starter should have risen quickly. It is now time to convert it into a stiff starter. In a small bowl, dissolve a scant 2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.1 ounces) starter (discard the rest) in 2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.1 ounces) water, then add 1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour and knead this soft dough. Place it in a clean jar or lidded container, seal it, and let it ferment.
THURSDAY EVENING: The starter will not have risen at all; it will have only become very gooey. Repeat the above refreshment, throwing away any extra starter.
SATURDAY EVENING: The starter will not have risen at all; it will have only become very gooey. Repeat the same refreshment.MONDAY MORNING: The starter will finally be showing signs of rising, if only slightly! Repeat the refreshment.
TUESDAY MORNING: The starter should be clearly on its way and have tripled in twenty-four hours. Repeat the refreshment.WEDNESDAY MORNING: The starter should be getting stronger and more fragrant and have tripled in twenty-four hours. Repeat the refreshment.
WEDNESDAY EVENING: The starter should have tripled in eight hours. It will be just about ready to use. Reduce the starter in the refreshment to 1 tablespoon (15 grams/0.5 ounce) starter using the same amounts of water and bead flour as before.THURSDAY MORNING: The starter is ready for its final refreshment. Use 1 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams/0.4 ounce) starter, 2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.1 ounces) water, and 1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour.THURSDAY EVENING: The starter is now ready to use in a recipe or to be refreshed once more and then immediately stored in the refrigerator.
Refreshment for a complete Sourdough Starter
MAKES: About a rounded 1/3 cup (90 grams/3.3 ounces) starter, enough to leaven about 3 1/3 cups (450 grams/16 ounces) flour in the final dough
This stiff starter needs to be refreshed only every twelve hours. Use this formula to refresh a refrigerated starter after if has fully fermented and started to deflate. If the following starter does not quadruple in volume in eight hours or less, refresh it again, with these proportions, until it does. If your kitchen is very cold, you will need to find a warmer area to ferment your starter.
1 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams/0.4 ounce) fully fermented sourdough starter
2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.1 ounces) water
1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour
MIXING THE STARTER: In a small bowl, dissolve the starter in the water, then stir in the flour. Knead this stiff dough until smooth. You may want to adjust the consistency of the starter: For a milder, faster-fermenting starter, make the starter softer with a little more water; for a sharper, slower-fermenting starter, make the starter extra stiff with a bit more flour. Place it in a sealed container to ferment for 8 to 12 hours, or until it has fully risen and deflates when touched.
Conversion of a Batter-Type Starter into a Stiff Starter
MAKES: About a rounded 1/3 cup (90 grams/3.2 ounces) starter, enough to leaven about 3 1/3 cups (450 gram/16 ounces) flour in the final dough
If you already have a batter-type starter – that is, a starter with a pancake-batter consistency – you will need to convert it into a stiff starter for the Glezer recipes, or to check its strength.
1 tablespoon (15 grams/0.5 ounce) very active, bubbly batter-type starter
1 tablespoon (15 grams/0.5 ounce) water
1/3 cup (50 grams/1.8 ounces) bread flour
MIXING THE STARTER: In a small bowl, mix the starter with the water, then stir in the flour. Mix this little dough until smooth, adjusting its consistency as necessary with small amounts of flour or water to make a stiff but easily kneaded starter. Let it ferment in a sealed container for 8 to 12 hours, or until it is fully risen and starting to deflate. If the starter has not quadrupled in volume in 8 hours or less, continue to refresh it with the proportions in “Refreshment for a Completed Sourdough Starter” until it does.
I like pizza quite a lot, but my wife loves it. She told me last night that Pizza is the one food she can “over-eat.” I could not start to list the foods I will predictably over-eat given the opportunity, but my wife has this super-human self-control. So this confession tells you that pizza is really special to her.
I've made some pretty good pizze and some not so good. Last night I made the best pizza I've ever made by a long shot. In fact, I do believe it was the best pizza crust I've ever eaten.
The crust was based on the “Overnight Pizza Dough with Levain” from Ken Forkish's Flour Water Salt Yeast. I say “based” because, while the ingredients and procedures were pretty much as Forkish prescribes, the timing of many steps was different. Some of those differences were planned, and some were …. accommodations. I'm not going to claim that the crust turned out so well because of my baking genius, but I am going to try to capture what I ended up doing so I can do it again … on purpose next time.
Caputo 00 flour
Giusto's fine whole wheat flour
* Percent of total flour that is pre-fermented.
Mature, active levain
Caputo 00 flour
Giusto's fine whole wheat flour
Water (90 ºF)
Dissolve the levain in the water.
Add the flours and mix thoroughly.
Ferment at room temperature until expanded by 2 to 2.5 times. (Note: Forkish specifies fermenting for 8 to 10 hours. My levain was ripe in 6 hours. So, I went to step 4.)
Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days.
Caputo 00 flour
Water (90-95 ºF)
Fine sea salt
Take the levain out of the fridge 1-2 hours before mixing the final dough.
Mix the water and flour to a shaggy mass and allow it to rest, covered, for 20-60 minutes (autolyse).
Sprinkle the salt over the dough and add 180 g of the levain divided into 4-6 pieces. Mix using the “pinch and fold” procedure described by Forkish.
Bulk ferment for 5 to 14 hours, or until the dough has expanded 2 to 2.5 times. Do stretch and folds at 30 minute intervals 2-4 times . Then just let the dough ferment undisturbed. (Note: I know this time range (5 to 14 hours) sounds absurd. Forkish's instructions are to ferment overnight for 12 to 14 hours, but my dough had doubled in 5-6 hours and was very bubbly. If I had let it ferment for another 6 to 8 hours, I would have had soup.)
Transfer the dough to a well-floured board. Dust the dough and your hands with flour. Divide the dough into 350 g pieces. (You will get 4 pieces of 350 g and one that is larger.
Shape each piece into a fairly tight ball and place them in ZipLoc-type sandwich bags with a tablespoon of olive oil in each.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and for up to 3 days.
When you are ready to make your pizza/e, 2 1/2 to 4 hours before shaping the pizze, take the number of dough balls you will need out of the fridge. Let them warm up at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The balls should expand by a third to a half.
Put the dough balls back in the fridge for the last half hour to an hour before shaping them into pizze. This is because the dough is a bit more elastic and less fragile when cold.
Take one ball of dough at a time out of the fridge. Shape it. Top it. Bake it. Enjoy!
This “in and out of the fridge” stuff may seem unduly complicated. It happened because we changed our minds about going to a concert a couple times before finally deciding to stay home and make pizza. See, if we had decided to go, there wouldn't have been time to make pizza and eat it beforehand. But, in hindsight, this procedure makes a lot of sense. A longer fermentation improves flavor, but retarding the dough in the fridge was needed to prevent over-fermentation. The warm-up in Step 8. just completed the fermentation to an optimal degree. I could have just let the bulk fermentation go a bit longer – say about an hour – and then not needed Step. 8 and 9 at all.
This dough was a delight to shape. It had just the right balance of elasticity and extensibility. When baked at 500 ºF for 10 to 11 minutes, the edges puffed up beautifully. They were crackling crispy. The dough under the toppings was moderately chewy but not at all “tough.” The most remarkable feature was the flavor. It was mildly sour but very wheaty, sweet and complex. It was astonishingly delicious. My wife, who often leaves pizza crust un-eaten, actually left the center part un-eaten and ate the outer crust in preference.
How much of this was the procedures and how much the use of 98% Caputo 00 flour? That's hard to answer. I suppose I need to make this dough again using a good AP flour to find out.
I made two 10 or 12 inch pizze. One was a classic Pizza Margherita made with olive oil, fresh mozzarella, fresh, locally grown San Marzano-variety tomatoes which were par-boiled, skinned, seeded and cut into strips and fresh basel leaves from our garden, added after the pizza was baked.
The other pizza was topped with a heavy spread of good olive oil, fresh, finely chopped rosemary and fleur de sel. After baking, the top was rubbed with a cut San Marzano tomato which was then hand-shredded and spread over the pizza. (Note to self: Lose the salt, if you don't want Susan to complain. Substitute thinly sliced garlic.)
Well, we do have 3 pizza dough balls left, including a 380 g one. I am going to make a potato pizza that's been on my “to bake list” for a few years, ever since I first read about it in Leader's Local Breads then again in Maggie Glezer's Artisan Breads.
Submitted to YeastSpotting