The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Discouraged in the Southeast

Aprea's picture
Aprea

Discouraged in the Southeast

I have been at this for an arguable short time - A total of 6 rounds of bread baking.  I am have studied these posts, The Bread Bible (library copy), and Breadbaker's Apprentice.  I have been successful with the crust and crumb in the French Bread  and Pain de Campagne recipes in BBA - but the flavors are just not there.  I am mixing long enough - the dough is passing all tests.  I am using Bob's Red Mill Organic, and King Arthur.  I am a "foodie" - above average in the kitchen - I know how to follow a recipe.  The bread is very bland.  If this is the best I can hope for - then I am in trouble.  I think it has something to do with the region I live in.  Northern California had bread that was heavenly - The NE has wonderful bread.  But the South must be known for it's bisquits for a reason.  I know there are bakers here that have mastered the best possible flavors - but they are not to be found in any of the recipes I have found.


 


The sourdough starter in Gaarp's sourdough starter 101 has also been a failure.  Two tries - but three could be the charm.


 


I will keep at it - my quest shall not be truncated!!!

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Anna.


Coaxing flavor out of white flour has got to be the ultimate challenge of bread baking. Professor Calvel made himself famous for a career devoted to solving this problem.


The flour you use will make a difference, but the flours you are using are not from your region. I assume that Bob's Redmill flours and KAF flours are the same nation-wide.


The best way of getting more flavor in lean breads is to use long, cool fermentations. Depending on the recipe and personal preference/convenience, this can be a bulk fermentation, cold retardation of the formed loaves or both.


Turning to sourdough baking will also yield more tasty bread, as will adding small amounts of whole wheat and/or rye to your flour mix. Mixed-grain breads can be extremely flavorful.


Lastly, is it possible your bread needs more salt for your taste? If you like your food saltier than others, the "normal" amount of salt in your breads may result in them tasting bland to you, even though others may like them.


I hope some of these thoughts help.


David

trailrunner's picture
trailrunner

Have been baking here in Central AL for 30 years. I currently  use whatever flour I can get locally. Only recently have I tried to get new sources. I used organic only for 8 years in the 80's when I had a food coop here in AL. I am going to start getting Heartland Mills flour if the shipping is not too bad. 


I am not sure what you are having a problem with. Is is the salt ? What flour are you using? Have you tried the longer slower rises? I have to say that I have never done anything long or slow til the past 2 weeks. I always use the direct yeast method and have so much success that way that I am amazed at myself for trying the new ways LOL. I have wild yeast growing like crazy and made waffles today from the discard. I am making sourdough tomorrow for the 1st time ever. 


Anything that we can do to make your baking a success we will do. What exactly is it that you want that you are not getting? Let's find a solution...Caroline


 


 


 


 


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

I haven't made anything out of BBA, but I have tested recipes for PR's Whole Grain Breads, and I found them lacking in salt for my taste. I generally add salt to total about 1 tsp per pound of dough, and then they taste great :-)


I have an easy and dependable starter formula. If you'd like to try it, I'd be happy to post it. Don't be discouraged :-)

sojourner's picture
sojourner

These questions really arises from my experience with Debra Wink's very clear guide to making a starter, assisted by Pineapple juice at first.  My starters, one rye and one white, are now both 3 weeks old.  They're more sluggish now than they were at the 1 week stage. but that isn't what's bothering me.


Both starters have a pronounced smell like the cheap pear drops I used to buy as a child. A quick Google search tells me it's either acetone or acetate, although there seems to be no agreement as to which it is, at least not on the search responses I saw.


So... my first question is whether this is unwise to use? Putting to one side what it is, there is also the issue of whether it would taint the bread. The second question that arises is whether I should be faithful to these starters and carry on in the hope that things sort themselves out or whether I should wave them goodbye.


Thanks for all and any advice.


Sojourner


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Hi Sojourner,


You can probably turn these around by feeding them more intensively for a time. But first things first---how are you feeding them now, and what is the temperature of their surroundings?


Lactic acid bacteria are capable of producing several intermediate and end products that smell unpleasant and acetone-like, but they generally don't resort to these alternate metabolic pathways when they are well fed. Sluggishness is another sign of underfeeding. Tweaking your maintenance routine is probably all that is necessary, but it may take a week or two to bring it back into balance.


I wouldn't give up on them yet :-)
-dw

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I love the pear smell in my starter.  It is there and I love it!  Mine does not smell cheap though, more like a cider pear.


Mini O

sojourner's picture
sojourner

Debra, thanks for your reply.


I can't hide it, can I?  8-)  I must confess, after being so methodical over the first two weeks, I've become a bit forgetful over this last week and have missed the odd feed here and there.  In that first two weeks, I was removing 40 g of starter and adding 20 g water plus 20 g flour twice a day.  for a good part of this last week it's tended to be the same dose but only once a day unless I remembered to do it twice.  Temperature? They're kept low down in the airing cupboard, so I'd guess that's probably round about 23-25 degrees. Room temperature in the kitchen would vary between 16 and 20, something I thought would be too low.


Suitably chastened, I'll go and feed them right away!


Appreciate the guidance,


Sojourner


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Your starter is telling on you ;-)


Next question is, how much starter are you adding the 20 g water and flour to? That's more important than how much you're removing. If it's 40 g that you're keeping (2:1:1?), then that's too much starter and/or not a big enough refreshment unless you are feeding it three or more times a day.


Assuming you aren't looking to be a slave to it, let's either decrease the starter amount to 20 g or less, and/or increase the flour and water, so the little buggers can pull themselves out of starvation mode. How about going to a 1:1:1 ratio twice a day, until it starts to show a little more life, and then a 1:2:2 or 1:3:3 if you're going to keep it at 23-25 degrees.


I don't want to overwhelm you with too much or confusing information at this point, but there are some other things you could take advantage of, such as the cooler room temp in your kitchen (where are you, BTW?), or lowering the hydration a bit. The goal is to keep it in active growth as much as possible while out of the refrigerator. By active, I don't mean necessarily fast, but rather, not allowing it to go flat. You can play with all these things---refreshment rate, feeding schedule, hydration and temperature---until you find what works best for you :-)


-dw

sojourner's picture
sojourner

Debra, thanks for that. I have 40g of starter in the pot.  I remove 20 g, add 10g of flour and 10g of water. (I've rapped my knuckles and given it a bedtime feed, BTW.) So, when I remove 20g, I top it up by the same amount. Having been forgetful about some of the feeds over the past week, I think I'd rather go with your suggestion of reducing the "base" amount to 20g to which I add 20g flour and 20g water initially, rather than trying to remember to feed it three (or more) times a day. Then, as you suggest, when it is more active, I'll increae the ratio again.


I'm in the UK. The weather for tomorrow is forecast at 29 degrees but it won't happen like that around here as we get the cooler winds coming off the sea. If I may, I'll report back on how the resuscitation (sp?) goes.


When things come right and I have a virile starter, do I need to build it up in stages or go bang into making a loaf? (My usual bread so far, from pate fermentée, is 580g flour and 335 g water including the old dough). I added a small amount of starter to it on my last batch, not to use as starter but simply to use it rather than throw it away and to see whether it made a difference to the taste.


Sojourner


 


 

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Sojourner, yes, please do report back how it's going, and we can tweak things as you go. If and when you know that you won't be able to make the next feeding in a resonable time, rather than letting it get hungry again, park it in the cooler kitchen to slow it down, or even the fridge temporarily as needed, until you can get back on the program.


Whether you build it up in stages, or just use your starter as soon as it is ripe, depends mainly on how healthy and vigorous it is, how much of it you need, and if it is at the desired hydration for the bread you want to make. So the answer is... it just depends ;-)

trailrunner's picture
trailrunner

I looked back to read his post and it was deja vu....and then you Debra too...I think salt is always a good place to start. c

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Anna - can you provide some info so we can do a little detective work to see what may be affecting your bread?



  • What 6 recipes did you use exactly? (curious to see if they are ones that do have a long cold ferment or not)

  • Are you using bottled water, tap water, filtered tap water, other?

  • How warm is your house where you are proofing your doughs?

  • Do you know roughly how old the All Purpose flour you have may be? Did you buy it recently from a source that has good turnaround?

  • Are you using a scale to weigh ingredients, or are you using volume measures? (This could make a big difference in the amount of salt that ends up in your dough, since coarse sea salt takes up more volume than the same weight of fine sea salt, and even fine sea salt (I think) takes up more volume than the same weight of table salt.)

JIP's picture
JIP

I would hope you don't get discouraged too soon.  If bread baking were a simple venture everyone would be an expert.  Making excellent bread takes alot of practice and trial and error but remember even screw-ups generally have some  redeeming qualities.  I say find a recipe you are good at and perfect it and move on from there.  If you get really goot at one core recipe the skills can be translated to many others.  Also if you are having issues getting a starter going you might try buying one from KAF.  I tried 3 times to get one going and failed so I went ahead and purchased one and have had tons of luck with it.  You get like a teaspoon of slime and have a couple of day process to get it up to speed and then you can do with it what you wish from there.

davidm's picture
davidm

Like several posters, my first thought was salt. Especially if you are using volume measure for the salt (say 2 tsps) from a formula and you are using coarse salt like sea or kosher salt. A tablespoon of kosher is a lot less salt than a tablespoon of tablesalt. In particular, the formulas in the Bread Baker's Apprentice need to be adjusted for salt if you are using kosher or similar. Reinhart notes this in the early chapters somewhere as I recall, though the weight equivalent he gives for kosher salt do not correspond at all well to the actual weight of the kosher salt I use.  


Also, if you are at higher altitude, you may need more salt for it to taste right. I have no idea why that is, (maybe someone knows?) but it is definitely my experience here in Colorado.


Otherwise, as mountaindog suggests, you'll need to give pretty precise descriptions of the mix and methods. Do that, and I have no doubt that someone here will figure it out lickety-split. :)

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

I don't know the BBA recipes, but I have found a few things that help with flavor


 


1. Longer rise times definitely develop more flavor. I've got a brioche going right now that basically sits in the fridge for about 20 hours total for a super slow rise. Hopefully it kicks butt, because I'm tired of waiting. I'm guessing it will. The bread bible hasn't steered me wrong so far. One that I've been making alot lately is the bread bible's basic rustic bread. Tastes great. I just do the sponge the night before and let it sit in the fridge all night.


2. Try some other recipies. There are tons out there. Different flours, different mix ins, etc. The Kalamata olive bread in the bread bible is killer, and apart from chopping olives, no more work than the basic rustic.


3. In your basic breds, try swapping out a small quantity of white flour for either rye or whole wheat. The rustic I mention above has 1/4 of whole wheat, and it does seem to make a difference.


4. On the actual baking- a really hot oven and some steam really improves the crust, which improves the flavor too (carmelization is your friend).


 


Good luck and keep at it. You'll hit on something that you like. I'm sure.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Anna,


To troubleshoot your distress we'll need more information regarding recipe, actions and timings of the build through baking cycle.


Wild-Yeast

Aprea's picture
Aprea

1.  French bread from BBA:




  • Half KA AP flour and half KA bread flour.

  • Used volume measurements. 

  •  Pate'Fermente as directed.

  • Did not mix as well as directed.  

  • Used Romertropf for single and large batard.

  • Result:  Crumb was dense, but it made good toast.  


2.  French Bread from BBA:

  • Half KA AP flour and half KA bread flour.  Sea salt - by weight.  
  • Used weight measurements.  
  • Pate Fermente as directed.  Hand kneaded until 77F, and passed window test.  Shaped into 3 baguettes.  
  • Used pizza stone to bake on, and steamed as directed.



result:  Perfect crumb and crust.  The flavor was better than attempt #1, but still too bland - it didn't have the wonderful addictive bread flavor.  So I  decided to try different flours.



3.  Pain de Campagne from BBA:

  • KA Bread flour and 1/3 cup KA whole wheat flour. 
  • Pate Fermente as directed.  Hand kneaded (This time I didn't have my husband to help me get  to the proper temperature and window pane test.  I hand kneaded for over 30 minutes - I am 110 lbs - and not as strong as I should be for this - I may have stopped too soon.
  •  Shape:  2 batards on pizza stone with steam.

result:  Too dense - flavor unappealing.  The whole wheat did not give the effect I was after.  It was too bland with a bitter taste.


4.  French Bread from BBA

  • This time I decided to use Bob's Red Mill Organic (good for Homemade bread), with 1 oz. of rye flour.  Pate fermenta also had 1 oz of rye flour.
  • Everything else was consistent with #2 above, except I used the French fold, and stretch and fold method to get to the proper gluton development.  
  • bulk refrigerated overnight.  

result:  Perfect crumb and crust.  This time it was not too bland, but a little too salty.  It was definitely improvement over #2 above, but I couldn't help but think of salt, rather than addictive bread when I ate it.  I used the same sea salt - by weight in the dough, but I think the rye flour helped bring out more of the salt flavor.  My overall feeling was that if this is the best that I could achieve, then I do not know if it is worth it.  We are limited  in flour choices here - KA, Bobs, Arrowhead Mills is all I can find (rather than standard supermarket brands).  I served the bread with a homemade beef and noodle vegetable soup - and it was a very pleasant combo.  But almost any  bread is good with soup.  It also was pleasant with an English Stilton Cheese.

Today I completed the cinnamon rolls from BBA.  I used whole milk powder, and the french fold, and stretch and fold combo. Overnight fermentation. I left the dough fairly wet to see if that would help avoid having a tough roll that someone else described here.  It was delightful.  Not too sweet, soft and airy crumb.

Both attempts at sourdough starter failed by day 4 - .   I used Gaarps method in sourdough 101.

If any of you have a different starter for me to try, please let me know.

Thank you all for your suggestions...Anna


sphealey's picture
sphealey

=== (This time I didn't have my husband to help me get  to the proper temperature and window pane test.  I hand kneaded for over 30 minutes - I am 110 lbs - and not as strong as I should be for this - I may have stopped too soon. ===


Over-kneading could be part of the problem.  When making French bread or baguettes using the King Arthur, Rose Levy Beranbaum, or FloydM recipe I "knead" using the "lift-and-flip" method from the King Arthur video for 2-3 minutes, then let yeast and French folds do the work for the next 3 hours.  Lift-and-flip is a very gentle method, and some people don't do even that: they just mix, wait, and fold.


Hamelman says that even the strongest human  can't over-knead by hand, but working the dough for 30 minutes seems to me could over-oxyidize and damage both the flavor and the gluten.


Also, don't worry about the temperature unless you are using a very powerful stand mixer, other than to be aware of the temperature in your house and use water that is a bit warmer or a bit cooler than room temperature if it seems appropriate.


Let's take this from the other direction:  what breads do you consider _do_ have a good taste?  How about a Panera baguette:  do you like those?  Perhaps we can figure out something to fit that model.


sPh

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Anna, if you're starting over, I'd like to offer you this one. I developed it while coaching a group of women on Cooks Talk in 2004, some of whom were just as discouraged by previous attempts as you are now. Through their feedback, I think we worked out most, if not all of the kinks, and everyone came out successful and happy.



   
 

Basic Procedure for Making Sourdough Starter

If you are the curious, investigative type (or a sourdough purist :-), this can be done with just water in place of the juice throughout. But for many (not all), a vigorous gas-producing bacterium will grow on day 2 and quit growing on day 3 or 4, followed by a few days or more of agonizing stillness. The fruit juice or cider should keep this bacteria (and a few others that are smelly) from growing and delaying the process. Either way, the end result will be the same sourdough starter. 

Day 1: mix . . .  
2 T. whole grain flour* (rye or wheat)
2 T. unsweetened pineapple juice, apple cider or orange juice    

Day 2: add . . .  
2 T. whole grain flour*
2 T. juice or cider    

Day 3: add . . .  
2 T. whole grain flour*
2 T. juice or cider    

Day 4: (and once daily until it starts to expand and smell yeasty), mix . . .  
2 oz. of the starter (1/4 c. after stirring down--discard the rest)
1 oz. flour** (scant 1/4 cup)
1 oz. water (2 tablespoons)  

* Organic is not a requirement, nor does it need to be freshly ground.  
** You can feed the starter/seed culture whatever you would like at this point. White flour, either bread or a strong all-purpose like King Arthur or a Canadian brand will turn it into a general-purpose white sourdough starter. Feed it rye flour if you want a rye sour, or whole wheat, if you want to make 100% whole wheat breads. If you're new to sourdough, a white starter is probably the best place to start.    

Because this is a process involving variable live cultures, I think it may be better to outline the phases of development, rather than to give a timetable. It's a natural succession that will progress at its own speed. You can influence it, but you can't control it--not an easy concept for a baker :-) "Relax. Be patient." You'll hear that a lot in regard to sourdough.  

You don't have to taste the mixture if the thought really bothers you, but it will tell you a lot about the progress at times when there may be no other outward signs. Lactic acid doesn't really have an aroma, so you won't be able to gauge just how sour it is by smell. Taste the initial mixture to get a point of reference and pay attention to the sourness level as you go. Taste it before you feed and decide if it is more sour or the same as after you fed it 24 hours previous. Taste it again after feeding the next addition to compare in the next 24 hours.  

The First Phase: For the first day or so, nothing will happen that is detectable to the human senses. It probably won't taste any tangier or develop any bubbles. It will look much the same as when you mixed it. This phase usually lasts one day, sometimes two.  

The Second Phase: The starter will begin to produce its own acid and taste tangier, although it may be hard to tell with some juices until you switch to the water. It will expand only if the juice wasn't acid enough to prevent growth of the gassy bacteria, otherwise there won't be much else to see. There probably won't be much gluten degradation, and it may smell a little different on the surface, but shouldn't smell particularly foul unless you're using water. This phase could last one to three days or more. If it is going to get hung up anywhere, this is the place. If after 3 days, it still doesn't become more sour and show signs of progress, use whole grain flour instead of white for one or more feedings.  

The Third Phase: The starter will become very tart, an indication of more acid production by more acid tolerant bacteria. The gluten may disappear and tiny bubbles become more noticeable. Once the starter becomes really sour, it usually transitions quickly into phase four.  

The Fourth Phase: Yeast will start to grow and multiply, causing the starter to expand with gas bubbles all over, and it will take on the yeasty smell of bread or beer.

Feeding Exact feeding times aren't critical. Pick a general time of the day--morning, afternoon or evening--that will be convenient to feed daily for 4-7 days. It'll only take a few minutes, and if it varies a few hours from one day to the next, that's okay. But, try not to skip a day. There is a higher incidence of growing mold when an unestablished starter sits idle for 36 hours or more. Daily refreshing seems to eliminate that risk.  

Containers Keep the container covered to prevent mold spores, dust, undesirable bacteria and wayward insects from falling in. Don't worry--it doesn't need fresh air or oxygen, and the microorganisms you need are already in the flour.   For the first few days of this procedure, you can leave the mixture in a bowl and set a plate on top. Saran Quick Covers work great too. Run a rubber spatula around to scrape down the sides after mixing. From day 4 on, it's a good idea to rinse the storage container before returning the freshly fed mixture. It is not necessary to sterilize the container, but old residue stuck to the sides or lid is an invitation for mold.   By day 3 or 4 it will need room to grow (day 2 if using water). Be sure to use a container about 4x the volume of freshly fed starter or you may end up with a mess on your hands. Wide-mouth canning jars are nice to gauge and view the rise. Also, the two-piece lids are designed to vent pressure. Straight-sided Rubber Maid containers work well too. Plastic containers with tight-fitting lids will pop their tops if they are sealed tightly. Gladware doesn't seem to have that problem.  

Temperature You don't need to keep it in a special place unless your house is particularly cool--try to keep it in the 70's for the most part. 75-78º would be ideal, but you needn't go out of your way to achieve that. The low 70's will do fine. Below 68, things might be a bit slow to develop (but it will eventually).   One solution for those with very cool houses, is to turn on a desk or table lamp and set your container in the vicinity. Light bulbs put out a LOT of heat, so be sure to take a temperature reading of the site and set the starter where it won't be warmer than about 80º.  Cool is better than too warm. If the starter develops a crust at any time, move it farther from the heat source.   The warmth helps more in the first few days because the various bacteria really like it and it helps them produce the acids needed to lower the pH and wake up the yeast. The yeast don't need it so warm. Once you have a good population of yeast growing, you'll be able to maintain it at cool room temp, even if that's less than 70º. They will grow faster if kept warm, but they'll also run through their food supply and exhaust themselves sooner as well.  

How it works It seems to be a widely held belief that if you add water to flour and "catch" some wild yeast and sourdough bacteria from the air, or from grape skins, etc., that they will grow and become starter, but it doesn't work quite like that. The "bugs" we're trying to cultivate will only become active when the environment is right -- like a seed that won't germinate until certain conditions are met to break dormancy. When you mix flour and water together, you end up with a mixture that is close to neutral in pH, and our guys need it a bit more on the acid side. There are other microbes in the flour, however, that prefer a more neutral pH, and so they are the first to wake up and grow. Some will produce acids as by-products. That helps to lower the pH to the point that they can no longer grow, but something else can, and so on, until the environment is just right for wild yeast to activate. It is a succession that happens quicker for some than for others.

When using just flour and water, many will grow a gas-producing bacterium that slows down the process. It can raise the starter to three and a half times its volume in a relatively short period -- something to behold. But not to worry; it is harmless. In fact, this bacterium is used in other food fermentations like cheeses and vegetables, and it is all around us in the environment, including wheat fields and flour. It does not grow at a pH less than 4.8, and the specified fruit juices serve to keep the pH low enough to by-pass it. Things will still progress, but this is the point at which people get frustrated and quit, because when the pH drops below 4.8, and it will, the gassy bacteria stop growing. It will appear that the "yeast" died on you, when in fact, you haven't begun to grow yeast yet. But they will come -- really, they're already there. When the pH drops below 3.5 - 4 or so, the yeast will activate, begin to grow, and the starter will expand again. You just need to keep it fed and cared for until then. Once up and running, it will tolerate a wide pH range.

Maintenance There are many opinions out there about how to maintain sourdough starter. Feel free to refresh and store it per the cookbook you'll be using most often. You can adjust the hydration up or down according to recipe requirements.
Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

has been featured in Lessons, is in the new Handbook and has been a favorite for many. I used her method 3 years ago and it's been going strong ever since. Don't give up, success is around the corner.


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/233/wild-yeast-sourdough-starter


Betty

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

You commented,


Hand kneaded (This time I didn't have my husband to help me get to the proper temperature and window pane test. I hand kneaded for over 30 minutes - I am 110 lbs - and not as strong as I should be for this - I may have stopped too soon.


When I first started baking, I kneaded a long time too.  About 45 minutes to an hour.  I gave up in disgust because the dough still wasn't what I thought of as right.  No matter how much flour I added, it was sticky, it wasn't satiny, and it wasn't smooth.


 


Now, except for pizza and bagels, I use the same kneading regimen for just about everything, whether i am mixing by hand or machine.  I knead for 5 minutes.  I cover the dough and let it rest for 5 minutes.  This is important for all doughs, but crrucial for whole grain doughs.  During the rest, the dough develops as moisture is absorbed.  Then another 5 minute knead.  I talk about how to knead on my site at http://www.sourdoughhome.com/kneadingconverting.html and have videos of how to knead.  In my baking classes I find that few people knead effectively.  At 110 lbs, you outweigh most batches of dough by somewhere between 110 and 30 times.   You can knead by hand.


I no longer shoot for a satiny dough that isn't sticky.  I shoot for a tacky dough.  If you get it to a point where it isn't a bit sticky, it's too dry.  The other thing I see in my classes is beginners want to put too much flour into the dough.  Too dry a dough tends to be rather flavorless.  Water unlocks the flavors.  I'd suggest weighing your ingredients and trying to follow a reciipe that gives ingredients by weight as given and not adding flour, no matter what you think of how the dough feels.


Good luck,


Mike

johnster's picture
johnster

Anna,


 


I found the cinnamon roll recipe from BBA to be less rich than I prefer, so I took the author's suggestion and made them with the middle-class brioche dough.  WOW!!!  Nice and rich, but not too sweet.  Also, I prefer a cream cheese based icing.  Gets rave reviews.


 


The baguettes from BBA were one of my first quests when I got started.  My words of encouragement are that the bread gets better.  In my experience (I've been at this for two or three years, now), the pain a l'ancienne hits the flavor that I believe that you're after, and, is not difficult.  The loaves look odd (that's part of their trademark) but I would put the flavor of my homemade ones against the best bakery bread that I've eaten in Chicago.  My first try came out that good.


 


Best of luck, and, please, don't get discouraged.


 


Warm regards,


 


Johnster

trailrunner's picture
trailrunner

If you check out all the notations we have made on that thread you will see that nearly everyone thought they had failed when days 4 and 5 arrived. That is not the case. If you add a touch of rye it gets a new boost and as you will see the success rate dramatically increases. Please try again. Also if you will do as Debra suggested and "keep it warm" the first few days and "keep it cool" for the rest of the counter top growth period it makes a huge difference. 


I have just started using wet doughs and sourdough and making baguettes. I found that the BBA No knead French Bread was a perfect success. I had to retard in the fridge for over 40 hrs due to health reasons but it IMPROVED in all ways the bread and crumb and ease of handling. Please do try this recipe. It is only folding in the bowl. 20 x every 30 min for 3 hrs. Very very easy. Caroline

arzajac's picture
arzajac

I made a flowchart to the steps of making a wild yeast starter.


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10166/wild-yeast-levain-sourdough-startert-flowchart


 


It doesn't use time in the sense of "Day 3" or "Day 4", but you progress from one step to the next as your starter reacts.  I find it less confusing to follow that way.


I've made a few starters using this process.  It has been taking me about a week to 10 days to do.


I've made starters using white flour only as well as one with whole wheat.  It probably would have gone faster if I had used rye or pinapple juice.


 

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

Hi, Anna.


Reading over your description of the breads you have baked, I have a few additional thoughts.


I can't add anything to what has been said about flavor development: Use sourdough or pre-ferments. Use long, slow fermentation or cold retardation. Add a bit of WW and/or rye to your white wheat flour.


Several of your breads were too dense. This suggests that you were using too much flour, which is a particular risk when you measure by volume rather than weight. It seems like your later efforts using weighed ingredients did give you better results. So you may have licked that problem.


I wonder if you are under-fermenting your dough. Bulk fermentation is the most important step in bread making for generating the CO2 bubbles that give you a more open, less dense crumb. That's not to say that degree of hydration and mixing/kneading are not important. It's all relative. But under-fermented dough will yield a denser crumb.


The next step, dividing and pre-forming, is also important. You want to handle the dough as gently as possible. You don't want to squash the bubbles formed during fermentation. The same goes for shaping. The saying is "Use an iron hand in a velvet glove." You want to stretch the dough to make a good, tight skin for the loaf, and you want to seal the seams well. But you don't want to press on the loaf too hard. I hope this makes sense. Once I got the feel for this, it made the biggest difference in how open my crumb was, especially in baguettes.


There are additional factors, for sure, but it seems to me these are the ones you might consider next.


David

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Ditto all the above and I second the suggestion to try the Pain a l'ancienne recipe from BBA, it is very simple and the result is the best tasting baguette I've ever been able to make. The long overnight retard in the frig (at least 12 hours) brings out good flavor, don't worry about shaping the baguettes much at all, dough is too wet anyhow and you don't want to de-gas it, just cut the dough in strips and stretch them out onto a sheet pan, steam, bake, and you're done. When I made these, I used only King Arthur AP flour (not bread flour) mixed with about 20% whole wheat to give the crumb a little cream color and a little more wheaty flavor.


Since you mentioned you did not have good tasting water at your house, did you use bottled water?


 

Aprea's picture
Aprea

Good Morning!!!  Wow!  You have all been so generous with your valuable suggestions and inspiring advice.


 


The bread taste I am trying to go after is the Panera french baguette.  I also love their hard rolls and small bread bolls that they use for their soups.  The other ideal for me is the acme baguette from the SF Bay Area.  Even the regular french or sourdough bolle from Safeway sounds like heaven to us.



Thank you all again for your supportive advice.  Thanks to your posts I did not throw away sourdough starter attempt #2 (#1 grew mold because I waited so long without feeding it to double).  #2 had 1 or 2 bubbles on the surface, so I switched it to a clean container and fed it.  My house is cold (65F), but it still doubled overnight)!!  I would have tossed it without your suggestions and flowchart.


I am going to try Pain a l'ancienne next - thank you for your suggestion of adding a little whole wheat.  It will be interesting for me to taste the difference between that and the regular french bread recipe.  I am not going to give up.  


Regarding the mixing - I think I am going to stick with the french fold/stretch and turn combo.  For me personally, that may be what works.  I don't have to pull down the KA, and am not dependent on my husband to help me knead.  This is such a fulfilling way to feed a family.  I start with the bread - and figure out what would go well with it.  They love bread so much that they are happy with a salad and bread (as long as there is enough to fill them up) for dinner.


David - I do not think I am underfermenting, at least anymore - 


I love this site - thank you all again - Anna

BreadHound's picture
BreadHound

I can really relate about the southeast region but as it applies to finding good bread on the shelves.  The basic bagged bread flours ARE there but you must go to several stores & make sure the exp dates are not close.  The speciality flours & some other items I had to order online. The reason I got into baking my own bread is that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to find REAL whole grain breads here in the stores.  I never did go for store chain "bakery breads". Yes they have them but the quality is poor and you can tell alot of white flour was used even when it claims to be whole grain along with other  undesirable ingredients.  When "Sara Lee" is the premium bread on the shelf, you know your're in trouble! (Oh how I miss Great Harvest Bread Co! and Nancy's Yogert).  It is a real eye opener all the refined light colored and weight breads in the stores in SC.  I did find Rudi's Organic bread in one independent Piggly Wiggly store but it was so expensive I decided to start learning to make my own.  They also had Blackstrap molasses (shock!) I bought a jar right up, haa hee. probably should have bought two jars.


Right now I am successfully nursing a sourdough starter made from King Arthur whole wheat flour and pineapple juice that I discovered online from Sourdo lady.  I found the King Arthur flour at Publix and later saw it at Walmart but neither have it in the Organic.  Walmart had the 2 lb. boxes of different types of flours including rye, but I would make sure the exp dates are not close.  I ended up placing several sizable orders of staple baking and food supplies online because there are no "food co-ops", health food stores or gro stores with bulk bins in their nutrition sections here.  Sort of like a differnet country in that respect (and others as well I must say).  In the Pacific Northwest it was a normal common thing.  And dont even think you will find course grind cornmeal here.  It was not fresh bordering on stale and more like cake flour than cornmeal.  I have passed suggestions on to the mgmt in stores here but I wont hold my breath about seeing any kind of changes in the near future.  I would open my own store if I could.  I gather that the major gro chains are making more $ with less trouble on the smaller qts of prepacked and usually stale items than offering bulk whole foods.  Im sure there must be a certain segment of the pop here that are set in their old ways of eating...white, refined, and worse etc. and how would they ever know a difference if the stores dont make anything else available? and when they occasionally do it is so expenisve and limited no one wants to buy it.  Frankly I dont understand why the grocery industry here has not been aware of national trends as the "whole food" concept is not a new thing.  I better stop ranting and check on my starter! My first loaf was made was from the back of the King Arthur flour bag using rapid rise yeast and it turned out very well but needed some minor adjustments on my part. 

davec's picture
davec

Breadhound,


Maybe you should look into opening your own Great Harvest bakery.  Their web site lists 2 in Charlotte, and one in Greenville, but if you are, say, in the Columbia area, they shouldn't be competition.

BreadHound's picture
BreadHound

I knew about the sole Great Harvest in Greenville. I am located about 40 miles from the coast - a long ways from there and did not retire here to go back to work. GH is a franchise and there are certain standards and requirements must be met plus your own $ up front.  I briefly checked into it once but decided it would be too much for me at this point in my life.  But what a great idea for someone needing a new career or just a dependable source of income. 

Aprea's picture
Aprea

We have one fine bakery in Jacksonville, FL - but it is expensive and inconvenient.  I look at it as a challenge to make my own bread.


 


Great Harvest came and went within 2 years.  I didn't like it anyway - they had too many fancy breads and not enough plain french or sourdough baguettes.  If I were to open a bakery, I would follow the likes of Acme in Berkeley, CA.  

BreadHound's picture
BreadHound

Thanks for sharing about Acme Bakery i  Berkeley.  It sounds wonderful! I went to their website and read some of the comments.  That would be a hard act to follow! Too bad there is only one.  I also look at it as a challenge to make most of my own bread (now) but it is also good to have another source for a change and as a backup for when you are too busy to put the time in that baking bread requires. 


I am surprised to hear of a GH folding up shop.  Perhaps there were personal reasons on part of the franchisee or circumstances unrelated to their products.  I noticed also they were not big on the bread types you mentioned but they never have offered Baquettes that I am aware of.  Their trademark is the rounded  2 +lb loaves of basic types. They have a sourdough cheese bread that is/was beyond this world gggggggreeeeeaatttt!  Fond memories at least have zero calories!

bassopotamus's picture
bassopotamus

Weird. I knew there were a couple in the twin cities when I lived there. I don't recall ever buying a regular bread from them, always something with bigtime mix ins. For sweet bread, they were killer. The white chocolate cherry bread was great. They had an eggnog poundcake around the holidays that was killer too

BreadHound's picture
BreadHound

GH always offered unbleached white as well as plain whole wheat loaves, and a simple multigrain with no mix ins as you call them.  My favorite sweetbread from there was the chocolate cherry but before they changed it to white chocolate cherry.  The choc cherry was just better.  Now that I am into baking my own breads, I know I can almost duplicate thiers maybe exceed it. Dried cherries are expensive however and will no doubt be hard to find in my new locale. Maybe around the holidays next year if I get lucky. 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Hi Anna,


Try this...,  Use organic flour for your sourdough starter.  All the necessary organisms exist on the wheat berry and should still be present in the organic flour.  The starter so developed will have the taste of the area in which it was grown. Over time it will change adapting to local conditions.


I also recommend that you choose one recipe that you'd like to become proficient at and stick with that till you feel proficient in the process.


 


Wild-Yeast

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Several times the OP has commented that the crust and crumb are "perfect".  Sadly, that is not terribly descriptive.


 


In the previous posts there has been talk about salt (I prefer about 2% as a bakers percentage), flours (there isn't as much difference between them as their manufacturers would like you to believe), kneading (it really is hard to over knead - about 45 minutes by machine might do it), starters (even through most of the breads the OP mentioned were yeasted breads).


I was once asked what the most important part of bread making was.  In a rather Zen (or maybe grumpy) mood I replied, "whatever part you're not paying enough attention to!"


What has been missing from this discussion is baking.  I think it was Reinhart who commented that only 10% of the final quality of the bread comes from the oven.  Maybe, but a poorly used oven can deduct far more than that from the bread.


 


A number of bread writers say that 90+% of the taste is in the crust.  A bread with a underbaked crust is going to be shortchanged in the flavor department, no matter what flour, yeast, starter, fermentation regimen, mixer etc you are using it won't yield good bread!


I start with using an oven thermometer.as many thermostats are way off.  I use a cheap Taylor thermometer available at most grocery stores for $5 to $10.  I make sure the oven is at the temperature I want.


 


Next, I bake until color develops.  Baking is a balancing act.  It takes time for heat to penetrate the loaf and bake the crumb, but it is temperature that bakes the crust.  Most Americans don't bake their bread nearly long enough.  Professor Calval suggested increasing the length of one's bake by 5 minutes each time you bake a bread, checking out the flavor and such until you go to far.  He said you can't burn bread.  I know better, but I also know few Americans are in any danger of doing so.


 


Back to the balancing act.  If the crust browns too quickly, you can lower the oven temperature or cover the bread with either some foil or bakers parchment.  Next time, bake at a lower temperature.  If the crust is underdone, you can turn up the heat.  


 


While some people like to thump bread to see if its done, I like to use a bread thermometer.  I shoot for about 205F at, or near, sea level.  Using a thermometer gives you the opportunity to repeat your successes or to refine your goals to bake the bread to your taste.


 


So.... check your oven temperature and try baking until the bread is a bit more done.


Mike

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

to see you back again!


Listen up..experience speaking here...listen to Mike, check out his web site, lot's of great info and formulas.


Betty

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Thanks for the kind words- I'm blushing!


I'm in the middle of two site redeigns, so I've been too busy to visit here.  You know, that whole "working for a living" thing sure cuts into my baking time!


 


Mike


 

Paddyscake's picture
Paddyscake

up to date with your new and improved Sourdough Home?


Betty

Elagins's picture
Elagins

hi Aprea, and welcome. first, i don't think there's anyone on here who didn't wade through a swamp of frustration getting to the point of making good -- if not great -- bread. what appears simple really has a lot of moving parts, and understanding those parts is what makes it all happen.

sourdoughs are built on three main parts -- wild yeast, lactobacillus (the bug that makes yogurt sour) and acetobacillus (the bug that turns wine into vinegar). each has its role to play. then there's the flour, which largely consists of protein, carbohydrate (mainly in the form of starches), some fiber and fat, depending on how much of the germ and bran are kept in, and a bunch of different nutrients.

the wild yeasts don't make the sourdough sour; the lacto and aceto bacilli do, and each behaves differently. to get a really strong sourdough, i've been very successful using both wet and dry sponges at both room temp and refrigerated, since lacto and aceto have different preferences when it comes to temp and humidity. yeast also slows down at cooler temps, which causes them to not digest starches and sugars (simplification) quite as fast as when they're warm.

it's a complex process, as i said. best thing to do is to experiment with each of the variables, including time you allow your dough to ferment and when you add the salt, since salt also slows down the yeast, which gives the bacilli more time to work.

my favorite sourdough recipe starts with a dry sponge, about 1/2 oz of starter, 3oz of flour, 2oz of water, which i leave at room temp for 6-8 hours and then refrigerate overnight. to that i add 18oz of flour and 12oz of water, knead it for 8-10 minutes by machine or 10-12 by hand, let it double in bulk, punch it down and make the loaves, which i cover and refrigerate overnight again. day 3 i take the loaves out and let them proof for 6-8 hours, until they've doubled and bake them at 450 for 35-40 minutes with lots of steam during the first 3 minutes.

this is a very sour bread, but i guarantee you it will coax out as much flavor as the flour has to give.

also, if you'd like some starter, i'm giving the stuff away. check my website.

Stan Ginsberg
www.nybakers.com

thegrindre's picture
thegrindre

I need to ask why vinagar isn't used to lower Ph for our little guys to grow in?


I've seen it used for souring things in recipes.


 


Rick