The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

R.I.P. faithful starter

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

R.I.P. faithful starter

This past weekend, I was looking for a sourdough formula that sounded interesting and just couldn't find one that tickled my fancy.  So, I decided to free-lance a formula of my own.  I had about 320 grams of well-fed levain that I pulled out of the refrigerator before leaving for church on Sunday.  On returning home, I found it to be warmed up and at peak expansion.  


Since I wanted to be able to use the bread for sandwiches, I determined to make a pair of batards and guesstimated that a pre-bake dough weight of about 750 grams each should work nicely.  Having had a run of whole grain breads recently, I was ready for a change of pace but still wanted something flavorful.  After consideration, I built a 70% hydration dough with 5% rye, 10% whole wheat and 85% bread flour.  At the last minute, I chucked in 30 grams of flaxseed meal because, well, because it was there and it seemed like a good idea.  


The water, levain, flours, and meal were treated to a 30 minute autolyse.  Then I did a double round of stretch and fold, after which the dough went back into the bowl to ferment.  I did 3 more stretch and folds at 40 minute intervals, only remembering after the second one that I hadn't added any salt.  (That should have been a clue.)  I slurried a tablespoon each of water and sea salt and worked that into the dough.  After the dough was nearly doubled, I turned it out on the counter, divided it in two approximately equal pieces, pre-shaped it and let it rest for about 10 minutes.  After the rest, I finished shaping the loaves into fat batards and set them to rise in a parchment paper couche.


When the batards were still a little short of doubling, I preheated the oven to 450 dF with a baking stone and a steam pan in place.  When the oven reached temperature, I poured boiling water in the steam pan, slashed the loaves (still need more practice with that) and loaded them onto the stone.  After turning the oven temperature down to 400 dF, I set the timer for 25 minutes.  A few minutes later, I came back to see how the oven spring was working (very nicely, thank you) and it hit me that I was seeing all of my levain/starter baking.  I had not remembered to reserve a piece for storage!  I've avoided making that bone-head move for almost 4 years, but it finally caught up with me.  At that point, there was nothing to do but swallow hard and let the bread finish baking.  When the timer sounded, I checked the internal temperature of the bread and the thermometer went to 210 dF very quickly, indicating that the bread was fully baked.


The bread, thankfully, turned out very well.  No single flavor stands out, but the levain, the rye, the wheat, and the flaxseed meal all meld for a very satisfying taste.  Here's how it looks:



On this particular loaf, the slash at each end of the loaf opened beautifully, allowing the crumb to expand fully.  The center slash, however, must not have been deep enough, because it didn't open very much.  As a result, the loaf has sort of a Bactrian camel appearance with humps at either end and a dip in the middle.  


All I have to do to duplicate this is get a new starter going and try again in 4 years ...


Paul


 

Comments

DerekL's picture
DerekL

Condolences...


But why didn't you grab one loaf and try and salvage from the middle?

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Thanks, Derek.


The bread had already been in the oven for, oh, 5 minutes or so.  I figured that there was a rather low probability of being able to extract a still-viable sample versus the 100% probability of destroying the loaf.  


Ah, well.  It's an opportunity to fiddle around with getting a new starter up and running.


Paul

brewninja's picture
brewninja

I was noticing how sad and sympathetic I was feeling to your loss.


These things really are like pets, huh?

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

although I'm not sure how to characterize it.  It seems odd to miss a lump of dough, but I do.  "Mourning" or "grieving" would be overstating the case, but there is a distinct sense of loss.  Fortunately, it is replaceable and now I get to do the whole "anxious parent" routine all over again.


Paul

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I have done some really dumb things in the past and I think I can still remember that moment when I realized what I had done. It's such a humble moment.


A friend lost 5 years worth of company records last week after being bugged by me to spring for a back up system for years. He's having one of those too. At least you will be able to fully recover.


I didn't know you were going to work with Mark. Cool. What a treat. You guys will have great time together. You are both fun personalities. I'm looking to hearing the stories.


Eric

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Paul,


Sorry to read your story. The good news is of course the bread looks wonderful. The other good news is that you will find as I did after a similar bone headed move, that your new starter will be back in no time at all. If you start with one of the WW flour methods and watch carefully, you should be baking again in under a week.


If you keep the starter on the counter at room temp you will have a full flavor mother in two weeks. You might even like it better than the old one.


BTW why didn't you use the container as a source for inoculation? I've experimented with extremely small bits of residue and never had a failure to recover. The stuff is resilient.


Eric

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

the starter container was already washed.  A rare case of high efficiency compounding low intelligence, I'm afraid.


I think I'll wait until I'm back home from my Back Home Bakery stint with Mark to launch a new starter.  What I'm contemplating is running down to the supermarket that has the Wheat Montana d-i-y flour display that I posted about a few months ago.  Some freshly ground whole wheat should, as you suggest, be a good base for a new starter.  Maybe I'll even do some side by side comparisons of new starters to see which one produces a starter with the characteristics I like best.


Paul

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Well, she went out spectacularly---what a beautiful loaf!


I'll bet you could bring back a start from Back Home. What a lucky guy, enjoy!

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

So, so sorry.   Nothing is worse than being the one who made the mistake.  Self-thrashings do help.   Didn't I read somewhere that some bakers reserve a piece of the almost-baked bread to use in a new starter ?


 


 

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Paul,    My condolences to your lost starter.  Good starter takes time and can be lost in a moment of inattention.


Experiencing one of those sinking feeling moments is part and parcel of being a tad too complacent.  I think it was the flax seed that "through" your build off to the point that it confused the normal order of execution.  I enter into a sort of "factory mode" when doing a build, it helps prevent attention diversions.


I'm glad you posted this as it reminds me that I have to dry a portion of my starter back in case this happens to me.  My starter has changed for the better over time and I'd hate to have to start from scratch again. 


Again, my condolences,


+Wild-Yeast

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I was focused so intently on making sure that I had all of the measurements right that I broke from my normal routine, which is to set aside a portion of the starter before mixing the dough.  I also usually don't discard the storage starter until the refreshed starter is ready to go into the refrigerator.  This time I got ahead of myself with the discard, which left me with no backup.  If real estate is all about location, location, location, then baking's mantra should probably be process, process, process.


Thanks for the sympathies.


Paul

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

quess I better get my record starter results posted .... Man!  Am I lazy!


Mini