The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Finally "Started" -- Choosing a Favourite

Koyae's picture

Finally "Started" -- Choosing a Favourite

Over Christmas I had a gay old time back home in WY collecting freshly fallen snow and leaving various casques of wet grains sitting around on the countertops to see if any "beasties" (as people seem to call them on TFL) would come to visit. I ended up having some success with some spelt-noodles which I left out with water and a bit of vinegar, and too with some organic irish oats that I left out, again with water and a T or so of standard $1-per-huge-container vinegar mixed in. I set one or two plasticwrapped bowls of flour-mixes (used organic AP once, I think, and then just switched to whole-wheat) on the heat-ducts at night to help the critters get the ball rolling, and also emplyed the heat from the pellet-stove in a similar manner. (I actually cooked two of my starters because I'd turned the heat up too high at one point. They were apparently both viable because they'd both risen before being somewhat solidified in place and turned into not quite "bread" by the heat. 'Shame really.)

I came back on the plane to Indy (I study here) with four jars, and after some feeding it was clear that TWO of them had made it (largely as a result of the type of lid each jar had been sealed with). After a bit of downtime, I got Rocketstarter (who survived in checked baggage somehow) forming a very nice head of foam using... of all things, OAT flour (it can triple in under a day if it's given the right amount of water and flour in one feeding) and Applestarter was able to follow once I learned it preferred some of the wheat-flour I have here.

I've since divided both and now have whole-wheat and rye versions of both, and have one spelt (a child of Rocket's) who's gradually gaining footing. I decided to try it because I actually took my starters into the winter farmer's market here on two occassions to ask a very knowledgable strictly-organic baker who appears there every week about strategy, feeding schedules, and how my starters were looking and smelling. He's been incredibly helpful in many ways but I won't go into too much detail. (The smell-part is not something I can really ask about online, somuch, and I'm still training my nose in this context, so that was definately one thing.) But, where to go from here? Ideally I'll ofcourse get really good at making sourdough pancakes, but I'm looking to get a favourite starter or three into the fridge so I can get a proper routine going, and get a consistent supply of real bread flowing. (It doesn't have to be sour, necessarily.)

On tap, I've got organic AP flour coming out of my ears, roughly two cups of rye left, roughly two cups of whole-wheat, and plenty of spelt. Also I have a ton of bulgur, and a ton of vital wheat gluten, and milk-powder, honey and turbanado... salt ofcourse... (While I'm at it, I've also got quinoa, millet, and amaranth which I could grind, but I know those can be more of a challenge to bake with, thus I'm leaving those till later.) SO, is there some way I can compare how the starters all behave during baking under similar conditions given what I have around? (more info just ask...) I've got a reasonable knead and stretch-and-fold down now, and now that I'm back home I've got an accurate digital scale, now I just need a reasonable recipe (or set of similar recipes) to use to compare what I have. (I may have just found a decent baking stone on craigslist. I've used one twice and both times it was like I'd died and gone to heaven, but I digress.) Any suggestions?


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Get yourself a basic recipe that requires sourdough starter in the same hydration or close to that which you have been feeding.  Try this one and see where it takes you:

Until you understand the relationship of milled non-gluten flours (quinoa, millet, and amaranth) use small amounts of them whole, no need to grind and they will add some crunch and variety to your bread.  You may or may not want to lightly toast them first.  The non-gluten bulgar can be hot soaked, normal preparation, drained and added without interfering too much to a recipe, it may lengthen the baking times.