The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Old Sourdough Recipe

scarlett75's picture
scarlett75

Old Sourdough Recipe

Recently, my grandfather stumbled across an old, OLD cookbook that belonged to HIS grandmother. He knows that I've been dabbling with breads/baking, so he offered me the cookbook (he also knows I'm an archivist, so he knew I'd preserve it!). :) Anyway... I've been browsing through the recipes (trying to translate MANY of them, as this particular gr. gr. grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish and spoke a hybrid German). I took four years of German in high school and this is taxing. LOL!

BUT- I'm learning some wonderful recipes and techniques for breads and sweets. Essentially, because of the technology available to her, my gr. gr. grandmother's cookbook is a lesson in patience.

This evening, I'm trying her "before night's sleep sourdough bread". She writes that this loaf is best when the starter is proofed the afternoon before and the dough is left to rise "from supper to mid-night". At midnight, you shape the loaf and place it in "a cool place" to rise. Her notes say "the milk house." After consulting with my grandfather, he believes she's referring to the small milk closet that he remembers his mother (and grandmother) having...basically, a cool room in the cellar where they stored their milk and cheese. So...I figured the refridgerator might work. We'll see. The dough seems pretty heavy and hearty...but also very maleable and stretchy.

I've never left a sourdough loaf to rise in cooler temperatures. I'm a little worried that our "cooler" might be cooler than the recipe calls for. But, we shall see. The recipe says to "bake before cowing" (again, Grandpa and I are interpreting this to mean "milking", which we figure would've been very early morning). The bread should be "done by breakfast".

Gotta' love those precise instructions. LOL!! :)

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

What a fun story! I love those old recipes, too. As far as putting the dough in the refrigerator to rise, I do it all the time. It is referred to today as 'retarding the dough'. It also greatly improves the flavor and the keeping qualities of the bread. You are right about our refrigerators probably being colder than grandma's milk house. Therefore, you will probably have to let the bread rise a bit more after taking it out of the fridge in the morning and it is doubtful that it will be ready to eat for breakfast.

In my experience with various starters, some will rise faster than others in the refrigerator. You will just need to try it out and see how it goes. Many times I do the refrigeration immediately after I finish kneading and then shape the loaf in the morning, rise, and bake. Either method works well.

I'll be waiting to hear how your bread turns out!

scarlett75's picture
scarlett75

Hrm. Well. The flavor of the bread is AWESOME! Probably one of the best sourdough flavors I've obtained. However, when I pulled the loaf out of the refridgerator, I was disappointed to see that it hadn't rose much at all. It had risen some- as could be evidenced by the wide split mark where I had scored the loaf- but, it didn't "poof" well at all.

I think I made the mistake of NOT allowing it to rise on the counter before popping it in the oven. The loaf came out very dense. And, it had many, many stretch marks from the rapid "lift" that the hot oven gave to the cold dough. Next time I try this recipe, I'll refrdigerate it during the day... take it out and shape it before dinner and then let it rise all evening. I'd definitely bake it before retiring for the night.

But, as far as flavor goes, THUMBS UP!

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Scarlett, thanks for posting your results. Isn't it amazing what a flavor difference the refrigeration makes? Did you know that you shouldn't be slashing your loaf until it is done rising and ready for the oven? Slashing earlier on lets some of the gases escape and therefore you won't get as good a rise.

When I do dough retarding before shaping, I take the dough out of the fridge and pat it out into a large, flat disc shape. Spray it lightly with cooking spray and cover with plastic. The dough warms up faster when it is spread out like this. Sometimes I even put the dough on a cookie sheet and set it atop a bowl of warm tap water to speed up the warming process. Flip the dough over after the bottom warms so the other side gets warm too. Cold dough takes a very long time to warm up and start to rise.