The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

We have lift off!

Mdboatbum's picture

We have lift off!

Hello everyone!

I think this is my first or second post here after my introduction, so I apologize if I run afoul of the usual forum protocols.

A couple weeks ago, I decided I wanted to create my own sourdough starter. I didn't want to "cheat" and use commercial yeast, nor did I want to use a sample of someone else's culture. I wanted to make it as basic as possible, just flour, a little sugar and water. I have read through MANY posts and articles here and elsewhere on cultivating a starter, to the point of information overload. I went in knowing a few tihngs. I knew that for ease of future use, I wanted to keep my starter at 100% hydration. I also knew (guessed) that yeast have an easier time eating table sugar if it's boiled in water for a few minutes, to separate the disaccharide into simple sugars. I wasn't sure if sugar was a preferred ingredient in a starter, but I figured that at first, it might "jump start" the fermentation process, much like adding sugar to fermenting beer does. So, here's what happened. I started out with 350g each of KA bread flour and water, with 2TB of sugar. I boiled the suar in the water and let it cool. Mixed it all up and waited. On day 3 I started to see bubbles, so I fed it 200g each flour and water.  I then proceeded to feed it each day, discarding half and feeding. By the 1 week mark, it was starting to have a decent aroma, but wasn't as "lively" as I thought it should be. I used the discarded half to make pancakes, biscuits and a loaf of sandwich bread on various days. I knew it wasn't really developed enough to leaven on it's own, but I was having fun. After the first week I was out of flour (imagine that) so I refrigerated it. On day 11 or so, I had remembered to get more flour, so I took it out of the fridge, fed it and continued the process. Fast forward to yesterday (day 15 or 16 I think). The aroma had really developed, so i decided to make some sourdough baguettes. I'd never done this before, and was a little nervous. I used this recipe I'd found on the web:

  • 1 lb., 5.4 oz .bread Flour
  • 10.6 oz. Water
  • 0.6 oz. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Instant Yeast
  • 1 lb., 5.2 oz. starter

I also added about a TB of vital wheat gluten, as I really like what it does for the texture.

I knew I needed commercial yeast as A.) I didn't want to wait all day for it to rise, and B.) my starter still didn't seem to be very robust. It was active, but didn't seem as active as those I'd seen in videos and pictures. Undaunted, I forged ahead. I mixed it all up and after the first rise (in the oven with the light on, took a little under an hour) I formed into 2 baguettes. I made the little "hammocks" out of a floured kitchen towel and awaited the 2nd rise. Had a little trouble transferring to a baking sheet after the 2nd rise, but it worked out ok. Slashed the top, sprayed with water and put into a 450˚ oven. For steam, I did a couple things. I put 2 round cake pans on the rack under the bread. 1 filled with water from the start, 1 empty. When I put the bread in, I dumped about a pint of water in the empty pan, which instantly flashed to steam and burned the crap out of my hand, so I know I did it right:) I then sprayed the walls of the oven with water. I had no idea what I was doing, but I figured I needed steam, and a lot of it. At 5 minutes, I opened the door a crack and sprayed the loaves and sides of the oven. Repeated at 10 minutes. At 20 minutes I checked and they looked done. Awesome oven spring, nicely browned and sounded (to me) hollow when thumped on the bottom. Burned my other hand picking up a loaf to thump, so I really thought I was on the right track:)

I knew I needed to wait an hour for them to "cure" before slicing, so of course the instant I took them out of the oven I hacked off the end of the uglier of the 2 loaves and took a bite. I burned the crap out of my mouth. But, it tasted good. Really, really good. Sublimely crispy crust, not hard at all. Inteior was light and fluffy (ok, it was slightly doughy, so I need to go 25 minutes next time) and the flavor was wonderful. Rich and "bready" with a subtle sourdough twang, which increased somewhat as I swallowed it. In wine terms, I'd call it "top notes of yeasty bread, with a delightfully lingering sour finish". There are reasons I'm not a wine reviewer.

Anyway, I was pretty happy with the outcome. The crust softened as it cooled, which disappointed me a little, but I'm going to try putting the 2nd loaf in the oven for 10 minutes or so before we eat it.

All in all it's been a fun and rewarding process. By the way, last night I fed my starter, whose name is Fred, by the way, and I woke this morning to an explosion of yeasty goodness all over my kitchen. The "liveliness" it was missing has arrived in spades!! It tripled in volume running all over the shelf on which it sat. I cleaned up the mess, transferred Fred to a bowl while I washed the crock, then fed him again. The crock is 32oz, and I had maybe 12oz of starter in there after feeding. Within 2 hours, it was bubbling over the sides again. I tihnk I'm going to feed for 2 more days then refrigerate. I think Fred is starting to come into his own.