The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sharing My Senior Moment

LisaE's picture

Sharing My Senior Moment

Amazing what the human mind can do when given the opportunity. I thought I'd share with anyone interested.

After spending approximately 17 days creating a sourdough starter and ending up with a bubbly active starter that smelled of brandy and doubled in 4 hours, I decided to try some sourdough waffles. I planned on building it up so I would have 1 cup of starter and a bit left to continue feeding. I was very excited!

I normally fed the starter by Tbsp, and now I needed to use a measuring cup. I used 2 T starter, a bit more than  1/4 C water, and a little more than 1 C flour to reach the correct consistency of thick paste. (At this point I am feeding by about 67 % hydration, 1:2:3 for maintenance) I know these measurements were off but I was winging it.

I had a lot of this new mixture in my jar and at the rate it rose to almost triple the day before, I thought, "Oh I hope I left enough room for it to rise in there."

It was not becoming active like before at all and I thought maybe because it wasn't happy with the change in feeding. I went to bed that night in hopes that the yeast would begin to devour all that flour and be ready for waffles in the morning. Then, in my drifting off to sleep moments...... I didn't get a new bottle of water out of the garage to be at room temp. Then it dawned on me, I fed the starter with tap water! OH NO!!!!! I am so used to filling the measuring cup with the tap it didn't even dawn on me what I was doing! Can you say senior moment!

It eventually doubled in about 24 hours and I went ahead and made waffles with the discard, I got compliments on the richness. I didn't like the wheat taste in them though. So, I am back to babying the starter again, adding a bit of rye and waiting for the peak and sink before feeding. This now takes 20 hours, but the brandy smell is back so I guess I didn't destroy it after all.

That was a close one!! I must be destined to fail hahahaha.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

and if on the cool side (under 72°F, you may need to use more ripe starter in your mixture when feeding.  (or more water so it ferments faster, or less flour for the same reasons)  I haven't found "the warm spot" in my new apartment yet and it has already happened twice that when I checked on my starter in the morning (sneaking up on it with a cup of coffee in my hands) it wasn't really ready yet.  So I let it sit there a few more hours.  The last bake as well.   It's 19° C in my kitchen.

During yesterday's bake, I got tired of the oven's erratic behavior and investigated the situation.  Darn thing bunt the top of my loaf this time even though the oven didn't get up to temperature!  When I added some water for steam, steam was all over the place coming out every nook and cranny, all the wrong places when it left the oven.  Worried that I might damage the cupboard, I removed the water from the oven and dried the cupboard's wood shelves; deduction: the cooling vents in the "built in oven" were not functioning the way they should.  Oven?  Maybe.  Cupboard?  More likely. 

I crawled up on top of the cupboard and found an exit vent that seemed big enough (width of the cupboard and about 3 inches wide) that heat could rise up along the wall and escape.  Then I thought about the lower vent.  Where is the cool air being pulled from so that it can rise with the hot air?  Without this lower vent and it should be bigger or the same size as the top vent, the heat will only be trapped in the cupboard and from all the symptoms, hot cupboards, smell of hot plastic, oven swings, this must be the problem.  I pulled out the refrigerator from it's nook (it's empty) and searched near the floor boards and found an outta sight hole at the back wall two inches square  (not big enough) and a strange board about 4 inches wide and 24 inches long screwed onto the cupboard up the wall edge starting at the floor.  (!)  This must be the vent and it got covered  (for some cosmetic reasons?) when no refrigerator was standing there.  Out comes a screwdriver and low and behold a long big hole!   I was elated!  Now have a lower vent and the heat was leaving the oven and I didn't have to dig out my drills and saw.  

While the bread and cupboard was cooling I took a grater to the top of the loaf.  I just rested it on its side on a baking sheet and moved the box grater around scraping off the burnty parts, rolling the loaf when needed.  Well,  that releases a lot of aroma into the kitchen to say the least.  The burnty crumbs smelled like coffee and...  OK, it's cooling on the table and hubby walked in just as I got all the kitchen parts back together.  And...  There stands this wonderful loaf of 87% rye still warm, aromatizing.   Aromatic-ing all over the place.  His eyes grew big as saucers, almost like magic, out comes butter and mustard (guess the fridge wasn't soooo empty) and a big knife.  Half the loaf... about 900g was gone in a very short time.  Had a few slices myself, couldn't resist.  The first time ate  with just butter and Dijon.  :)    The crumb seemed almost fluffy for that amount of rye.  Warm bread is very dangerous, even when the top looks crappy.  I'm hopeful for the next loaf.  Meanwhile, hubby and I plan to pull out the oven and make sure we don't see any melted damage on the oven before using it again.

Edit:  So what's my point in almost hijacking the thread ?  Failures lead to successes.  Almost failures, too!  :)

Pulled out the oven and it seems to be in order unless it stops heating altogether.  

Eliminate the chances of failure, get into the habit of standing a pitcher of water on the counter overnight.  I do it here and I've found it tastes better too when tap water is allowed to re-oygenize for at least a few hours.  I place a nice cloth over the top so there is a good air exchange.  

LisaE's picture

Hi Mini,

I don't think you hijacked the thread at all, rather enjoyed the story. Nothing like home improvement that only requires a screwdriver! I can't imagine having to work in a kitchen with a tiny oven, how challenging. I thought I had it bad with my galley kitchen and harvest yellow formica counter tops, LOL, guess compared to some I have it good.

I imagine the rye was spectacular, I've never tried anything but whole wheat but now that I have a sourdough starter, I think I will definitely try a nice rye bread. it seems that sourdough changes the consistency and texture of whole grain flour which I never thought about before.

I don't trust our tap water... at all! It has always smelled of chlorine and I'm sure there are chloramines left after distillation. I am perfectly happy with the bottled water, just hope I don't have any more senior moments!

Thanks for the great story!