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Mark Bittman's Whole Grain "Sourdough" Article

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I676's picture
I676

Mark Bittman's Whole Grain "Sourdough" Article

So Mark Bittman had a piece in the NY Times today or yesterday on the deliciousness of whole grain bread, and how sourdough is the best method for making it. I tend to agree (warning: rank amateur's lay opinion), but I don't think that any of his recipes are actual sourdough. Instead, his sourdough rye just uses a sponge made with instant yeast and fermented overnight...strains of the Leahy no-knead bread phenomenon Bittman popularized? Nothing wrong with Bittman's rye recipe, but calling it sourdough seems like a real stretch.

Anyhow, an interesting read. And I must say, he makes a good point about why hobby baking is so alluring.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/magazine/the-wheat-lowdown.html?ref=magazine&_r=0

[Edit: I read his rye recipe too hastily. My bad. (Very bad.)  He has you starting it with a pinch of instant yeast, but letting it sit at room for a few days with daily refreshment. That may not be a dogmatically perfect method, but surely lactic acid bacteria will grow and acidify the environment in that amount of time. It won't be a mature starter, but it seems like the resulting bread could be called sourdough, if we're not being too strict. The only question is whether wild yeast will have taken over at that point--or ever. I don't pretend to have any idea what happens when you put instant yeast in a starter and then ferment it for a few days. Surely the LAB come.]

Boron Elgar's picture
Boron Elgar

You are correct. What he offers up as a "Sourdough Rye" is a decent recipe, but not really sourdough-based. It uses commercial yeast, albeit the several days taken for pre-ferment.

Breadamp's picture
Breadamp

Maybe I am missing something, but I am in the process of trying this recipe and the proportions are all off.  At the "To make the loaf" stage, he has you adding 4 cups total of flour to the 2 2/3 cups flour and 2 cups water in the starter.  Nearly 7 cups of flour and 2 cups of water makes a damp sandy mess.  Then the next moring we are instructed to add 1 cup water and 1 2/3 cups more flour.  Now we have over 8 cups of flour to 3 cups of water...AND HE CLAIMS THIS WILL MAKE A PORABLE BATTER-LIKE DOUGH.  Sorry for the caps, but this is a really really wrong recipe for a bunch of reasons.  Am I misreading?  Missing an addition of water? 

Thanks for any help!

LindyD's picture
LindyD

My neighbor gave me her copy of his book, How to Cook Anything Everything because she found little value in it.  In looking through the book, I note his recipe for "sourdough" bread calls for 5/8 teaspoon of yeast.  Since Mr. Bittman is a columnist with no training as a chef or a baker, perhaps he doesn't know what sourdough bread is, or doesn't care about using accurate terminology.

I do wonder where he learned to score a baguette.

[Edited to correct book title]

isand66's picture
isand66

Lindy, you are 100% right...that has to be some of the worse scoring of a baguette I have ever seen.  I applaud him for trying to spread the word about baking home made bread without having to be an expert, but he should get his facts straight.  I've seen his TV show and have 1 of his books but I can't say I'm a big fan and this really kind of rubs me the wrong way.  If you consider yourself an author who hob knobs with chefs you would think he could learn the difference between a SD starter and a biga or poolish.

linder's picture
linder

Yes, the worst scoring ever, even worse than mine!   I too wish the 'experts'  would get their terminology straight.  It's very confusing for new bakers without having foodie authors slinging terms around willy-nilly. 

On the other hand, if it encourages people to bake their own bread at home then hooray! Once you get a taste of the REAL bread, there's no going back.

I won't go into what I really think about all the prefab-food in the supermarket. I'll save that for another soapbox rant.

Linda

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Well said, Ian.  

On the other hand, I guess we should rejoice that there's an article in the NYT that doesn't warn people about the evils of wheat.  

isand66's picture
isand66

Yes I know...wheat is evil and will bring the downfall of mankind!  I guess I'm just a little evil :)

linder's picture
linder

Vive La Revolution!  Let them eat cake?

Linda

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Mark Bittman can do on his worse day.  At least he can ride around in a nice Mercedes with movie a star and a celeb chef while having someone else pay for it and while making a nice piece of change no doubt.   The guy has a good gig  and I forgive his not knowing a SD levain from biga or a poolish but my apprentice still expects better and has sworn to bite his ankles the first chance she gets - but she does that to me too.  She is a stalker!  He helped Leahy change the world so he can be poolish :-)

isand66's picture
isand66

DA....don't sell yourself short....I think your apprentice Lucy could have slashed better with 3 paws tied behind her back!  I hope she takes a big chomp out of his ankle...just remember to floss afterwards :)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

so I was trying to be nice. I have to admit she slashes better than Mark but she gets a big head and the next thing tou know I have to pay her to be my apprentice :-)

Maritxu's picture
Maritxu

I was hoping to get some help from this group.

I read Bittman's Sourdough Rye recipe and have made the starter (recipe here: http://www.nytimes.com/recipes/1014532/Sourdough-Rye.html).  My question is about the next steps.  Step 2 reads, "To make the dough: Combine the starter in a big bowl with the rye flour and the whole-wheat or white flour." It doesn't specify how much of the starter to use.  In the previous step we're instructed to hold back "a ladleful — 1/2 to 3/4 cup — of the starter" for the future.  Does this mean that all of the remaining starter should be used to make the bread?  It seems rather imprecise and would vary each time depending on how big the batch of starter happened to be.

My starter is ready and I'm keen to use it, so any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

pepperhead212's picture
pepperhead212

I agree with most of you in that this is really not something that a proffesional writer should be printing.  Not only is it not a sourdough, but the method tells me he may have never really made this bread!  Think about it: the recipe calls for making that "starter", then removing "1/2-3/4c" for future use.  Not only will you have more water in the dough if you only remove 1/2c (imprecise, as Maritxu noted), but how do you duplicate this recipe the NEXT TIME?  The starter you have the first time is much of the flour in the dough, but do you have to go through the same 4 day refreshing every time?  Then, I noticed the 8x4 pans, which are normally used for 1 lb loaves, and it seems this will be well over 2 lbs.  Finally, adding cracked rye toward the very end, w/o soaking to soften???  Maybe it softens during that long, low baking, which also seems strange, but I don't think I would take a chance.

And those baguettes really are pitiful!      

Maritxu's picture
Maritxu

Well, I'm rather frustrated as I've spent five days on the starter and it looks and smells lovely & lively, but I'm not sure what to do next.  I'm obviously not a professional, but I've been baking at home for years and was excited to try this out.  I've used Bittman's straight sourdough recipe in the past, and while it did make a nice loaf, there was nothing sour about it.

Fred Rickson's picture
Fred Rickson

Sour comes from acid, which developes at room temp and "pancake batter" hydration over a day or few.  Good luck.

isand66's picture
isand66

You will not get a sour flavor unless you use a real sourdough starter.  What you have is a biga or poolish depending on the hydration.  This is great to add flavor to the bread but will not create a sour flavor.  The bacteria in the sourdough culture is what gives the bread that true sour flavor along with proper fermentation of the dough.

Fred Rickson's picture
Fred Rickson

You really need to spend one whole day reading.....not from books, but from websites such as this.  All your needs will be addressed.  Trust me.

Enjoy

Maritxu's picture
Maritxu

Thanks so much for your feedback, everyone.  My starter looks & smells great, I just haven't found a recipe to use it in yet.  I actually wrote to the NYT for clarification, but they didn't bother writing back.  The recipe thay provided is pretty slap dash; pepperhead212 may indeed have a point that it's not been actually tested by its author.  If any of you have a sourdough rye recipe that you enjoy, I'd love to know about it.  Thanks again.

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

If you're looking for a great rye sandwich bread, I've not found one better than Eric's Favorite Rye, just do a search here, it's easy to find. I've done this recipe as written, and also with only whole wheat/rye and no extra commercial yeast. It's a great, easy recipe if you have a starter.,

I highly recommend adding the onions, too.

Maritxu's picture
Maritxu

That's very kind of you of you, Rick. I enjoy being called names by perfect strangers who have no idea who I am or what I've done. Your contribution to good manners and civility are appreciated. I'm out, let's just drop this here.

Fred Rickson's picture
Fred Rickson

Sorry to have offended you, my bad, just delve into this great site and all your needs will be met.  

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I zapped the previous comment since it was flamebait.  The same sentiment is expressed here but more constructively.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

http://www.foodforthoughts.jlohcook.com/latest-postings/deliryebread

This recipe is from a  well liked, former FreshLoafer. I couldn't find the FreshLoaf link but this is a favorite recipe with many people.

If your starter is not rye, I would either convert it to rye by feeding it with rye a few times or just use the wheat starter and see how things turn out.

I didn't read the article-I just glanced at the recipe. What immediately caught my eye is that the "starter" is made with commercial yeast. As someone else mentioned, that won't make a sour-tasting bread but it will raise a nice loaf with reasonable flavor.

" Natural levain" is probably what the proper name should be for "sourdough starter". It is a colony of natural yeasts found on wheat and lactobacillus (gives the sour) that likes to digest some of the sugars in wheat. There have been a couple threads on this lately-sourdough is kind of a misnomer. A sourdough starter can be fed/kept in such a way as to maximize the sourness in the bread made from it. But a well-fed starter can also make a very delicious NON sour bread. Rye sour(starter made with rye flour) is also used to inactivate enzymes found in rye flour that cause a dough to deteriorate before it is fully proofed.

Sourdough has a learning curve complicated by a very confusing and often conflicting vocabulary and advice on how to sart,maitain,keep, store and use a starter. It is well worth wading through some of this but the best advice I can give is to get a notebook,pick a recipe and method and start bubbling and baking! Take notes and try 1 thing a little differently next time.

There are many recipes on this site,tons of advice  and the search box works fairly well. See what appeals. If there is conflicting advice, just know that there are MANY ways to get from point A to Point B. Just find what works for you.

 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

for sourdough starter.  I make all kinds 'natural levains' that are not sourdough nor meant to be sour.  Yeast water levains come to mind.  Natural levains are way bigger than just sourdough to my way of thinking .  I have a hops starter going  right now and hope to make bread with it instead of beer :-) Naw it will be beer !

Maritxu's picture
Maritxu

Thanks so much, clazar123.  This recipe is exactly what I've been looking for.  I've been pouring over recipes trying to get my already started starter to jive, but I wasn't finding anything that seemed like it would work.

Maritxu's picture
Maritxu

I found the link you referred to (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/5076/eric039s-fav-rye) and made it today.  What a revelation.  It is fantastic. Thanks!

Donnaspella's picture
Donnaspella

I am in exactly the same position you described.  I've made the starter, but the rest of the recipe makes no sense.  If you remove a "ladleful,"  add more rye flour and water and put that in the refrigerator, then do you mix all the rest of the original starter batch in with the additional flours and salt?  And, if so, how could that ladleful produce enough starter for a new, later batch?

I'm glad you found an alternative recipe--think I will try that instead.  Shame on Mark Bittman for putting out such a sketchy set of instructions.

Maritxu's picture
Maritxu

Try the Deli Rye recipe. I used the Bittman starter and then used the Deli rye recipe that was suggested (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/5076/eric039s-fav-rye) and got two great loaves out of it. The Bittman recipe really bummed me out. He's an "authority" with a voice through the Grey Lady that many people look up to.  I think novice bakers would get turned off by his recipe and think themselves to blame when it all went wrong. 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I had this discussion on another thread recently and I think the vocabulary is confusing. I concur that" natural levain" covers way more territory than "flour,water,time" or "sourdough". But when you tell someone it was made with "sourdough" starter, they think the bread is supposed to be sour tasting.  All my sourdough-based WW,white,french,some light ryes,brioche,SallyLunns,batter breads are NOT sour. I think we just don't have a proper vocabulary to describe this. I suspect the term "sourdough" was derived from another language. We need several distinct, descriptive words:   1.A word for a natural levain made with flour , 2.A word for describing the loaf of bread made from it, 3.  A word for a natural levain made with flour that produces a sour tasting bread,and finally  4.Another word for the sourtasting loaf. We use a single word to describe several separate items.

If I maintain my "sourdough" so it produces sweet tasting,flavorful bread rather than sour bread, maybe I should call it "natural flour starter/yeast".After all-we call it "fruit water starter/yeast" and "hops starter/ yeast" .   I would only call it "sourdough" starter if I maintained it in such a way to produce sour tasting bread.Then the bread cancontinue to be called sourdough.

 I think I will start deliberately calling it that way and see what happens."My bread is made with natural flour starter". or "My bread is made with natural flour yeast". It does sound a bit unnatural. Help me out here.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

if you don't want sour than you should have a yeast water natural yeast culture instead.  No matter what you do, you will get fantastic leavening and never any sour with YW.    It is mush easier to maintain, much cheaper and every bit as tasty if you don't want the sour.  Keeping sourdough starter so it won't be sour is counter productive.  Why go through all the effort., time and exspense to make it what it doesn't want to be?   Yeast water is great for non sour breads.  I have some YW levain going for cinnamon rolls tomorrow where sour is not needed or wanted for a sweet dough.   I do keep two starters - one a very sour rye sourdough fpr making sourdough bread and  one an apple YW for non sour applications, or mixing the two for a totally different bread - that isn't exactly sour but keeps like it !

It sounds like you are the perfect candidate for YW and should give it a try.  It is just as fun as SD but no sour.  I think you will like it if you give it a go.

Happy baking!

D. Commerce's picture
D. Commerce

For what it's worth, I often refer to my starter, or levain, as a "wild yeast starter." That seems more accurate. In many conversations with non-savvy bread folks, I often follow-up after using "wild yeast" with a lay explanation that also refers to sourdough. But my intent is to begin the conversations using the phrase "wild yeast" and educate from there. A more standardized nomenclature would be nice.

loafette's picture
loafette

I've enjoyed reading, and learning from all the wonderful folks on here, for quite a long time, but just now joined up.  With regard to the term 'sourdough', although I'm not a scholar of languages, they've always fascinated me, and I enjoy how languages/words change through time, and the movement of humans.

I recently finished reading a lovely book, by Gil Marks, 'The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food', and in it he made reference to the fact, that when bread was baked, in ancient times, a portion was held aside, to be incorporated into the next batch of dough. It was referred to, in Hebrew, as 'seor', meaning fermented. Then we have the Germanic 'Sauer', which also means fermented...a lot of English is derived from Germanic roots, so I imagine that is where we get 'our' word 'sour' from. Sauer can also mean just sour.  Sauerkraut, obviously is fermented cabbage, Sauerteig is fermented dough, and so on. I've always thought of a natural starter as simply a ferment/natural yeast sort of a thing, and not necessarily something to add a sour flavor to any bread I was making. Some people really like the extra tang you can get, from differently maintained starters. But it sure can be confusing, that's for certain!

Laura

 

Grumio's picture
Grumio

Laura -

Ah, this stuff is catnip to me.

Now I am wondering if sourdough is a calque - a direct translation from the German sauerteig "sour dough" - or if it's just common origination in two closely related languages. My guess is the latter. A quick & dirty google dates sourdough to c. 1300, pretty much on the border of Old English - Middle English, & who knows if it "comes from" Middle High German or Anglo-Frisian or what. I think leavened bread considerably predates that branching of the Germanic languages, so the concept was presumably already there. (really tangential: I love it that loanword is a calque & calque is a loanword).

 The seor/sour/sauer thing has gotten some interesting attention. I suspect they are false cognates (a fairly mind-blowing little wikipedia page, btw) .

Personally, I'm going to stick with sourdough. I see no reason to prefer levain when we already have the perfectly good leaven. If one prefers French because it's so much cooler (and yeah, it kinda is), why not go the whole hog & stick with pâte ferementée? Fermented, or sour, dough. Oh. Right. We already have a word for that.

This stuff is never going to be finally definitively codified. Language, like sourdough, goes its own way. \

I like it that way.

copyu's picture
copyu

You cannot 'legislate' for a language, as everyone knows. (Perhaps someone ought to chat to L'Académie française, to explain why not.) I read somewhere that the abbreviations CD and DVD were 'outlawed' by L'Académie in radio/TV/school-rooms/University lectures, etc, in France...because they did not comply with 'proper French word-order'. It didn't stop my many French friends from using those abbreviations in English conversation, however... 

I appreciate the fascinating links you've provided.

Adam

PS: Apologies to those of you who hate 'off-topic' posts. Adam

hanseata's picture
hanseata

Apart from the question of real sourdough or not, the breads on the photo in the article look singularly unappealing, definitely nothing that would lure anybody but a hard core "granola" away from store bought wonderbreads.

Karin

 

isand66's picture
isand66

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Ian

gerhard's picture
gerhard

+1  

Gerhard

PeterS's picture
PeterS

++1 LOL. I saw that picture and thought "where's the baguette?"

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

creature.  Could be the picture of my first attempt.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

The discussion on language is pretty fascinating but what is kind of interesting is that many of the posts now appearing before my post were not there when I posted. Some have even appeared more recently. It makes for some weird "conversation" sometimes.

pepperhead212's picture
pepperhead212

Clazar123. I'm new here, but the replies are placed exactly where you click "reply", not in chronological order. Only forum I have ever seen this.

Dave

MangoChutney's picture
MangoChutney

In my experience it is normal placement for a forum as opposed to a blog. In blogs, people just post all in a row, with no indication of the post to which they are responding. In forums, people's posts appear after the post to which they are responding. It makes conversations easier to understand, but increases the possibility of not noticing posts if the reader is accustomed only to blog format. If you follow a thread through e-mail, though, you will get all of the posts delivered in chronological order.

I agree that leaving instant yeast overnight with flour and water, or even over a few nights, does not make sourdough. It just makes sour dough. In the early 1980s I used to bake something that was called French Sourdough which used this technique. I got it from some source which I cannot at the moment locate, but a number of my cookbooks published in the 1950s - 70s contain similar recipes. The bread was excellent bread, but the levain did not consist of wild species. This was a distinction I did not learn until this century. I am delighted now to bake only with wild levain, captured from the whole grains with which I bake and cultivated only on the same whole grains. I'm sure that makes me sound like some kind of snob, but it's only my own personal preferences at work. Everybody else can bake and eat whatever they like. *grin*

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

If you want to see threads chronologically, go to the bottom of the page, under "comment viewing options" and pick "date oldest first". Then, make sure you save it so that it is your default setting.

pepperhead212's picture
pepperhead212

...doesn't work for me, and it has been on that as "default", since I have never changed it. Still has them out of order, even after I tried to save settings, and coming back to the thread. No big deal, just not working.

tif's picture
tif

Dear group members,

I made Bittman's sourdough rye (NYtimes, February 2013) now for the third time. The first time was a disaster, as Bittman's recipe is imprecise and was full of mistakes. I adapted a few things, e.g. loaf pan size. For one loaf of bread I use 250ml/one cup of starter. The only thing that does not produce the perfection that I am aiming at is that the bread cracks and falls in. This does neither effect its splendid taste, nor anything else. It just does not look perfect. What can did I possibly  wrong?

By the way, I just added seeds to the bread and it's a wonderful addition.

Thanks for any input on the cracking issue!

Tina

 

 

Donnaspella's picture
Donnaspella

So did you halve the other ingredients for the one cup of starter?  What type of seeds did you add?

tif's picture
tif

I halved the recipe and used cracked rye. I also added sunflower seeds the third time around. I did not wrap it into plastic as it affects the texture.