The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Share Your Biggest AHA Moment Found on TFL

LisaE's picture
LisaE

Share Your Biggest AHA Moment Found on TFL

Hello All,

I was wondering if there were some people here who would like to share their biggest AHA moments that they discovered here on The Fresh Loaf.

One of mine was when I realized how much easier it is to feed your starter when you mix the hungry starter with the water until it's all milky before you mix in the flour. What a mess and difficulty it was before I realized that little amazing tidbit! I remember reading zolablue's post about firm starter and she spoke of using a whisk to fluff up the starter, and this was confirmed by L_M who used the same technique. What a realization that was!

What's yours?  (I have more but thought I'd see what kind of response I'd get before I posted more) :-)

Thanks all!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)  been collecting AHA's ever since.

LisaE's picture
LisaE

Yes Mini, I am as well. Love this site.

Windischgirl's picture
Windischgirl

There have been a great number of AHA moments over the last 5 years, but I'd say the most important was feedback on how much starter to store without going insane.  I learned how to make starter from Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bakery book, which was written back in the early '80s when flour was pennies a pound and a daily feeding was a pound at a shot, preceded by a daily discard of 3/4 of the starter (Ken Forkish does the same thing.  What gives ???).

Being the child of immigrants who had lived through the depression, it seemed total insanity to throw away perfectly good flour for no really good reason.  Trust me on my thrifty mentality: one of my mother's fallback recipes during my youth--one she "enjoyed" during her own youth--was called "Nothing Soup."  It's a roux thinned with water, spiced with salt and caraway, and enriched with a poached egg, if the chickens are laying.  I will share the recipe if you like!

TFL-ers were instrumental in helping me downsize to a reasonable amount of starter and to do it successfully...and to use the discards to make sourdough pancakes (yum).  Even now I probably keep too much starter--about 3 or 4 oz.  But it's better than pouring dollars down the drain or into the compost pile!

LisaE's picture
LisaE

Amen to nano starters! It makes so much more sense! I am interested in the "Nothing Soup" recipe. My Mother was an Oakie and I grew up on food based on thrifty ideas. Roux is magical :-) mmmmm need to make some creole onion soup now!

Windischgirl's picture
Windischgirl

I'm in the middle of prepping my house for Easter company, but will post the recipe for "Nothing Soup" later this week.

My mom will be impressed :-)

Windischgirl's picture
Windischgirl

It really does belong on a bread forum: what else can you do with too much flour, old bread, and not much else?

Caraway Seed Soup (Komenymagos Leves) adapted from Flavors of Hungary by Charlotte Biro

Legend has it that caraway to good to soothe an upset stomach and will facilitate milk production in nursing mothers.  I suspect it is also a good hangover cure--the Hungarians have a real talent for concocting such "cures."

5 Tbs. corn oil (really authentic folks would use lard; you can use other oils or butter)

1/3 c. AP flour

1 Tbs. caraway seed

salt and pepper

6 c. water

Croutons, optional

2 to 4 fresh organic eggs, optional

In a cooking pot, over medium heat, warm the oil.  Add the flour and stir to mix well.  Add the caraway and continue to stir constantly, until flour turns golden brown, about 3 min.  Remove from heat, add in the water, whisking until smooth, and add in salt and pepper to taste.  Return to heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 min.  

If using the eggs, two options are possible.  Some folks like to simply poach the eggs in the broth--slip the eggs in, one at a time, and cook until desired doneness. The other options is to whisk the eggs until smooth and drizzle them into the simmering soup (like the Italian soup, straticella).  Cooking time for this version is only a minute.

Serve the soup hot and pass croutons to taste.

 

LisaE's picture
LisaE

Wind, (hope I didn't butcher that)

Thanks for posting the recipe, I'm definitely going to try this. It sounds like a heart warmer on a cold rainy night. Hungarian eh? My family and I are all mostly German, Mom used to make the best goulash! I wish I'd gotten the recipe from her. Hope there's some other people out there who will try this recipe also.

Lisa

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

was learning that you can reuse parchment paper many times.   Now a once very expensive throw away is not too difficult to buy when you can stretch it 4 times longer.

LisaE's picture
LisaE

Thanks DBM, you just game me another aha moment!

mini_maggie's picture
mini_maggie

There was no baking in my house growing up so risen dough was this thing of mystery and intimidation - I was afraid I would damage it irreparably somehow.  Watching videos here on dough handling and realizing you can beat the crap out of it and it will recover did alot to dispel the fear!

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Mine was learning that when a recipe calls for, let's say, 200g 'sourdough starter', that does not mean 200g of mature sourdough starter (that little pet you feed and keep in fridge).  It means 200g sourdough levain!

Among many others.

John

LisaE's picture
LisaE

You beat me to it! Yes when I realized the way you keep a starter and build one for a bake are two totally separate things, things started to click into place. Thanks!

LisaE's picture
LisaE

Great comments every one. Another one of my wonderful eye opening realizations was fermenting the whole grain flour. Oh! you mean I could make the whole grain addition of flour taste better if I let my yeasties work on it first?!? AHA!! And it made it easier to build the gluten without the grains tearing holes in it. Awesome......

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Could you elaborate on the whole grain aha a bit?  Sounds interesting. Process details?  Thanks. 

Tom

LisaE's picture
LisaE

Hi Tom,

So, If I make a sourdough loaf that calls for a percentage of whole grain like rye or whole wheat, I use that amount of whole grain flour in the levain build instead of adding it to the final dough. I found my family is much more likely to eat it without asking if there's whole grain in it. My hubby especially does not like the taste. But once fermented, he just eats it!

Lisa

Toad.de.b's picture
Toad.de.b

Thanks Lisa,

This is interesting.  But...breads that have "country loaf" levels of WW usually have 10-20% and, from my experience, they are pretty much "white breads", unlikely to scare off wholegrainophobics.  What might put off the latter are breads with upwards of 30%WW, the point at which, again from my experience, there's no doubt to the consumer that's there's something in addition to white flour in there.  So if your bread has 30% or greater WW, and you put all that in the levain, then you're pre-fermenting more than the usual 10-25% of the dough's flour.  So, do your whole wheat final levain builds have that much of the final dough's flour?  And, while I'm at it, what's the hydration of that final WW levain build?  Are you maintaining a 100% WW starter for this?  I would also imagine your high (or 100%) WW levain must grow fast with all that whole grain in it.

Thanks!  Interesting angle to ponder -- never thought about this way of treating the WW in a loaf.

Tom

LisaE's picture
LisaE

Hi Tom,

I have to say, I'm too much of a rookie to even attempt making a sourdough loaf with more that 30% Whole grain flour in it. I'm sure it would be a brick ha ha. Anyway, the most successful loaf I have made (and am repeating to test new ways of getting sour) Is Norwich Sourdough which I found on Wild Yeast's site (Thanks Wild!) I always cut it in half because I don't have room to proof two large loaves of bread, let alone 4 small loaves. Cut in half, it calls for 60g whole rye added to the final dough which includes 180 g sourdough starter and 450 g white flour. Which calculates to roughly 11% total flour, (hope that's right, once again a rookie!) I would use 60g of ww plus some white and an equal amount of the total in water in my levain build, then use all white in the final dough. Hope this makes sense!

So I agree, anything much higher would be difficult to ferment all the whole grain. Thanks so much for the question and comments!

Lisa

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

One of my big AHA moments was when someone pointed out to me that I had to treat my starter made exclusively from my freshly milled whole grains (not even sifted) the exact opposite of how one would care for a starter made with store bought sifted flours.

Another AHA moment (sorry but I gotta add this one because it was really big too) was when I learned about intensive kneading. Made a huge difference in the quality of my sandwich/enriched doughs.

Like Mini - I still get AHAed on a regular basis :-)

Janet

LisaE's picture
LisaE

Intensive kneading was huge!!! Oh, so that's what high gluten development is! I see!

plevee's picture
plevee

The realisation that I was the boss and could slow down fermentation at any point to fit my schedule.

The major AHA was that TFL members would actually answer my questions and do it so patiently and knowledgably.

Patsy

hanseata's picture
hanseata

the right way, so that they "grin", and many other things over the years.
Never had any problems with my starters, since I keep them in the fridge, and hardly ever discard any (I would hate that waste). And, DBM, I use my parchment papers until they fall apart, too.

Happy Easter,

Karin

 

 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

"One of my big AHA moments was when someone pointed out to me that I had to treat my starter made exclusively from my freshly milled whole grains (not even sifted) the exact opposite of how one would care for a starter made with store bought sifted flours."

Tell me about this! I think I may have another AHA moment!

Janetcook's picture
Janetcook

Hi Clazar123,

I wanted a milder starter so I had been following what people said here about higher hydration and warmer temps to achieve those ends. (Most here using BF and AP) I kept getting sour.

My AHA happened when I was told that with whole grains I should lower the hydration,  feed more frequently and keep temps. cooler.  All of this gives the yeast an advantage over the LABS since yeast recover (lag time) more quickly after a refreshment.  A  milder whole grain starter is the result and I have had great luck with mine now.

My current ratio for refreshments is 1:.7:1.  When doing my builds during the day that means that my leaven ripens in about 3-4 hours when kept at 75°.  When the temps. get warmer during the summer I simply increase the flour = 1:.7:1.5 so I stay within the same time frame.

Hope this helps.  Ask away if necessary :-)

Janet

 

Windischgirl's picture
Windischgirl

Understanding the purpose of autolyse was also a breakthrough for me.  Vastly improved the quality of my breads.

Oh, and scaling everything.  I've become a weighing snob!  I now refuse to even LOOK at a book that gives cup/spoon measures for bread.  (I do make an exception for quick breads, coffee cakes, and such.  So there's a little hope for me!)

LisaE's picture
LisaE

I know! You should hear me when I find a recipe I want to try and it's in cups and tsps, ha ha ha.

LisaE's picture
LisaE

Great comments every one, thanks! I got more AHA moments with this thread!

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

happened a couple of weeks ago, trying to make ' Eric's Favoite Rye Bread ' with double the dough.  My poor Kitchen Aid Artisan mixer was laboring along, the dough was trying to crawl into the housing. I cannot afford to purchase a larger mixer since I have oodles of attachments for the KA Artisan which would be pretty much useless since with space limitations, I couldn't keep both.    LIGHT BULB !!   I purchased another KA mixing bowl for $35.00, cut the recipe in half and voila !!  Takes a bit more time, but at my age, time is not a problem.

I am so proud of myself  :)

Anna