The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello, new to sourdough

KayDee1's picture
KayDee1

Hello, new to sourdough

My local Baker recommended this site. I'm not new to bread baking, or working with flour. I'm a fairly accomplished home cook when it comes to commercial yeast risen breads, pizza dough and pasta.

However, I want to learn about sourdough, everything from making the starter to having a lovely loaf of bread.

My aforementioned baker has given me some of his starter, and it's amazing stuff! I've just this weekend embarked upon trying to achieve that first loaf.

It's not going well. But I'm not giving up! 

I'm looking forward to learning much from this site. I do well with clear cut basic instructions that allow me to go on and improvise once I've gotten the foundation techniques mastered. 

Oh, and I'm in Florida where the humidity is a factor that must be taken into account for everything from flour storage (always in the freezer) to always weighing ingredients, to temperatures for proofing (my pantry proofing shelf is often 80 degrees, if not a little warmer. 

So pleased to be here!

Danni3ll3's picture
Danni3ll3

I know you will get lots of good advice from everyone here. Mine is to get a book on sourdough to get you started. My intro to sourdough was in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkis but there are many others out there. 

KayDee1's picture
KayDee1

Thank you! I have, "Bread" by Hamelman. My baker recommended it. I've just started reading it and am learning quite a bit. 

Sourdough is definitely not, "throw some yeast into warm water and have at it!" 

alfanso's picture
alfanso

Flours are never kept in the freezer in my house, but in the pantry.  My typical kitchen temp is 78-80.  These are not necessarily problems unless you are living without A/C or a dehumidifier.  In fact when I use a levain (sourdough) straight from the refrigerator, meaning that I have built it earlier than I want to use it (which is typical for me), I'll  use fairly warm water in my mix instead of cool.  So ambient temperature should not play a role in your process - as long as you make adjustments.  

Adjustments are essential.  An example is that an author's environment is not your home environment.  I'll use Ken Forkish as an example since Danni called him out.  He lives in Portland, OR where his kitchen might hover around 65-70 degrees.  If he posts his formula for his ambient temperature, that is way too long for us alligators.  The search box in the upper right will be a great guide in determining these types of knowledge.

However, my levains live in the back of my refrigerator until I'm ready to employ them.

alan

KayDee1's picture
KayDee1

Thank you for sharing how you do it. Perhaps, when I start making more bread, once again, I will leave the flour in my pantry, too! Right now though, I'm nervous about it. I take the flour out of the freezer and let it warm up before using. 

I keep my starter in the refrigerator, too. 

Truth Serum's picture
Truth Serum

This is a great place to learn about sourdough. And what ALFANSO said is spot on !

Happy Baking!

Doris Ruth

 

KayDee1's picture
KayDee1

Thank you! 

Maverick's picture
Maverick

Another Floridian here... If the flour is in the freezer, then it is probably whole grain. Perhaps if you told us what you are looking for in a bread, we could point you to some recipes to try. As to making a starter, I highly recommend Debra Wink's pineapple juice method:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10901/pineapple-juice-solution-part-2

Scroll down to "Day 1" and do what it says. Then go back and read the post. Then go back and read part 1 if you want even more detail. It is amazing stuff, but not for the casual reader that only wants to be told what to do, not why.

Since you have a starter, how are you maintaining it? Glad to see you are weighing your ingredients since that is half the battle. Really, a starter is a pre-ferment that has enough yeast in it to ferment your bread. It will go slower than the yeasted bread of course, but the feel is much the same.

One thing to consider here in FL... even though we have A/C to keep our inside temperature pretty much the same for the majority of the year, the outside temperature will heat up your tap water. So when you use the tap water in the summer, it will move things along faster than when the nights "cool off".  If you keep your house warm, then things might move faster as well. One way to slow things down is to use colder water when mixing your dough or starter.

alfanso's picture
alfanso

you need it.  A perfect example is when making something that requires a high level of mixing, like a ciabatta.  In that case it would not be unusual for me to drop ice into the water to bring it down to low 30's vs. refrigerator temperature that is typically 38dF or so.  In extreme cases flour right out of the refrigerator or freezer may be the ticket.  As a ciabatta (at least the one I make) takes a long mix time with a high mixer speed - something called mixing friction comes into play and will warm the dough up considerably.  A typical dough frequently comes out of the mixing stage somewhere in the 77-78 degree range.  I mix just about everything by hand, so for me the dough temp will never exceed room and countertop temp.

One word on keeping the levain or starter in the refrigerator.  Mine is quite mature.  A new starter/levain/sourdough is probably better served by being out on the counter with regular feedings.  Once mature it can then be stashed in the refrigerator.  My stiff starter (60% hydration) will go for 4-5 months without a refresh.  My ready-to-go levain at 75% hydration will give me at least a 6 week window.  Just don't expect that from a countertop fed levain, one that is too new or too highly hydrated.

And yep, my current starter and levain are the great grandchildren of Ms. Wink's pineapple juice solution too.

It's a learning curve and I'm still just barely starting my ascent, even with a few years of home baking behind me now.  BTW, Maverick posted a picture of under, over and correctly proofed baguette bread a few years ago, which I dutifully printed off and keep in my folio.  I believe the original source was from Ciril Hitz.

KayDee1's picture
KayDee1

Thanks for your information. I need to read, and understand why things work. I'll ask incessant questions, but that's because I tend to want everyone's advice! 

I maintain my starter by keeping it in the refrigerator, and when I want to start a dough, take some from it (and leave it on the counter, after feeding it) and to the remainder, I feed it and return it to the refrigerator. 

I'm still very nervous about running out of starter. The baker who was kind enough to give this to me has beautiful starter and I really don't want to lose it! 

Maverick's picture
Maverick

The only way to run out of starter is to accidentally put it all in the dough and bake it. How long do you leave the starter on the counter before feeding it? How long after feeding it do you put in in the refrigerator? How much do you feed it? Do you weigh your ingredients? Do you know the hydration of the starter? One tip is to dry some starter so that if something happens to yours, you can easily build it back fast.

BTW, we like questions, and we also like details. So have at it...

Arjon's picture
Arjon

There are various ways. Off the top of my head, one is to dry some and refrigerate or freeze the resulting flakes. Another is to use a bit to make a stiff version that will keep for months in the fridge.