The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hello from Minnesota

wmpflueg's picture

Hello from Minnesota

I have been a bread baker most of my life -- yeast dough for general consumption but the past couple years have wanted to try sourdough. I read instructions from multiple books for creating a starter and they seemed contradictory and therefore complicated. Finally I spoke to my nice who, before she had two kids, had maintained a starter and she gave me the best advice. She told me that there are all levels of obsession when it comes to sourdough -- some people make arrangements for it to be babysat and fed while they are on vacation and some people shove it in the back of their refrigerator or freezer and forget about it but that the best way to understand it is to learn by doing rather that worry so much about choosing the perfect method before hand. 

Long story short I made a 100% hydration mix of flour and water and used Tartine Bread for my first loaf which this past July.  I was astounded at my first effort (pictured) I have had a few stumbles along the way (over-proofing, too much salt, the dough doing a double flip out of the bowl into the cast iron)  I got a couple bannetons for Christmas which I think will help with the last issue.

My largest issue was when the weather changed this fall and it went from a temperature of 78 (25c) in the house to between daytime 68 (20c) and night 60 (15c) my starter didn't look right I don't think I even tried the float text because the top looked watery so I went for a month with no home baked sourdough bread which my wife and I had quickly become dependent on. I tried putting the starter in the oven with the light on but that was too hot mid 90s (35c) so I started over and created a new starter that is working fine but it looks different at the "float" stage than what I was using in the summer. 

For now I'm content to stick with the tried and true bole baked in a cast iron dutch oven and the occasional rolls and hamburger buns from time to time but am reading some interesting cook books and have mixed in some Rye and Spelt flours -- I'm partial to whole grains but haven't tried to go anything beyond 70% whole grain.  In my prior baking using commercial yeast I would use 100% whole wheat but cheat by mixing in some vital wheat gluten. 

I truly appreciate this website -- it seems that every time I enter a search question into Google I'm brought to The Fresh Loaf so I figured I should become a member. 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

seasonal/temperature changes seem to affect our little sd beasties the most.  They tend to slow down a bit so give them more time and you may find yourself using a larger amount of maintenance starter to build for recipes.  Also in a cool pantry or kitchen, a thinner starte, one with more water tends to do better. It is not uncommon to find starters at 150 or even 200% or more.   Just get a bigger jar.  :).

Separation is a sign that they need more time to get active and stirring them helps until they can stir themselves. Careful not to overfeed when temps drop.  Using a bit of warm water when replacing or feeding the starter also helps.  There are a lot of warm spots in the kitchen and elsewhere.  

Hope you are all keeping warm with the polar wind.   Happy New Year!