The Fresh Loaf

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Students baking sourdough - please help a teacher out!

Cristina's picture
Cristina

Students baking sourdough - please help a teacher out!

Hello! I am starting a project with my IB biology class (advanced biology, 11th grade) where I will have them create their own sourdough starters and then bake sourdough bread with it. I am new to sourdough baking but I have been doing some experimenting over the last few months to prep for this project. I received a donation from King Arthur Flour for so I have been using their recipes and resources. 

I would love to have the students bake naturally leavened sourdough bread (no commercial yeast), but I'm not sure how this can be done on a school schedule.  I would also like to have the students do as many of the steps (building levain, mixing dough, folding, shaping, baking, etc.) as possible.  But if its not possible, I can do some of the steps for them.  Here is the schedule that we're working with. 

The students are with me everyday at 12pm. We are on an alternating schedule were I have them for 40 min one day and 80 min the next day. I am at school from 7:30 - 4pm, but can stay later if necessary. 

In my limited sourdough experience, it seems like even with the most relaxed sourdough schedule, you still have to do something to it at least every 12 hours.  However, these students will only be with me every 24 hours. My contact at KA Flour says that using a recipe that calls from some commercial yeast may be the way to go in this situation (sad face).

So my questions:

Can anyone suggest a schedule for naturally leavened bread that would work? 

What type of recipe do you suggest (e.g., white, whole wheat, etc.)?

Should I give up on trying to do a naturally leavened bread and use commercial yeast?  If so, what schedule is suggested for this?

Finally, my other obstacle is that we have two ovens for 5 groups of students.  That will be 10 loaves of bread.  I'm thinking putting them in loaf pans and baking in 2 batches will be the best way to get them all to fit?  Any suggestions here?

Thank you for any and all help!

Cristina

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

How I wish that I would have had a teacher like you when I was in school 50 years ago :-D

It would be great if you lived near one of our experienced Sourdough bakers that could work closely with you. Are there any good bakeries near you baking SD bread? I bet they would be willing to help. At the very least you could buy some of their bread and let the students get a taste. Also, the health benefits and nutrition of naturally leavened SD bread is far superior to typical store bought braeds. Is your starter active and have you successfully baked bread with it yet?

I think the timeline is doable. You will probably have to do a few things without the students present, though. My go to bread referral for new SD bakers is the 123 SD. The recipe can be seen here. http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/56678/123-sourdough-no-knead-do-nothing-bread There are many other great links pretaining to this bread on the site. Search “123”. 

Please tell us your baking experience and also the condition of your starter. WE WANT TO HELP.

What is the expected duration of this project?

Danny

 

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

I agree that the 24 hour interval presents an issue.  Is is possible that you can break it up in stages, so that they experience each part of the work, but not on the same loaf.  When you watch TV cooking shows, the host often says, now we set the dough aside to rise, and then turns and picks up another bowl saying, I set this aside an hour ago.  In your case, you can approach it either of two ways.  Either ,  you can prepare a number of doughs at different times so as the students finish one task, you set that aside, and have them pick up the dough that was prepared earlier.  I tried to work that out for a class I did at my house, and it is doable if you limit it to just a few steps that you want to introduce them to.  The other option is to have them follow all the way through, but over the course of a few classes.  For example, when they finishing kneading and set aside the dough for the bulk ferment, call it batch A, you can put it in a fridge, then 12 hours later take batch A out, final proof it and put it back in the fridge, at the same time, you mix and knead batch B, and put it in the fridge, so that when they come back the next day,  batch B has finished bulk ferment and it read for dividing and shaping,  and when they are done, you put batch B in the refrigerator for final proof, and take out batch A and have them bake it.    12 hours later, you would then take out Batch B, and bake it as well.  Using this approach, you will make twice as much bread as you needed, but the students will get each of the steps in order.    

For making their own starter, I would just have them do the refreshes when they are in class, and have you do the refresh 12 hours later  -  I assume that is the biology part you are trying to teach.  I suggest you use the pineapple juice approach to making starter.

For recipes, I would stay with something simple.  I will leave it to others to suggest, since my recipes are based on 100 % whole wheat, which is a bit tougher than regular bread flour or All purpose flour.   Many here like a 1 2 3 bread  -  here is one recipe http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/48829/challenge-123-bread  I would stay with solely flour , water, starter and salt, and not mess with adding different flours or other add ins.   Make it is simple as possible.   

Sounds like a great class, and I am sure that the students will appreciate it, and you may make some of them into bakers.    

David R's picture
David R

This set of suggestions you've made are IMO extremely helpful. I think what you've done is find good ways to put most of the complication or awkwardness into the teacher's preparation time, and drastically simplify the classroom process.

In terms of learning, I'd suggest that if students come away still not quite knowing how to get "from nothing, up to loaf of bread", they'll retain less, and be less interested. The memory of a complete process is much easier to recall or reconstruct.

Cristina's picture
Cristina

Thank you Barry for this interesting solution!  Unfortunately, I think it would be a bit cumbersome to do this.  I don't have much free time during the school day to devote to making several batches of bread (I wish I did!). I only get 40 minutes each day for planning and I also teach 3 other classes!  I also wouldn't have enough bowls to attempt this.  

 

Thank you for the pineapple juice suggestion - I'm definitely going to give that a try!

Cristina's picture
Cristina

Thank you for your reply everyone!

Danny, to answer your questions: We live in a small rural town and sadly no there are no good bakeries around here.  

The condition of my own starter is very good ... it is very active.  I have made several nice loaves of naturally leavened sourdough from it.  I have made a few mostly AP flour loaves and a few half AP flour/half white whole wheat flour.  I am thinking that the students may have the best results from a loaf that is mostly AP flour with some white whole wheat?

The duration of this project is flexible. I plan on spending one day teaching them about yeast fermentation, developing a starter and then actually mixing up a starter. From there, only a few minutes everyday will be spent feeding the starters while we proceed with our usual classwork.  Once the starters are active, I plan on spending about two class periods to bake the bread. We are flexible regarding how long the starters will take to become active.  When I tried it using the KA flour instructions and in my cold house, it took about 2.5 weeks!  I think I may try the pineapple juice solution that is suggested and hope that speeds things up.  

Thank you for the link to the 123 sourdough bread.  What do you think of this timeline? -->

Day ONE

6am - I feed the students' starters

12pm - students mix up dough; put in fridge for bulk ferment. (We might possibly even have some time to do 2 folds here before going in fridge?)

Day TWO

12pm - students shape dough. Let proof on counter for 1-2 hours

2pm - I bake dough for students.

Day THREE

12pm - students try their bread!

 

Do you think this will work?  Will the 24 hour bulk ferment be too much? Also I am thinking of having students shape into loaf pans so that I can get several into the oven at once.  

 

Thank you!

David R's picture
David R

I may be mistaken, but I think the pineapple juice doesn't speed things up much, just avoids some confusion. (Eliminating the situation where a person thinks "Yay! It's working!" when in fact it isn't working yet, followed by "Oh no, I've killed it!" when in fact it's doing fine.)

OldLoaf's picture
OldLoaf

Pineapple Juice solution correctly it just lowers the PH (makes it more acidic) at the beginning stages.  The more acidic environment keeps out the nasty stuff, and helps the good LAB get started without competing against the nasties.

I used the PJ soultion to make my starter about 6 months ago and it worked just fine.  Earl is still going strong!

--Jeff

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Christina, I think you will need to bulk ferment at room temp for a while before retarding in the refrigerator. Unless your frig is a little warm (above 40F), the dough will not ferment very much.

Barry’s advice is very good.  The idea of using 2 or more doughs makes a lot of sense.

I assume your class last about an hour. You could mix 2 doughs at different times. One dough could be mixed around 8 or 9AM so that it could ferment at room temp for a few hours before the class. You could use that dough to let the students get a feel for it and also so some stretch and folds. With the other dough, it could be mixed according to ‘Day One’.

The timing above is a suggestion. You know your starter and the room temp, so the timing may need to be adjusted.

Also for ‘Day Two’ you could bake the refrigerated bread straight out of the frig. No need to warm up. Many of us, including myself, bake the dough cold (in a preheated oven) with outstanding results.

To sum up. I would arrange various doughs so that they would be ready for hands on processes when the students were available. Even if the steps don’t fit within the timeline. They could measure and mix the dough, stretch & fold and put into a container to bulk ferment. They could remove dough from the frig and divide and shape, and then set aside to proof. They chould be involved in Loading the dough into the preheated oven (no scoring) and observe as it cooks. And, they should eat their work :-D

IMO, it is best to omit scoring. It is not necessary and will introduce unnecessary complications to the new baker. Bake with the seam side up. A boule is the easiest shape.

The above are a few suggestions, pick and choose what works best for you and your students. Please be sure to let us know how it goes.

IDEA - you could start a new post on the forum and tell your students. Questions, pictures, and the entire process could be documented so that everyone could participate. I have confidence that the Fresh Loaf bakers will help in any way possible... If you decide to go this route, make sure the students feel incouraged to share their experience and ask questions.

Danny

Ford's picture
Ford

I like Debra Wink's Pineapple Juice Solution.  Look for it in the "Search" box.. 

Ford

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

So,  I assumed since it was a biology class, you were going to focus on creating a starter, and the bread baking was just an illustration.    From your schedule, I now assume you want them to experience more of baking bread.

Day ONE

6am - I feed the students' starters

12pm - students mix up dough; put in fridge for bulk ferment. (We might possibly even have some time to do 2 folds here before going in fridge?)     I would still make batch A and B, not a separate batch for each student, and label them, and let them bulk ferment separately.

Day TWO

11 am,  you take batch A out and shape it and set it to proof and preheat oven 

12pm - students shape Batch B dough. Let proof on counter for 1-2 hours

12:30   bake batch A

2pm - I bake dough for students.

Day THREE

12pm - students try their bread!

 

 

This will give them a little better picture of the process.  Eating on day 3 is fine, many suggest sourdough is better the next day.   You would want to practice at least once to get the timing going.  Recall that if you want to speed things up, let it proof in a warm place -  a microwave oven turned off with a bowl of hot water works pretty well. 

 

Cristina's picture
Cristina

Thanks for your help Barry!

You are right that since it is a bio class, the focus is on the yeast and microbes in the starter.  But that's just part 1! Part 2 will be the students learning how to bake with their starter ... a little off topic from our curriulum, but what fun is a starter if you don't end up baking with it!

I'm going to try a practice run with my own starter using your batch A and B suggestions.  I'll let you know how it goes!  

Martin Crossley's picture
Martin Crossley

Please DO have a read of these two posts by Debra Wink, our resident microbiologist - it’s not just about ‘adding pineapple juice’, it’s about the analysis and research that came about due to the systematic and reproducible ‘failure’ of a high proportion of young starters. I’d say it’s extremely valuable knowledge for you to have if you’re going to be teaching the class: 

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10856/pineapple-juice-solution-part-1

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

barryvabeach's picture
barryvabeach

Cristina,  do let us know how it goes.  Sorry I can't be of more help, since I almost never bake with store bought flour,  but I think your class will have a good time regardless.  In making the starters, I suggest you start with small amounts of flour.  Many recipes say to start with a cup of flour,  which is pretty wasteful.  Breadtopia has a recipe that starts with 3 1/2 tablespoons of flour, though since you are in biology,  I hope  you will be using scales and having them measure everything in grams.  breadtopia.com/make-your-own-sourdough-starter I would have each of them make their own starters, and then once you have them all going, just combine them all into on batch, and take out the amount you need for baking batch A and B, and then either allow the students to take home some starters for their own care and use, or dry out the rest -   and they can take home the dried starter and rehydrate it at a latter time. https://blog.kingarthurflour.com/2015/05/01/putting-sourdough-starter-hold/ 

 

 

Edited to add, you should check out this post  http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/59307/spying-your-starter

I think it would be great to get a time lapse video of the starters rising and falling, really great if you could get a few starters all in one video as sort of a competition. 

Cristina's picture
Cristina

I just wanted to thank you all for helping with our sourdough project!  We just finished and it was a HUGE success!!  See my blog post about it:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/59626/student-sourdough-baking-project

Also, Barry - I made a 24hr time lapse video of their starters, but with my limited video editing knowledge and software, I couldn't figure out hot to get the video under 30 minutes!  I'll still show it to the students (I can scroll through it quickly) ... they will definitely be into the "competition" part of it!

AGAIN, thank you all!  We all had SO MUCH FUN with this!