Using a bread machine as a warming chamber for sourdough
Hello everyone! I haven't been around this site for ages ... just busy with life (life is good!).
Thought I'd pop in and share this tip - it's probably nothing new (great minds think alike and all that) but it was a new idea to me and it works so well I wanted to share it.
This winter has been really unusual weather here in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live. It pretty much has rained and rained non-stop for months. I don't heat my house in the winter - winters are so mild I usually get by just wearing a few extra layers. But I had a real struggle getting my sourdough to work this winter. The first problem I had is that the flour I had been buying in plastic bags was now being sold in paper bags and I found I have to use much more flour and much less water to get the same type of dough. My best guess is the paper bags were allowing the flour to absorb a lot more moisture from the rainy weather. And the second problem is it has just been so cold that my normal routines of warming up the starter just haven't been working. My oven gets way too hot with the oven light on (two lamps in there and it quickly gets up to 110F) so I can't use that. And my normal routine of just turning on the oven for 20 seconds or so every 45 minutes hasn't been working as the kitchen is just too cold and the oven cools down right away.
So I pulled out my old Zojirushi bread machine and experimented with it's user programmable settings. I made a 4 hour rise cycle that has no knead and no bake routines ... nothing but 4 hours of maintaining 85F (about) rise. Day before baking I pull my starter out of the fridge and stir in 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water and set it in the Zojirushi on the rise setting. I remove the bread/kneading pan and just set my jar of starter in the machine where the bread/kneading pan would go.
The starter is getting bubbly and active in about 3-4 hours so about an hour before it peaks I grind my wheat and sift it and mix with water just enough to wet it, cover and set aside. When the starter is peaking I measure it into my wet flour (I do small loaves since I bake every day or every other - 300g flour, 200g water, 100g starter) add the salt and knead. Then I do a series of stretch/folds to get a manageable dough ball and set it in a small tupperware uncovered and put that in the Zojirushi on the 4 hour rise routine. I set my timer and every 45 minutes I pull the dough out and do 3-4 stretch folds and back into the Zojirushi for another 45 minutes.
Then I shape my loaf and roll it in sesame seeds and put it in loaf pan - cover it with an inverted loaf pan and leave it on the counter overnight. It's been cold enough in my kitchen that it is just getting ready to go in the oven after I make breakfast the next morning. But when the weather warms up I'll have to start popping it in the fridge before I go to bed.
Hope that's useful to someone. It has made my routine so much easier as that little bread machine makes a perfect controlled heat rising chamber.