The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Stove Top Sourdough Bread

mzeiger's picture
mzeiger

Stove Top Sourdough Bread

Hello,

I'm a newbie to this site, but not a newbie to baking. I recently moved to an Alaskan "Homestead" and am cooking on a wood stove (no oven...)I have a sourdough starter that is about 15 years old. It has always made great pancakes, but I have never had success with biscuits or bread. They are always dense and do not rise well. They get tough skins on them before they rise much at all. This happened even in my suburban homes. Yesterday I made a batch of sourdough "soda" bread from Ruth Allman's Book: Alaska Sourdough. It called for 4 cups starter, etc. and 8-10 cups of flour. I could barely knead in 4 1/2 cups flour. The dough was a nice texture when I got done kneading, but it never rose. I slit the tops and "baked" it on the wood stove anyway. (I put the pans on trivits on the cook surface and cover them loosely with foil. Then I just keep the fire stoked.) There was some expanding during cooking, but the bread was heavy and pasty when I cut it open.

So, I followed the recipe (other than not adding as much flour). Any ideas on how I can improve the rising? Anyone else cooking on stove tops? I've had good luck in a cast iron pot with a regular soda bread -no sourdough- but my husband loves!! sourdough and I'd really like to make a good loaf.

Thanks.

M

Russ's picture
Russ

Does your starter rise when you feed it?

Regarding the recipe you mentioned, it sounds like the book expects starter with a much higher hydration than yours. But that shouldn't prevent rising.

If all else fails, it might turn out to be worthwhile to try a different starter. You could start your own, but it's probably easier to just get one that's known to work.

Russ

 

Edit: Apparently you can't use HTML in rich text mode.

mzeiger's picture
mzeiger

Well, a week ago the starter was a little unresponsive. My daughter had the job of feeding it and she religiously fed it a spoonful of flour daily. It never really bubbles up much unless we put it on the side of the stove. We normally keep it on a table right behind the woodstove. This is our heating & cooking source. It has been a little cool in the house lately, since the weather is warming so the fire only goes when we cook.

So, the starter had filled the container (glass 1 1/2 qt cassarole)and I needed to use it. I divided it into two containers added water and a small amount of sugar to both. That got it going well. I kept it bubbling for a couple days before attempting the bread. 

As of this morning, the remaining starter has developed a film and wavy fuzz  all over the top. In the past we have skimmed this off and fed the beast and all seemed well.

To answer your question directly, no the starter doesn't normally "rise" when we feed it. But I want to save this starter. My husband is very proud of the fact that he has "kept it going" for 15 years.

 

 

Russ's picture
Russ

Sorry I didn't get back sooner, I'm kinda new here and lost track of this thread.

Anyways, if your starter doesn't rise, it probably won't make bread rise. But from the sound of it, it may be the way you're feeding the starter. A spoonful of flour a day is probably good for keeping the starter alive (though I can't say for sure, I haven't heard of that feeding pattern before, so don't know of its effectiveness), but to see a rising effect usually the way it's done is to roughly double the starter in volume when feeding.

Give this a try: Take a 1/2 cup of starter at room temperature, add a 1/2 cup of flour and about 1/3 cup of water. Leave it out at room temperature for the day and see if it rises. If it does, try it in your bread.

If it doesn't rise, that may be bad news about your starter.

Russ

mzeiger's picture
mzeiger

Thanks.

I never wanted to double the starter in the past because we had so much of the stuff, and I couldn't bear to through any away. So I got to researching the starter feeding and have really revitalized the old moldy stuff.

I now get lots of bubbles throughout the starter even at 65 degree room temps. I made some biscuits with the excess starter i'm creating. They were the best we've ever had. I think the books we've used on sourdough just don't explain the feeding aspect as well as they should.

Now it is time to try bread again.  

Thanks for your patience. I didn't realize I was still a sourdough beginner after all these years of having it around the house! 

 

Russ's picture
Russ

Glad to hear it worked out for you.

i do hope you were just using moldy as an epxression.

I hate throwing any starter away too. Banana bread, pancakes and the like help, but I still found myself with an excess from time to time. That's how I came to just pulling a bit out and refreshing enough for a given recipe. The rest I just keep in the fridge and refresh when it gets to be a small enough amount.

Keep us posted how your bread turns out.

Russ

Marni's picture
Marni

I don't mean this as a joke- they really work.  It's not stove top, but it's another option if you don't have an oven.  Instuctions are all over the web.  We used to cook in them as Girls Scouts.  There are also camp ovens that can be set up on a stove top.  They are available through outdoor/survival stores.

Marni

PS Here's a link to instuctions for a solar oven: http://www.appliance.net/2007/a-solar-oven-have-fun-with-a-different-take-on-boxing-day/

mzeiger's picture
mzeiger

Thanks, yeah, we've toyed with the idea of solar oven. Our solar panels provide a fair amount of power, even on cloudy days. But here in Southeast Alaska we don't get a lot of full sun days. We will keep this idea in mind.

NYamateur's picture
NYamateur

If you dont have an oven available, maybe you can experiment with a recipe like those for Boston Brown Bread where the bread is cooked on the stovetop in a coffee can inside of a larger pot of boiling water.

heres an example of what Im talking about just in case you've never hear of it:

http://www.culinarycafe.com/Breads-Biscuits/Boston_Brown_Bread.html 

mzeiger's picture
mzeiger

MMM, this looks good. Now if I can just get the dough to rise properly.

 M

ehanner's picture
ehanner

This is a wood fired stove with a cast iron top surface?
If so get a dutch oven with a rim around the lid that will hold coals and get it hot by putting it on top of the stove and covering it with foil. Then when you are about ready, place some hot coals on the top of the dutch oven lid and sprinkle some corn meal or any rough meal on the bottom of the bottom of the Dutch Oven. Place the dough into the oven and in about 25 minutes check it out.

I suggest you search this site for "feeding your starter". It may be that you are feeding it enough to keep it alive for pancakes but not in a high enough proportion to raise bread dough. Typically I try to at least double or triple the volume of starter when I refresh. IE, 1 T of starter added to 1 T water and 1-1/2 T of flour every 12 hours until it is active. Each time cut back to the initial amount unless you are building the amount. I hope that was clear, when I read it back I wonder. Hope that helps.

Eric

mzeiger's picture
mzeiger

The stove top has a cooking surface, a polished solid metal. Not cast iron like the rest of the stove. Sadly there are no handy lift out sections like a cook stove.

I have used this method on a beach fire. But that's a summer event. Our outdoor temps are still in the 30's.Indoors it would get very smokey.

Thanks for the suggestions re: the starter. I have been researching that and I think ours  has gotten too acidic. We will refresh and try again.  

 Thanks to everyone for ideas!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

What happens if the wood burning under the polished stove is shoved to the back or side after it is hot.  Can a dutch oven with lid be shoved into the opening?  Is it big enough?  Or could a loaf be baked there inside after the floor has been swept of ashes? 

I like the trivet idea and think it could be taken one step further.   Some kind of large lid or box could be inverted over it and a vent on top at the back could direct the heat to circulate.  Something like the lid to a grill would be worth trying. 

Have fun rediscovering your sourdough.:)

Mini O

Susan's picture
Susan

Floyd has a yeasted recipe listed under Favorites on the left side of the Home Page. Also, Search on the Home Page for English Muffins. I believe you will find discussions on sourdough English Muffins.

Seems like the ideal fix for your situation right now. Good luck!

Susan from San Diego

edh's picture
edh

It's not crusty chewy sourdough, but pita bread works well with sourdough too.

Keep trying!

edh

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

My Aunt wrote me about her long ago baking experiences in Fiji using a pot.  I think this is a good place for this information:



"Tell me about baking in a mini oven in Fiji.  For almost 2 years I baked in an flat bottomed 18" pan about 10" deep with a flat lid.  I had to put a tuna can (both top an bottom cut out and balance a 9" cake pan on top then put a folded towel on top to hold the heat while it was heated on a keroscine burner.  You got the hang of it after a while. 


Actually that was the major contribution I made to the south seas.  When I visited the Institue of the South Pacific, I shared that the folded bathtowel on top of the round pan would hold the heat enough for the top of cakes or buns to brown as in a regular oven without having to put hot coals on top.  When I left, the method was being taught to Home Economists who would go to all the Islands in the South Pacific who had to go to demonstrate cooking on little gas burners.  The head mistress had been experimenting for 2 years looking for a way to do just that."


Aunt Joyce



 

rainwater's picture
rainwater

I've been using starter for about three months now.....I do remember something that Peter Reinhart mentioned in his Bread Baker's Apprentice about feeding your starter.  He said never feed your starter just a little every day.  He said if you use 8 oz. of starter, it's not a good idea to replace with 8 oz. of water and flour.


Peter is fairly adament about at least doubling your starter when feeding.


Throw away all but 16 oz. of your starter.  Add 16 oz. of flour, and 16 oz. of water.  Mix everything together very well....leave on the counter until it doubles at least....then place in the refrigerator until ready to use.....I feed my starter about once a week like this.  I feed it more often if I'm using more.  It's a good idea to feed the day or two before using the starter. 


I'm not an expert, but my starter is strong, and this is what the book says.


I hope this is helpful.