The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Not Sourdough

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gprice157's picture
gprice157

Not Sourdough

Been playing at baking for eons; some successes, mostly less than spectacular results. Got into trying sourdough with sourdough starters after picking up a book in San Francisco airport featuring sour dough tales from the goldrush days, along with a packet of "starter." Sounded like such a great idea to try and take a stand for living free of commercial products including "expensive" yeasts. Only down side besides the frequent disasters, was handling the "gloppy" dough, so invested in a "bread machine." Less sticky hands, but little improvement in the end product.


Am now on a new track. Suddenly realized "starter" does not necessarily mean sour dough. Forget waiting for wild yeasts to take over. Create a "starter" with commercial yeast, and then nurture it carefully, saving a little "dough made from starter" from each batch of "dough cycle" bread machine product.


Haven't been at it long enough to know if I'm really onto anything; but have found that starter leavened product from the bread machine dough cycle, saved and properly fed, seems to hold great promise. There does seem to be an art to what the consistancy of the nurtured starter should be. A "soupy" batch gets the familiar foul looking liquid similar to my old sour dough efforts; so have had some success maintaining it at the consistancy of a workable bread machine dough.


Therin lies another concern. My most successful bread machine dough is from a recipe I found with precise amounts of water to dry ingrdients; which if deviated from even the minutist, produces a loaf with a collapsed top; or one so dense it can only serve as a paper weight. Figuring out how to combine the ideal starter, to the additional ingrediants to make a perfect loaf has proven very tricky.


 


 

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

No, seriously.  Why would you bother?  Why not just use an overnight poolish or something like that and be done with it?

gprice157's picture
gprice157

Response to fancypantlons:


At first look, thought you were putting me on by suggesting I "polish" it, maybe as the paper weight I sometime produced; never having heard of "poolish," even after years of trials and errors around such information as I could find. Looks like I discovered "poolish" on my own. Excuse the mischaracterization, and thanks for the enlightenment.

Vey's picture
Vey

That's the advantage of having someone that knows what they are doing teach you.


It could be a knowledgeable Grandmother (key word there is knowledge), or it could be real teacher, but either way, having someone at your elbow to tell you the dough is too moist, too dry, or needs more kneading, is as far as I am concerned, most invaluable.


I'm going to shut my mouth now before I start a rant about how some things just can't be learned from a book.

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Well that's a shame.  So... what, exactly, have I been doing in my kitchen if I haven't been learning to bake bread from a book (Reinhart's BBA, to be precise)? :)


BTW, I agree, having someone who can teach you is handy, but it's certainly not essential.  I get great results (at least, in my wife's opinion :), and everything I know I learned from either the BBA, or this absolutely fantastic online community.

Vey's picture
Vey

I could tell you what some of my fellow students, who had also learned from Reinhart's BBA book, said, but it wouldn't change your mind one bit.


I, on the other hand, had to ask them who Reinhart was.

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Well, to be fair, I suspect it *strongly* varies based on the person, not to mention individual experience level, as to whether one can learn <insert skill here> from a book.  Speaking for myself, I've been cooking for many years, and have had previous instruction in baking, so the progression to artisanal breads wasn't *that* much of a shift.  For someone coming from a more inexperienced background, or for someone who simply doesn't do well learning from books, I could see where a book simply wouldn't be sufficient to impart the information necessary.

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Well, to be clear, a poolish is just one of many types of preferments that are out there.  The poolish and biga are probably the most common, though neither is a maintained "starter" of any sort.  You simply assemble them a day or two ahead of time, and then incorporate them into the final build.


I'd suggest digging around TFL a bit.  You'll find all sorts of info on the different types of preferments, as well as tips on how to convert a standard recipe to one using a preferment.

Atropine's picture
Atropine

I might be mistaken but it seems you have developed a system of pate fermentee--saving a piece of dough from one batch, after primary fermentation, to use in a different batch later. (BBA p52).  I would imagine that, after a time, the pate fermentee would develop its own characteristics, especially if you are not adding commercial yeast (if you are adding commercial yeast, then you are not using the pate fermentee to leaven the bread, but more as a flavoring)


It is a preferment, but one that I think would offer very interesting experiences as it is not a one step preferment (like a poolish you make the night before) but *IF* no other yeast is used, it SEEMS to be more like a sourdough whose home is not in a jar, but is a caravan of successive dough batches.  I mean, think about it, it is sort of like reverse sourdough (not the OPPOSITE of sourdough, but the REVERSE), where the yeast is fed IN the loaf and then retarded OUT of the loaf, instead of being fed OUT of the loaf (in a jar), and then being fed again in the loaf, but also being retarded (if we retard the loaf in the fridge OR if we stretch out times between feedings).


Assuming that no other commercial yeast is added between batches, that would SEEM to constitute a firm starter in true sense...just one that is a rambler, that does not have an official jar to call home.  Can any starter that was either started or spiked with commercial yeast actually become a sourdough?  Will the flora from the flour (as that is where it seems the consensus is that the yeast comes from that we "wild catch") overtake the commercial yeast?  I had read, and it might not be true, that commerical yeast will not last in a starter.  Eventually would the yeast in the flour take over?


(Which leads me to yet another question:  if yeast is actually grown off of the flour, one might consider that different yeasts/bacteria might be found in different areas where the flour was grown or stored.  So does switching brands of flour make a difference in the starters we grow?  So many questions!)


Hey experts....wanna weigh in here?  At what point would a pate fermentee actually constitute a stiff sourdough starter (because no commercial yeast is added), or can it never be considered that and why?


Back to gprice:   if you and your wife are tickled about your bread...then stick with it!  Better to have really good bread that is not "purist", than pure, tasteless bricks. :)


I am not sure what foul looking liquid is that you are finding.  If it is clear or greyish, then that is hooch and normal.  Some people pour it off, some stir it back in.  It means that the starter is hungry and needs to be fed more often.  As far as I understand, as long as there is no red, pink, or orange streaks in the starter, it is still fine. 


Also, you might consider trying some bread without the bread machine.  That might give you a lot more freedom in experimentation.  But again, if you and your wife are happy, then do what makes YOU happy with this.  Bread is a demi-religion for some, an art form for some more, and a practical exercise for others.  Enjoy your experiments and see what you find!


 

Atropine's picture
Atropine

FWIW, I think that this is part of the fun of bread making.  Using different methods for getting flavor is fun!  Using a pate fermentee would, I think, make a different flavor than a poolish, because a poolish has only been "born" about 12-24 hours in advance, while a pate fermentee is passed down from loaf to loaf. :) Sort of like a "heritage preferment" (hey, maybe that needs to be a new bread phrase lol)  Almost any experiment is a worthy one, imo.


Sometimes we are in circumstances where we all we have are books, a sack of flour, and a bit of gumption, because bread making had become a lost art.  Hopefully those of us who are reviving bread making at home will become those knowledgeable teachers that we might wish we had :) 

Vey's picture
Vey

My knowledge is shallow, but isn't this also called "old dough"?

fancypantalons's picture
fancypantalons

Umm, I think you've got your terminology a little mixed up. :)  Pate fermentee is *not* the same thing as "old dough" or "motherdough", which is what you're describing.  Pate fermentee is really just the french equivalent of a biga; a firm, prefermented dough that's made (usually) 24 hours in advance and then incorporated into a final build.


Or, at least, that's the way the term is used in every reference I've read.

proth5's picture
proth5

I always preface these with "as I was taught."  I believe "my teacher" to be a reputable one.


Anyway: Pate fermentee is a piece of white flour dough that is removed after mixing and incorporated into the next batch of dough.  As it has been yeasted at the same percentage as a regular dough, it has a very limited life. Even if refrigerated, it should be used within 48 hours.  It will also contain salt. 


The other name for Pate fermentee is "old dough."  Because that's what it is.


A "biga" or a "poolish" has been yeasted at a very low percent and never contains salt.  It seems that hydration levels determine if it is a "biga" or "poolish" in popular terminology and I will not go down that rat hole.  They also have limited life spans - usually only 12 or so hours.


All three are preferments and each has its applications. None of them are usually used as the sole source of leavening in bread.  Usually additional commercial yeast is added, although very long fermentation times can be used if the yeast in the preferment is all that is desired.  Very long fermentation times.


A "sourdough" is characterized by containing wild yeasts that thrive in harmony with certain lactobacilli.  There are usually homofermentative bacteria - which produce lactic acid and heterofermentative bacteria - which produce acetic acid.  It is the balance of these two that produce the distinctive flavor of a levain based bread.


Although we can keep feeding commercial yeast and preserve its viability for awhile, without the lactobacilli there is no "sourdough."


One problem with the formulas that come with the packet of sourdough starter that you buy in the airport in San Francisco is that they often call for a cup of the original starter to be put  directly into a loaf of bread.  The formula is bad - not particularly the starter.  This excess of acid will degrade the gluten in the flour causing "gloppy" bread.  So, don't blame the starter - blame the formula.  A better source (such as the many good books recommended on these pages) might yield better results.


There are many sourdough experts posting to these pages.  I am not one of them, but I'm sure that they will respond if you ask questions about sourdough...


Happy baking!