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bwraith's picture
bwraith

The following is a description of how I maintain my 100% hydration (1:1 flour:water by weight) starter. The term 100% hydration refers to the baker's percentage of water in the starter, i.e. the water in the starter is 100% of the weight of the flour in the starter.

This maintenance regime assumes that your starter is already healthy, fresh, and active. This is not what I would do to "start a starter", but rather it is the maintenance regime I follow to store, revive, and use my starter over time.

The following characteristics are for a 100% hydration starter. The characteristics, signs of health, problems, and readiness for use are different for starters maintained at different hydration levels.

Characteristics of my 100% hydration white flour starter:

  • The weight of flour and water in the starter are equal.
  • The flour is either bread or AP flour with protein content around 11-13%.
  • The water is bottled (Poland Spring).
  • Normally fed at room temperature.
  • Stored in the refrigerator when not being fed.
  • The consistency can be described as a thick, stirrable paste after it is fed.

Characteristics of a recently fed, fresh, active 100% hydration starter:

  • It rises by double in about 4-5 hours at room temperature after a feeding of 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water by weight)
  • It maintains a reasonably thick, elastic consistency after rising by double.
  • It smells very pleasant. The smell could be described as flowery, tangy, and slightly sweet.
  • No liquid layers develop on top or in the middle even hours after rising by double.
  • Hooch (an alcoholic layer of liquid on top) forms eventually when it is stored in the refrigerator for a week or more or left out for a long time at room temperature after doubling.

Characteristics of a 100% hydration starter that is not yet ready or is possibly unhealthy:

  • Unpleasant odors a few hours after feeding.
  • Separated layers of liquid form a few hours after feeding.
  • Takes longer than 4-6 hours to rise by double at room temperature after a 1:2:2 feeding (starter:flour:water by weight).
  • Develops a runny consistency a few hours after feeding.

An Important Note on the Large Effect of Temperature on Rise Times

Before launching into the information below on maintaining starters, it is worthwhile to point out one of the largest points of confusion in sourdough starter maintenance. Temperature has a big effect on the speed of reproduction and the activity of the organisms in a sourdough culture. For example my kitchen may average 76F in the summer and only 69F in the winter. At 76F, my starter may rise by double after a 1:2:2 feeding in 4.2 hours, whereas at 69F it will double in 6.4 hours. At 64F, it would take 9.4 hours. It is not a problem to follow the procedures below in a kitchen with a temperature averaging 64F; but clearly, you need to allow for rise times of roughly double in the various discussions below. So, adjust your expectations and timing accordingly, if your temperatures don't hover fairly close to 74F or so, which is the temperature assumed for the discussions below.

Assuming a healthy, active starter, here is the maintenance regime I follow to feed, store, revive, and use my starter.

Feeding

I almost always feed my starter 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water by weight) and then allow it to rise by double at room temperature, which should take about 4.5 hours when it is fully active and recently fed. Once it has risen by double, it is placed in the refrigerator. The starter can then be used directly from the refrigerator in a recipe for the next 3 days. On the first day, it is almost the same as it was right after it rose by double. On the second day, it has a little more flavor and may be ever so slightly weaker, but it is still at an excellent point to use in a recipe. After 3 days, it can still be used, but it will have stronger, more sour flavors, and it will be noticeably weaker in terms of rising power. If you have a recipe that uses a very small percentage of starter in the dough, it won't matter much if you use old starter. I've used week old starter in recipes where the flour contributed to the dough was only 5% of the total flour weight. If you are using the starter in a recipe that has a high percentage of starter, it may be better to use the starter after 2 days or less in the refrigerator.

Although it may not make much difference, I actually maintain my starter with a 1:2:2.2 feeding ratio, i.e. at a 90% hydration. With the bread flour I use (KA Bread Flour) that results in a consistency of a thick paste that is a little difficult to stir once you mix it up well. The amounts you work with don't matter much, either, other than the amount of flour being thrown out. I typically work with a total culture size of about 80 grams. My scale will measure down to 1 gram of precision. A typical 1:2:2.2 feeding would be (16g:30g:34g) of (old starter:water:flour). Below I am doing 1:10:11 feedings, which are done by feeding (4g:40g:44g) of (old starter:water:flour).

The above method works great, but see in the variation section below for an update on how I am feeding most recently to better accomodate a 12 hour feeding cycle. Also, I now use an even thicker consistency, around 80% hydration. It seems to keep longer this way on the counter or in the refrigerator.

Storage

Once the starter has been in the refrigerator for more than three days, I consider it to be in storage. It can't be used directly in a recipe, but instead will have to be revived. If I plan to store my starter for a period of time longer than 2 weeks, I usually will thicken it up, as it keeps better at a thicker consistency. However, even at 100% hydration, I've had no problems reviving my starter after 2 months. At thicker consistencies, the starter can last for many months in the refrigerator. I believe Glezer says it can last more than a year in a very stiff consistency, like 50% hydration. However, the longest I've gone with my starter is 2 months. I use glass canisters for both feeding and storage. I usually pour the ready to refrigerate starter into a fresh container, so that the sides are clean and the starter is stirred down to take up less volume. The containers have a rubber gasket that seals them from the air in the refrigerator but allows some gas to escape if pressure and gasses build up in the container.

Revival

When the starter has been in the refrigerator for more than a few days, it must be revived first before it can be used in a recipe. I do this by simply feeding it once or twice in the manner described under "Feeding". After being stored for a week or two or more, rising by double after a 1:2:2 feeding may take something like 6-8 hours at room temperature. If it only takes 6 hours, one feeding works fine. However, if it takes more than 6 hours to rise by double at room temperature, I generally feed it one more time. The second feeding usually takes much closer to 4.5 hours, which is an indication it is fully revived. On the occasion where it had been stored for 2 months, it took a third feeding at room temperature before the starter would rise by double in 4.5 hours at room temperature after a 1:2:2 feeding.

One subtle aspect of all this is the question of how long after the starter has doubled should you wait to feed it again. The starter needs to ripen enough to bring the cell counts up to their maximum level. In the period after you feed the starter, the cell counts of yeast and lactobacillus will double every couple of hours or so. Once the starter is ripe enough, the yeast and lactobacillus cell counts will stop increasing. The pH and acid levels get to a point where they attenuate the cell activity, and they can no longer multiply in numbers. So, you want to let the starter mature enough to reach that maximum cell count, and then feed it again or store it. Just based on experience, it seems like my starter does well as long as I let it sit for an hour or two beyond the point it doubles. I usually "stir it down" at the point it doubles, and then let it rise some more. However, I refrigerate it right when it doubles, since it will continue to ripen in the refrigerator. Recently, I was rushing my feeding schedule and slowed my starter down by trying to feed too early, just before it had completely doubled, in fact. The result was that it was taking longer than usual to rise. The solution was to let it sit a while longer for a few feedings in a row. It didn't take long at all for it to bounce back to doubling in 4.5 hours from a 1:2:2 feeding at room temperature.

Variations

You can feed at a lower or higher ratio than 1:2:2 in order to adjust the amount of starter you want to build to match a recipe or to better match the times when you can feed the starter conveniently. However, I never feed at a lower ratio than 1:1:1 to avoid any problems with acid building up or the starter becoming too ripe or underfed. Higher ratios can be used to lengthen out the rise time if you know you will not be back within 4-6 hours to store the starter in the refrigerator before it becomes too ripe. At warmer temperatures, the starter will rise by double much more quickly after a 1:2:2 feeding, taking something like 2.5 hours at about 85F, for example. At 85F the timing for rising by double will be very roughly half as long as at room temperature, and at 65F the timing will be very roughly twice as long (very, very roughly).

Recently, I've been experimenting with feeding ratios for a 12 hour room temperature maintenance schedule. I have found that feeding 1:10:11 (for a slightly thicker consistency I'm using 90% hydration), results in a 12 hour cycle. The starter will double 8 hours after the 1:10:11 feeding, and then I stir it down and let it ripen some more. If I feed every 12 hours on this cycle, the starter is at full strength from about 8 to 12 hours after being fed (all this at room temperature). When you feed a starter routinely at higher ratios, like 1:10:11, it will ferment for longer periods of time at higher pH. The result should be that the starter will have relatively more lactobacillus in it compared to a starter maintained with a 1:2:2 feeding ratio, since the lactobacillus thrive in a slightly higher pH environment (around 5 pH).  I can't say what the effect on flavor would be, but it makes sense that the aromatic compounds and acids produced by the lactobacillus would be more evident in the one maintained with the high feeding ratio. Although this is not at all scientific, I do think that the starter I've maintained with a 1:10:11 feeding ratio has a more intense aroma than the one fed with a 1:2:2 ratio.

Even more recently (added 12/14/2007), I've settled on feeding every 12-17 hours using a feeding of 1:4:5 (starter:water:flour by weight). Using this procedure, the starter doubles in volume in about 4.75 hours at 76F or about 7.25 hours at 69F. Even at 69F, the starter has peaked in 12 hours, so it can be fed again. At 76F, it will peak and fall after 12 hours, but it is still at full strength and will rise vigorously when fed. It seems like a good compromise that can be used year-round for a 12 hour cycle. The starter can be maintained on the counter at room temperature indefinitely using this procedure. If I know I won't be baking bread for a while, I thicken up the starter by feeding it 1:4:7 to thicken it up when I feed it next, and put it in the refrigerator immediately after feeding. Then, I take it out a day or two in advance of the next bread-making session and revive by letting it rise by double and feeding 1:4:5 every 12 hours. Although I generally go through the revival procedure, I've found that the starter is at close to full strength even after 7 days in the refrigerator when stored this way. So, it's possible to take the starter out of the refrigerator, let it rise by double, and use most of it in a bread recipe, and take a tiny portion of it to revive for a couple of feeding cycles before returning it again to the refrigerator using the 1:4:7 feeding and refrigerating immediately.

When to Refrigerate

I like flavors to be less sour and more mild in sourdough breads I make. I've found that the right flavors and lower amounts of sour flavor seem to be there when I don't let the starter become overly ripe before using it in a recipe. That's why I tend to refrigerate when the starter has just doubled. You can experiment with feeding schedules that allow the starter to become more ripe before refrigerating. It will change the balance of organisms in the culture and therefore the flavor. Also, when you use a large percentage of starter, the larger amount of accumulated byproducts of fermentation in a more ripe starter will contribute directly to the flavor and texture of the dough, in addition to the contribution made by the subsequent fermentation.

An Additional Tip on Refrigerated Starter Storage

If you are using your starter fairly frequently, like once a week, then just refrigerating it when it doubles will work very well. You can use the starter directly out of the refrigerator for a period of time if stored that way. For storage it works well, as I've had no problem reviving my starter after 2 months when stored just after doubling. However, as Mike Avery commented below, and I've verified as well, feeding a well revived and healthy starter in such a way as to thicken it to a firm consistency and then refrigerating it immediately allows the starter to keep very well for longer periods of time. It can be removed from the refrigerator and allowed to rise by double or a little more and used directly in a recipe, even after a week, I've found. If you use this procedure, the starter should still be "revived" with enough feedings, usually one or two more, at room temperature to verify that the starter is rising at full strength again before it is again stored in the refrigerator.

Converting Starters

I sometimes make a recipe starter for a whole grain bread by feeding some of my starter with spelt or whole wheat. I have never fed a starter with whole grain repeatedly to completely convert it, so I have to accept the flavor as is and a small amount of white flour in my whole grain recipes. I'm sure there are many subtle flavor differences if you feed repeatedly and fully convert a starter from being fed exclusively with white flour to being fed exclusively with a whole grain flour. I've found the feeding and rising process works about the same way with whole grains for a recipe starter, except that the rise times seem a little bit faster with the whole grain flours.

Mistakes

It's pretty hard to kill a healthy starter, but here are a few ways to possibly send yours over the edge.

  • Heat the starter to over 95F and kill the organisms - easier than you might think, for example...
    • Use actual oven heat and get up over 100F very quickly.
    • Place the starter in an oven with the light on - check carefully first - it can be much hotter than you think in there with just the oven light on and the door closed.
    • Use hot water to feed your starter
  • Put acids in the culture
    • The culture doesn't need acid if it's healthy. It generates all the acid it needs on its own.
    • Sometimes a small shot of vinegar or other acid, such as pineapple juice, may help fix a sluggish culture, but if you feed acid repeatedly, you can put too much in and kill the starter.
  • Not feeding the culture for too long at warm temperatures or repeatedly underfeeding over long periods.
    • When out of the refrigerator, the culture will be very active and must be fed to stay healthy.
    • It is especially easy to underfeed a culture when temperatures are warmer.
  • Overfeeding the culture
    • If you feed before the culture has ripened enough repeatedly you can dilute the culture and eventually kill it.
    • More likely to happen at colder temperatures, stiffer consistencies, or higher feeding ratios. Let the culture rise by double, then let it ripen for a number of hours beyond that. A dip should form in the middle when the culture is at its peak. You can let it go for a number of hours beyond the point it dips, but it should be ready to feed at the point it is dipping or collapsing on itself.
    • If you refrigerate the culture for storage, you can let it just rise by double and then refrigerate it. It will continue to ripen in the refrigerator. However, allow it to come to full ripeness at room temperature over a couple of feedings once in a while, normally done when reviving the culture for baking, to avoid any decline similar to overfeeding caused by repeatedly refrigerating when it has just doubled.

Given the above, it makes a lot of sense to keep back a small amount of old starter in the refrigerator, even if just the scrapings from the inside of the container that came out of the refrigerator, until you're sure the feeding went well. It's also not a bad idea to make a small amount of stiff starter and keep as a backup. Some dry their starter and freeze or store it for backup.

Tips on Quantities Used, Mixing Technique, and Volumes (a scale is highly recommended, but to use measuring spoons...)

As I've gained experience, the amounts of starter I work with have dropped. I haven't found any disadvantages to using smaller quantities. For example, my most recent feeding routine (mentioned in the variations section above) is 1:4:5 (starter:water:flour by weight) is done by taking a clean jar, putting it on the scale and adding 5 grams of starter and 20 grams of water. I stir vigorously with a tiny whisk to aerate and thoroughly mix the starter into the water. Then, I add 25g of flour and use a fork to thoroughly mix the flour into water, forming a fairly thick paste - not quite a dough, but very thick. I then take a small spatula and scrape down the sides, put the lid on the jar, and place the jar in a nice unobtrusive spot on my counter where hopefully no one will disturb it.

If you don't have a scale, my first advice is to get one. It makes baking much more reliable, especially when you are trying to reproduce another baker's recipe. A good digital scale costs about $25 and is very much worth the trouble. Still, the procedure in the previous paragraph is easy to do by taking 1 teaspoon of starter, adding 2 tablespoons of water, and stirring vigorously to aerate and completely mix the starter into the water. Then, add 3 tablespoons and possibly another teaspoon or so of flour, and mix thoroughly with a fork. Scrape down the sides of the jar, cover, and place on the counter.

If you are planning to store the starter for a long time in the refrigerator, it helps to carefully drop the recently fed and thickened starter into a clean jar, so that there is no film of flour or paste stuck to the sides at all. Over a longer period, it is possible for mold to grow on a residue of flour paste left on the sides of the jar.

Comments

What I describe above is just one way to do it. I'm sure there are many other ways, but I find this method convenient and robust. It's hard to kill a healthy freshly fed and risen starter that is stored in the refrigerator. It is convenient that the starter remains in a good usable state for several days. Very small amounts can be used when storing it for long periods to avoid large amounts of flour waste. I store something like 100 grams when I'm planning to store the starter for more than a few days, so my revival can be used in a recipe without wasting much if any flour. Maintaining only one starter and converting it for recipes each time is easy and convenient, although by not fully converting the starter to a whole grain flour some flavor or other characteristics may be missed with this approach.

tattooedtonka's picture
tattooedtonka

Here is my Mocha Java bread.  The bread has the color of WW but only contains white bread flour.  It is infused with chocolate and coffee.  The crust is soft, with a very soft creamy crumb that has melted chocolate and caramel throughout.  With a nice flavor of coffee to go with the chocolate.

Sponge:

  • 20oz. Bread Flour
  • 20oz. Brewed Coffee; Cooled ( I used Green Mountain Coffee Roasters - Mocha Java)
  • 1oz.   Finely ground coffee  (same as above )
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Instant Yeast

Mix all together and let rest on counter for 1 hour.  This is not really done for yeast activity as much as it done to help start the extraction of the coffee oils from the grounds. This allows plenty of time for the hydration of the coffee and start blending the flavors in a wet environment)

Dough:

  • 2lb. 8oz. Bread Flour
  • 16 oz. Brewed coffee; cooled (Mocha Java)
  • 8oz. Milk
  • 4oz. Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 3 1/2 Teaspoons Instant Yeast
  • 10oz. Bag of Milk Chocolate/Caramel Morsels (I used Toll House)
  • All of Sponge from above recipe

Mix all items together in large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let set for 1 hour. 

After hour is up, dump contents onto lightly floured counter top and spread out only lightly degassing.  Fold top towards you into the middle, then fold the side closest to you into the middle, then fold left in, then right in.  Then place back into bowl seam side down, and cover.

Do this again two more times, folding at 1 hour intervals.

After this third hours fold, cut dough in half.  Shape two loaves as you wish, I used a basic batard type of shape but a round loaf would work as well.  After dough is shaped I put them right into a cold start oven and did the slashes just before putting them in. Both loaves opened up nicely.  (basically after fold, cut-shape-score-bake, no waiting around for final resting.....daaaa)

I Baked at 375' F. for 40 minutes until  internal temp of 202'F.

Image of SpongeSponge Image

After 1st mixing all ingredients

After 1st rise before folding

After first fold

After final fold

Finished product

 

TT

bwraith's picture
bwraith

Sourdough Whole Grain Sandwich Loaves

Sourdough Whole Grain Sandwich Loaf

Sourdough Whole Grain Sandwich Loaf

I finally decided to give a try at an (almost) whole grain sandwich loaf. Admittedly I didn't switch my starter over, but I only have a few percent of the flour contributed from the white flour starter. Many thanks to all the contributors to thefreshloaf.com, including at least JMonkey, ehanner, mountaindog, browndog5, Srishti, zolablue, sourdough-guy, sourdolady, tomsbread, and breadnerd for the very useful pointers on handling of whole grain breads. I didn't quite do justice to the good information, as you can see, but the crumb is certainly open enough, light enough, and soft enough, as well as having a nice flavor. I was happy with these results for a first try. I definitely overproofed them, partly because the cooler with warm water technique for the final proof was very effective.

I've included a few additional photos, although I didn't photograph the whole process this time. I also included a spreadsheet with weights of ingredients in ounces, grams, and baker's percentages.

Ingredients

Recipe Starter

  • 142 grams 100% hydration starter (I used a white flour starter)
  • 227 grams whole spelt flour
  • 113 grams water

Dough

  • 40 grams malt syrup
  • 4g diastatic malt powder
  • 581 grams water
  • 397 grams red whole wheat (I used KA organic WW Flour)
  • 57 grams rye (I used KA rye blend, but substitue with WW flour if you want)
  • 170 grams white whole wheat (I used KA Organic White WW Flour)
  • 17 grams salt
  • 28 grams olive oil

Mix

The night before you plan to bake, mix the starter ingredients, and knead them for about 2 minutes to make a dough out of them. Let rise in a covered container for about 4 hours at room temperature until doubled and refrigerate overnight.

Also the night before you plan to bake, mix the malt syrup, diastatic malt powder, water, and all the flours and place in a covered container. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, cut the starter into small cubes. Spread the refrigerated mass of flours, water, and other ingredients out on the counter and press the cubes into the mass. Sprinkle the salt and oil over the mass. Press the heels of your hand into the mass to force the ingredients to mix well. Roll up the mass and knead a few times to further mix the ingredients. You can then spread the mass out again and press it flat and then roll it up. After 2 or 3 repetitions of spreading out, pressing flat, and rolling up the mass, the ingredients will be well incorporated and the mass will seem more like a dough. It will be very sticky, but if you keep the counter surface, the dough surface, and your hands wet, it is not difficult to handle.

Bulk Fermentation

Place the dough in a rising bucket. Every 30-60 minutes for the first couple of hours, turn the dough out on the counter and fold it. After a few folds, just let it rise until it has doubled. The dough should double in volume in a total of about 4 hours at room temperature. The idea is to do enough folds to get the dough feeling elastic and resilient, but not so many that it begins to feel very stiff and loses its elasticity.

Shaping and Final Proof

I shaped according to JMonkeys video. The dough should be split in two, formed more or less into batards, and placed in two loaf pans approximately 9 inches long. To form the batards, just lay one of the two halves of the dough out in a long rectangle and roll it from the short end, stretching the outside surface as you roll it. You may want to tuck some of the end of the roll in toward the center a little as you roll it up. Seal it and tuck the ends under, and place into the pans with the nice, stretched surface up. You can put a little oil on the surface of the loaf to protect it from drying out. Place the pans in a warm humid place to rise. I put them in a cooler with a bowl of warm water next to them. Allow them to rise by approximately double or a little less.

Unfortunately, the temperature was very warm in my garage, where the cooler was, probably around 85F. I let them go for 4 hours and then realized they were way overproofed. The result was no oven spring. I shouldn't have slashed them and just put them in the oven. You can see what happened in the photos. I think if I had stopped the final proof at about 2 hours at 85F, I would have had a better slash with oven spring and so on. I know I'm getting close to figuring this out, as the loaves still had a flavorful, open crumb.

Bake

I baked these starting in a cold oven for about 45 minutes at 425F.

Cool

Once the loaves have cooled for a minute or two, remove them from the pans and allow them to cool on a rack. 

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

With warm weather and more time spent in the garden than in the kitchen these days, I finally decided to give the "no-preheat" method a try since ehanner, crumb bum, sourdough-guy, and many others seem to like the results and the ease (not to mention energy savings).

I must admit I have been very skeptical of this method, it goes so against the grain of how I have made bread my whole life - I couldn't bring myself to do it for the longest time after carefully making each batch of dough, not wanting to sacrifice it, and I was convinced people who liked this method didn't require a thick, crispy crust like my family does - maybe it works fine for sandwich loaves, but crusty, chewy hearth loaves? Bread is sacred to my French husband and not something to be trifled with (he often hovers about the kitchen while I'm baking to make sure I hear the oven alarm and don't ruin the precious bread...)

So this past weekend I made a double batch of both the Thom Leonard and the Columbia (both from Glezer's ABAA) and decided to try the Leonard as the no-preheat and compare it to the Columbia which I would do on the hot baking stone as usual. First, as I mentioned to Zolablue in another blog, this weekend's bake was different than any previous sourdough bake I've done since starting back in November in that with the warm weather and warm house temps (70-75F) my starter was incredibly active and I've never seen these same doughs rise as much in the same time period as they did this weekend, they nearly blew the lids right off the dough buckets I use.

So I was a little worried the dough would be over-proofed, but when I slashed the Thom Leonard loaves after flipping them out onto a cold parchment covered baking sheet they seemed to hold their shape well. I put them in the cold oven on the middle rack (baking stones removed) and turned the oven on to 425F to bake the whole time, no steam or mist (needless to say, my husband was probably more nervous than I was...). I kept the light on to watch, and I noticed the slashes opening up and the loaves spreading - and I thought "great, I'll end up with pancakes", so I was extremely surprised to check back about 10 min later to see the loaves had bloomed and rose up very high - good oven spring - I was impressed! I left them in for about 15 min. before I opened the oven and rotated the loaves, then let them get nice and brown for another 15-20 minutes. I took them out when they looked nice and brown and the internal temp was about 204 . The crust felt nice and hard as they always do when you first take them out of the oven, but I knew the real test would be once the loaves cooled and we could cut into them and taste them. I should also mention that I have a gas stove, so the oven pre-heated and reached 425F pretty quickly without the stones in there.

Results below: we were very pleasantly surprised at the oven spring and open crumb, and the crust was crispy, but thin. Still, I could live with that considering how easy this was to do, no waiting for the stone to heat up, no misting, etc.


For comparison, below in front are some Columbias that I baked on a hot stone that I let heat up to 500F after the oven was already hot from the previous bake, then turned down to 400F after misting first 2 minutes. No-preheat Leonards are in the back. I made these Columbias as very large 3 lb boules rather than the usual batards (I like this large shape as it seems to keep the bread fresh longer throughout the week with just the cut side wrapped partially in foil). These Columbias also had tremendous oven spring, height, and open crumb, in fact they had better height and more open crumb than the no-preheat Leonards, and they also had a very thick crisp crust, which we prefer over the thin.

That said, I am still very happy with the no-preheat results given how easy it is, and will continue to use this method throughout the hot weather when I'm using the oven less anyhow. So I tip my hat to Sourdough-guy, ehanner, crumb-bum, and others who use this method, I've learned much from your advice before, but on this particular one I was skeptical, I'll never doubt you again...

Still, in cooler weather we cook so much on the weekends in the oven that I prefer to keep the stones in place, and my husband definitely prefers the resulting thick crust. Here is a crumb shot of the Columbia baked on the hot stone.

davidlouis333's picture
davidlouis333

Finaly I found time to try my hand at the pizza dough again.  This time it was great and I turned it into a Calzone that my girlfriend makes at work.  The result was wonderful and very tasteful.  I added brown sugar to the recipe for pizza dough on this site.  I think next time I am going to try adding more sugar, because I like to have a sweet pizza dough.  Does anyone have any tips on making my dough sweeter?

Calzone 

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Helas, that appeared to be the situation Saturday afternoon.

I'd thought I'd learned something about properly dusting a very wet loaf before proofing. And, in fact, I did learn something. Unfortunately, I subsequently learned something else: how to shape a wet loaf properly, thanks to MountainDog.

But we'll get to that in a minute. First, let me show you these beautiful and delectable Spelt and Flaxseed Blueberry Muffins. MountainDog, you are a genius. My daughter gobbled hers up in record time. My wife said, "Honey, you can make these again anytime you like."




Highly recommended. Sweet, but not too sweet, with a crunchy top, nutty texture and delicious spelty flavor. More about spelt to come.

Anyway, back to how MountainDog ruined my Desem through good teaching. Thanks to MountainDog, my boule of Desem rose higher than it had ever risen before, and all in just 2 hours instead of the usual 2.5. As a result, the undusted bottom of the loaf rose up and stretched to touch the sides of the top of the brotform (or banneton or proofing basket, whatever you will). The top of the loaf was ready to slide out just fine, but the bottom edge stuck to the sides - the whole loaf just tore itself in half. The moral is that I need to dust the loaf again after I place it in the banneton.

It was very dispiriting, especially since I'd aimed to bring that loaf to dinner with some friends we'd not seen in some time. Luckily, I had a loaf of whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread in the freezer, which served just as well for dinner bread.

But, as Marie Antoinette said (or more likely, never said but later had political enemies ascribe to her anyway), upon her coronation in the midst of a terrible bread shortage: "If they no longer have any bread, then let them eat brioche." So I made some brioche - specifically, the "Rich Man's Brioche" from the BBA. In baker's percentages, the butter is 87% and there's 5 large eggs in the recipe -- heck, I figured, if I'm abandoning whole grains, why not just go all the way. My wife loves lemon curd, and nothing goes better with lemon curd than brioche, so the Saturday before Mother's Day, I made up the dough. Stretch-and-fold is a great technique, but I couldn't figure out how to make it work with brioche. After all, we're talking about plowing a full pound of butter, that's FOUR FREAKING STICKS of pure, unadulterated, totally saturated fat into about 18.25 ounces of white flour.

It's not easy.

But I love my wife (even if I'm not showing much love for her heart, arteries or vascular system in general), so I soldiered on. After I got it incorporated, I put that slab of dough on greased parchment, covered it with transparent petroleum product and put it into the fridge.

For the following morning, I had a plan. I was all jazzed about spelt, so I decided to make my usual whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread, but with a spelt starter and 1/2 spelt flour.

Over two feedings, I built up enough spelt starter from about 10 grams of my whole wheat starter and measured out everything the night before. Then, Sunday morning when I woke up (as usual) at 6am, I could just mix everything together on autopilot, which would help me get warmed up to make good old fashioned buttermilk (whole wheat - what else did you expect from me?) waffles. No sourdough waffles this time; I got in pretty late Saturday night, and didn't feel like messing around with buttermilk at 11:00 P.M.

My plan actually worked! I mixed up the sourdough around 6:30 a.m., took out the brioche dough and shaped it, and then placed the brioches in my makeshift proofbox - we'd left the windows open overnight, so it was a chilly 61 degrees in the kitchen. I had to have everything done by 11am to be at church (my wife was singing a duet), So I couldn't let it proof on the counter.

Now, the BBA says that the brioche recipe makes 3 lbs of dough, but I only got 2 lb 12 ounces. So I decided to make two loaves and a 6-muffin tin full of mini-brioches. It was a great idea, but unfortunately, they wouldn't all fit in my beer-cooler-turned-proof box. At least, not flat on the bottom. A couple of tall plastic cups later, and I had a two-tiered system, which worked great until I tripped over the proofbox, uttered swear words, and sent the muffin tin careening into one of my half risen loaves, deflating it mightily right in the middle. So, I took the muffin pan out of the proof box and tried another trick. I boiled a cup of water in the microwave, open the door and quickly shoved the muffin tin inside. Presto, instant proof box.

It worked! I pulled the last loaves of brioche out of the oven at 10:52 a.m. which gave Iris and I the 5 minutes we needed to bike to church. The deflated loaf, unsurprisingly, looks deflated, but the braided pan loaf looks OK. And they taste ... very, very buttery.




As for the Whole-Wheat and Whole Spelt Sourdough Sandwich Bread? The stretch and fold, no-knead approach was a winner! The shaped loaves rose in the proofbox while I was at church and were ready to go into the oven when we got home. I took the stone out of the oven, and tried the cold start approach. Again, it was a winner! This bread's a little less light than my 100% sourdough sandwich loaves usually are, but not by much, and the flavor is sweeter with a nutty overtone. It's nice, especially with peanut butter.




Next week, I'll beat this sticky Desem beast, even if I do learn something useful yet again from MountainDog. Which is altogether likely.

browndog's picture
browndog

 

Dutch Crunch 2

Meteors...or morels? Dutch Crunch makes an odd and intriguing loaf, and I don't pretend to understand the mystery behind the results. A thick coating of yeast and rice flour transforms your loaf into something other-worldly, and it was with more than passing surprise I saw it turn up on redivyfarm's no-knead loaf uninvited, a wild version of this domestic specimen. Honestly I find Dutch Crunch in the eating to resemble nothing so closely as grit in its Sunday best, however, my family is taken with it and it makes a spectacular presentation. The bread itself is a basic white loaf to which was added leftover mashed potato and brown rice flour. With more than a little chagrin I must allow this to be the tenderest crumb ever to emerge from my oven, presumably due to the combined effects of potato and rice. My son on taking a bite exclaimed, "Oh, I'm eating Wonder bread!", but I let him live.

redivyfarm's picture
redivyfarm

We're having fun on the farm! With the Mother's Day picnic coming up I decided to bake my own version of a filled braid. I admired the fruit filled braids and loved Floyd's suggestion that a savory filling with a different dough would be good. A search of the BBA formulas led me to use Pain de Campagne because it is said to be suited to shaped loaves; never disappoints. I followed Reinhart's steps with the exception that I used an overnight retarding of the dough after the first partial rise to better fit my schedule. I knew that this dough was going to have to stand up to some serious handling and honestly, I had my doubts.

Today I proceeded with Floyd's excellent instructions, dividing my dough in half to make two braids. Rolling it out to about a 3/8 inch thickness required letting the dough rest a bit with the rolling pin anchoring the corners to achieve the pan sized rectangle. My silicon baking sheet was helpful; I was able to handle the dough a little less when transferring it to the pans. I lined two baking pans with oil sprayed parchment and sprinkled a little rice flour where the braid would rest. Scissors worked well to make the inch wide angled strips. The short sides on my pans did not allow enough room to cut with the scraper. The dough with filling looked like this-

Braid Building

Braid Building

For this braid I used part cream cheese, part grated parmesan with one tablespoon of the egg wash mixture per Floyd's example. On top of that, sauteed Italian sausage, mushrooms and sweet peppers with garlic and herbs, salt and pepper. The other braid is filled with caramelized onion and sauteed mushroom on cream cheese with s and p. They get two applications of egg wash, the last one just before baking. The criss-cross fold works for me just like it works for Floyd. Wonder of wonders, in spite of lots of handling, the dough rose up puffy in about an hour and a half! Floyd and I agreed that the oven temperature should most likely be 450 degrees as required for the Pain de Campagne. I baked one braid at a time for 20 minutes.

Mushroom Onion Braid

Mushroom Onion Braid

Braid Slice

Braid Slice

This is really a fun baking, yields an impressive product and will adapt to limitless tasty fillings. I strongly recommend the ultra-reliable BBA Pain de Campagne formula for shaped breads.  

tattooedtonka's picture
tattooedtonka

I started my day off making french bread from some yeast pre-ferments from last night. 

After mixing, folding and so on, I figured I am not going to try anything fancy I just want rustic looking bread (ugly bread that is). 

And I am happy with the results of my ugly breads.

We had this loaf for dinner and it was quite good. 

I also made a couple loaves of country bread

Both the french bread and country bread recipes are from Hamelmans "Bread"

And they are both very good in my opinion.

TT

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Per community request, I deleted the trying-to-be-offensive-but-mainly-just-immature post from this morning. When I first saw it I thought about deleting it, but I was trying to be good to my word about not meddling or doing anything that can be construed as trying to censor folks here. But given that it annoyed other long-time community members and the poster wasn't a preexisting community member (they joined this morning and that was the only post they've ever made), I went ahead and deleted it.

Sourdoughgirl153: if you are legitimately an amateur baker with questions about sourdough starters, please post your question again omitting the phallic white bread photo.

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