The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

sourdough starter PAIN + the story of a very dense loaf

xafsa's picture
xafsa

sourdough starter PAIN + the story of a very dense loaf

dear all, 

i hope you are all doing well, especially as this rough year comes to a close!

i'm a newbie to bread making (my enthusiasm vastly outweighs my experience at the moment) and i am struggling with two bread related things: 

1) i am currently living in new mexico and for a california gal, it is very cold (50s-60s during the day, 20s-30s at night). i made a sourdough starter using the pineapple method; i started with freshly milled flour (red hard wheat berries) and then after a week, shifted to ap flour. i have very little recourse to finding a warm spot in the kitchen (no oven light, microwave, etc.) and aside from sleeping with the starter in a jar, i'm not sure what to do. 

there was *very* little activity in terms of fermentation for the first week and a half (i've kept it on the counter in the kitchen for the entire time). after reading a bunch of posts on this site, i decided to keep at it and i have continued to feed the sourdough starter 1/4 cup of ap flour and 2 tablespoons of water ONCE a day. over the last two days, I've seen a little bit of activity and although it smells more sour, i also smell a little alcohol. my question: given the cold temperatures, should i just call it and start over? if i should stick with it instead, what would folks recommend i do to help nurture this starter?

2) i just made a green chili and cheddar cheese loaf. it came out okay (as in, it's edible, ha!) but i know the biggest mistake i made was not accounting for all the additional liquid. i roasted some chiles, then added the roasted chilis and some sharp cheddar cheese. the dough was VERY wet, but i figured that the french method would suffice. when i saw that the dough structure wasn't changing after 10 minutes of the slap/fold technique, i panicked and added more flour. the result has been a fairly dense bread (not what i was hoping would happen, given my budding interest in working with wet dough). my question: for those of you who are more well versed with the wet dough bread-making method, what is the most effective way to deal with adding additional wet ingredients to a fairly hydrated dough? my partner recommended that i dehydrate the green chilis after roasting; i might try that next time, though i'm worried about losing flavor. any help (or recommendations for reading materials) would be greatly appreciated!

many, MANY thanks to you all in advance. 

--Xafsa

 

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

What was the actual formula for the bread? You could try Rubaud mixing if it was too wet for French folds, or just give it time and it'll develop gluten some stretch&folds - although from what you are saying it was not sourdough? So idk how long you needed fermented it, if it was with commercial yeast, and whether it would have worked.

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Warmth will cause your starter to perk up quickly. Heating pads work well. Alternately, you can heat a cup of water in the microwave, the leave the steaming cup in (to provide warmth and humidity) and put your starter inside to ferment. Every so often you can remove the starter and reheat the water.

If your starter is sluggish, continue to feed with whole grains. The microbes on the outer coatings of the berry will continue to increase microbes in your starter.

Let us know how things proceed.

Danny

xafsa's picture
xafsa

Thanks for the quick responses, Ilya and Danny!

I've attached a current picture of the starter (below). It seems that it is much slower in terms of fermenting, but that something is definitely happening. Danny, thanks, I'm going to switch back to feeding the starter with whole grain flour. I'll share my bread-making results (eventually).

Ilya, I'm going to go research Rubaud mixing! It was a standard loaf, no fermenting. I used the following recipe as a base and then added the cheese + green chiles:

390g of ap flour, 1 1/4 active dry yeast, 6.25 grams sugar, 6.25 grams salt, 270g water

It seems that I need to better calibrate the additional liquid I am adding to my dough.Thanks for the info/help, y'all, and here's to a better loaf next time! :)

 

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

Are you mixing by weight? If so, you could try 10:8:10 (10 parts starter + 8 parts water = 10 parts flour) to thicken it up a bit. So, if you used 30g starter, you'd add 24g water and 30g flour. The thicker starter will hold more gas and give you a better visual.

There is a red tint to the starter. I am guessing that is due to lighting and not the actual color of your starter.

xafsa's picture
xafsa

Fantastic, will do that, thanks Danny!

(and yes, that tint is the light, not the starter, thankfully)

DanAyo's picture
DanAyo

You will see much better improvement if you can keep the starter warm. Best between 78 & 82F