More Sourdough Troubleshooting
Another weekend has passed, and therefore some more sourdough experimentation has taken place.
For reference, this is a followup to this post about my very first sourdough bake a little over a week ago.
I believe this weekend's experiments have reinforced the idea that my starter is not quite "taking care of business", but I figured I would upload a few photos and see what the experts think.
So, consensus on my first bake was that my biggest issue was underfermentation, and given that I bulk fermented for something like 8-9 hours with 20% starter (which I gather should be more of a 4-6 hour affair, depending on temp and other factors), I translated this into an assumption that the management of my starter itself was my biggest issue.
This weekend I tried doing two loaves in parallel, one with a 1-5-5 levain and one with a 1-3-3 (I used 1-3-3 on my first bake)--not sure I'm using the term levain properly, but basically I created two separate "offshoots" from my starter the evening before my bake. Other than the ratios of the starters, everything else about my method was (virtually) identical...I say virtually, because of course one dough would be folded a couple of minutes after the other one, etc, but I figure these little differences in the grand scheme of things should be close to negligible.
Recipe (of each individual dough/loaf):
- 500g Unbleached White AP flour (robin hood)
- 330g Water
- 10g salt
- 100g starter
Method (to keep this from getting too long, I've left out some steps like folding etc...if those could be huge factors let me know and I'll elaborate...I think the point is I did the same thing on both)
My kitchen floats between 21 and 22 degrees C
- Mix both levains @ 9:30pm night before (both are 100% hydration, Robin Hood WW Flour)
- Next morning, mix AP flour and water, autolyse 1 hour
- Add starter, salt (this occurs at 10am, a little over 12 hours since since levains created)
- Once doughs are incorporated and have come together a bit (via a bit of folding), make an aliquot (note I only did one--from the dough based on the 1/5/5 levain--figuring proceeding with both loaves when that was ready would provide a good side-by-side comparison...in hindsight I wish I'd done both)
- Bulk ferment (with occasional folds) until aliquot doubles.
- Aliquot doubled by 7pm (9 hours!) -- it had barely moved as of about 5pm, but then accelerated from there
- Shaped both loaves, and put in fridge to proof overnight (bannetons in plastic bags)
- Out of fridge at 10am the next day--incidentally, I put the aliquot in the fridge too, and there was no visible additional rise
- I think they both passed the post-proof poke test, but honestly I'm not experienced enough yet to know for sure
- Baked at 450F on stone with steam for 20 minutes, then without steam for an additional 20
I've added some pics at the bottom of this post for inspection. Although the loaves look pretty different, I think they both still meet the criteria for being underfermented that were laid out in last week's comments. I was expecting the 1/5/5 to be the more successful of the two, as 1/3/3 had already "failed" the previous weekend, but honestly looking at the two of them I'm not sure which came out stranger. The giant burst at the bottom of the 1/5/5 loaf is particularly interesting/confusing (both loaves we scored on top--more-or-less as identically as my rookie hands are capable of).
So I think this additional set of underfermented bakes reinforces the theory that there's something wrong with my starter. I believe I'm prepping it in a way that should work, but I'll try to summarize quickly in case I'm doing something particularly boneheaded:
- The starter is roughly 2 weeks old. For the first week, I fed once a day at 8pm. By the time I went to re-feed, it would usually be quite sour-smelling, with a bit of liquid beginning to form on top (I gather this is an indicator that it's run out of food).
- For the more recent 7 days I have been feeding twice a day (8am and 8pm). 25g starter / 75g WW flour / 75g water. Now the starter is usually bubbly and active looking at feeding time. I would say on average it's usually sitting roughly a little over doubled in size (but nowhere near tripled)
- I prepped the two levains the night before the bake as
- 25g starter/75g water /75g flour
- 20g started/100g water/100g flour
- Just prior to adding to the doughs the following morning, the levains were (again) a little more than doubled in size, both of them looking bubbly and active. To my untrained eye, there were not many visible differences between the two.
So two main things on on my mind:
- In last week's thread, somebody mentioned their starter and/or levain growing 3.5x or even 5x. I have never seen my starter do anything even approaching this...does this mean I'm doing something wrong in the prep or maintenance?
- The only other theory I have: I recall seeing in one of the many starter guides I've consumed, somebody saying that if you change the kind of flour you're feeding a starter, it may take a while for the yeast/bacteria to "get used to it" and that this can result in your starter seemingly going dormant for a bit...I have no idea how true this is, but it could be a possible explanation...I've fed my started exclusively WW flour, and then I'm asking it to ferment a dough that's made with AP...is my yeast confused and not eating as a result? Should I start feeding my starter AP for a while and see if that helps?
Ok, holy cow that was long. If you got this far, thanks for taking the time. Here are the Pics:
Both loaves as they came out of the oven (the 1/3/3 is further from the camera, the 1/5/5 closer):
The 1/3/3-based loaf (loaf, crumb, crumb closeup)
The 1/5/5-based loaf: