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Q&A -- Sourdough Bread

Bread

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184 replies to this topic

#31 danlepard

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Posted 12 September 2003 - 10:46 AM

Hi,
Don't apologise, my daft english is to blame (I don't think 'peeled' is a dictionary word). Your loaf had the sturdy bottom roundness that sometimes suggests cool dough placed on a hot surface. All the better if you achieved it with non-stick paper and a baking sheet. The top split and overall peaked shape may suggest the dough was a little young when it went in the oven, however it could also be attributed to a crust forming on the outer surface before the dough had achieved it's maximum oven spring. It's worth, on the next bake, adding 30 minutes to the final prove (assuming other variables are the same), photographing it, and comparing the two.
A glass of red wine, a little cheese and good butter?
regards
Dan

#32 Jensen

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Posted 12 September 2003 - 12:02 PM

I will try the longer final proof next time. I was using my laundry room as the 'proofing room' as it is the warmest area of the house. I know the air conditioning did kick on at one point so maybe it cooled off in there a wee bit.

I'm just happy I won't have to soak the bread in milk and feed it to the whippets! (My plan in case the loaf didn't turn out.)

#33 Smoky "T"

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Posted 12 September 2003 - 12:23 PM

Jackal, a very nice course, great pictures, and I love your oven! Thank you. I won't really have the chance to do any baking until next week. Is it to late to order some of your starter?

Also I was wondering if you or someone could give me some idea of a good place to proof my bread at the required 85 degree tempreture required. My oven is electric, so no pilot light, and I don't think my hubby would be very happy if I cranked up the heater yet as it's at least 85 still here in the South.

#34 Jensen

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Posted 12 September 2003 - 12:47 PM

Also I was wondering if you or someone could give me some idea of a good place to proof my bread at the required 85 degree tempreture required.

I used my laundry room. Whenever I needed the temperature to be warmer than the rest of the house, I did a load of laundry (whites, if possible, so that I could use warm water). Between the washer and the dryer, I was able to bring the temperature of the room up to just over 80 degrees. I rested the bowl on top of the appliances so I think it might have been a wee bit warmer there.

#35 snowangel

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Posted 12 September 2003 - 12:52 PM

Also I was wondering if you or someone could give me some idea of a good place to proof my bread at the required 85 degree tempreture required.  My oven is electric, so no pilot light, and I don't think my hubby would be very happy if I cranked up the heater yet as it's at least 85 still here in the South.

Oven with light on, door cracked. I have an oven thermometer.
Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

#36 jackal10

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Posted 13 September 2003 - 04:00 AM

Greetings from Singapore. I'm staying at Raffles Plaza. No more thsan the usual hassle of getting connected. The deli downstairs sells "swiss style" bread, but it looks like standard commercial stuff. Sinagpore airline's (bread basket of commerical rolls btw) idea of a low carb meal was grilled chicken salad, followed by -err- grilled chicken in tomato sauce. .

Thanks for all the kind comments. Happy to send out more starter, but it will have to wait until I'm back end of next week.

MottMott: You will see from the temperature curves in the scientific bit that fermenting at 72C the starter will grow a lot more slowly at 71 rather than 85.. That is fine, but it will take maybe twice as long.

Jensen: that looks fantastic bread, and a really good texture. I'm sure you will be able to dial it in to your ideal bread. Keep baking and it will only get better. The starter will also adapt to your own pattern of use.

#37 Mottmott

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Posted 13 September 2003 - 04:51 AM

Hi Jack, it's good to know you keep us in your heart wherever you go. :biggrin: But I thought vacations were to escape one's everyday every day.

My second refresher, incubated in the oven, is more lively than the first. I'll repeat it today. I'll do some cooking to warm up the kitchen.
"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

#38 elyse

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Posted 13 September 2003 - 08:40 AM

I haven't had a chance to read the thread yet, but I started a starter last week, and will have much to give away at the NJ potluck in a couple of weeks, if anyone wants some (or meet me here in NYC). I used organic red grapes as the yeast source, water and flour, and that's it. PM me if you want some in a couple of weeks when it's stronger.

#39 Katherine

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Posted 13 September 2003 - 01:04 PM

Why does the store bought sourdough taste a little "sour"?? Where as mine, while still great tasting, hardly has that sour taste. Is it the type of starter? or is there anything I can do to get a more sour bread?

A while back I made a "starter" by making a white bread dough with 1/8 teaspoon of yeast per 3 cups of flour. When it rose, I put most of it in a pan to bake into a loaf, and mixed the rest into a dough again. After about 2 weeks of repeating this procedure, it was starting to get pretty sour. After another month or two, it got so sour that it no longer leavened.

So if I wanted to use this as a leavening, I'd have to make it up fresh occasionally.

But it made ridiculously good black seeded pumpernickel.

#40 formerly grueldelux

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Posted 13 September 2003 - 07:58 PM

Fantastic course, thanks a lot. I just finished my loaf following the directions and I thought I'd give my thoughts and impressions. Questions too.
Firstly, I'm not a total amateur. Perhaps an advanced beginner? I've been baking for a year or so, starting with Cook's Illustrated rustic bread recipes that use commercial yeast (brilliant recipes in my book.) I then tried to adapt the recipe to apply natural leavening techniques (mostly picked up here on egullet) and hand kneading. After a few inedible loafs I slowly got the hang of it and eventually got to the point of being liberated entirely from the recipe, having gained a sort of feel for how things should look/feel at each stage. This lesson has destroyed all that.

Just kidding. But my loaf was not a raging success and I followed it pretty closely. Riffing on Alton Brown, I used a heating pad in a cooler to get a nice steady 85 degrees. PreviouslyI had been using more of a chef starter than a sponge, so this was new for me. It was good and bubbly in about 5 hours, and surprisingly sour. I made the dough in the processor following the recipe exactly, using 3 cups of flour in the end to get the "soft " dough. When it was time to bake, I preheated the oven with stone at 550 for a good hour. The loaf was extremely dark on top after 20 minutes (normally I cook steady at around 475 but the recipe says to use the hottest oven possible.) The underside was not very dark in comparison. More alarming was the shape. The loaf had formed a crust so quickly on the top that apparantly the dough had nowhere to spring to except down. So I had this rigid perfect loaf up top and dough sprung out underneath, forming a big old stem for the toadstool. Weird. Was the temp too high? Should there have been more proofing? More gluten development?

The dough itself is a little dense and moist, which usually means it didn't rise enough. So is this a function of the yeast level or the gluten development, or a combination? Also, the bread, rather than having a scattering of smallish holes, has a single long burrowing tubule of a hole down the center of the loaf, about five inches long and as fat as your thumb. (And I had gently "turned" the loaf as well, so you'd think there'd be even holes.)

The one thing that was a radical improvement over my old style of loaf was the sourdough taste. It's simply outstanding. But I'm with some of the other posters. I don't usually want that sour taste. I want it as often as I want, say, rye. My basic loaf i like just as rustic/authentic but not so sour. So I'm wondering, should I only use this temperature specific incubation technique when I want sour and otherwise just stick with what I was doing ( which was making a chef and turning it into dough when it looks right)? In other words, is this ultimately a master recipe or a variation?

Lastly, I was wondering about vital wheat gluten? Does it work? Could it be used in loaves that are in danger of having too much acid, or is that cheating?
"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."
-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson

#41 jackal10

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Posted 13 September 2003 - 08:22 PM

The amazing thing is with such simple ingredients - flour, water, yeast and salt there is so much variation.

If your normal technique makes good bread, then stay with it. If you want it sourer ferment at 85F, less sour cooler for longer.

My guess is that the oven was too hot and dry. 550 is too hot - 500F or even 450F would be better. Most ovens here don't get much above 450F, hence the text saying heat it as hot as it will go. Also if you chuck a cup of water onto the stone (care! superheated steam) and slam the door as soon as you put the bread in, the shot of steam will help the dough to rise, an help stop a crust forming too early

I doubt if the problem is gluten development. Mostly that is a matter of time and hydration. You could try an longer bulk fermentation time.

Not sure that gluten will help with the sourness. Gluten is sometimes added to compensate for weak flours,and to increase the water adsorbtion and the tolerence to bad technique. As Sam noted, acidity does attack the gluten and makes the dough wetter and more fragile, so very sour loaves need careful handling in the final stages.

Edited by jackal10, 13 September 2003 - 08:32 PM.


#42 oraklet

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 04:07 AM

If your normal technique makes good bread, then stay with it. If you want it sourer ferment at 85F, less sour cooler for longer.

i keep my starter in the fridge, and i ferment in the fridge, and still it's a lot too sour for my taste (almost like a danish rye bread).

what to do?
christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

#43 jackal10

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 04:53 AM

As Dan points out, many of the traditional techniques were to overcome the unwanted sourness.
It is only comparatively recently that sourness was seen as a virtue.

So to overcome the sourness start with only a small amount (say a tablespoon) of the kept starter, and build a chef or sponge in stages, increasing the amount by about three or four each time until you have enough to bake with.

Keeping the bulk ferementation at room temperature might help as well.

#44 oraklet

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 07:09 AM

actually, that's what i did. hmm. well, the starter may develop further, i guess.

and thanx for answering, even though you're on vacation.
christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

#45 jackal10

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 07:52 AM

actually, that's what i did. hmm. well, the starter may develop further, i guess.

and thanx for answering, even though you're on vacation.

Its no vacation! Conference and work visits...
At least there is broadband connection

#46 danlepard

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 11:27 AM

Hello Oraklet,

I'm very curious about your problem, as I'm sure there is an answer.

I'm guessing that there is insufficient activity in your starter when it is added to your flour to make the dough. If a bulk fermentation is left to occur at a temperature of 4C (if that is the temperature of your refrigerator) it might be too low to allow the fermentation to accelerate faster than the production of lactic bacteria, giving you an intense sourness in the final loaf. Not knowing your recipe, or method, it will be difficult to predict what the problem might be.

Assuming you will bake on a Saturday, this is what I propose:
At 8pm one Thursday evening, take 1 tablespoon of your starter, and mix it with 50g of flour and 50g of cool (16C-18C) water. Stir it all together into a thick batter, and leave the bowl at kitchen temperature (make a note of what that is, in your home) overnight. The following morning, add 100g flour and 100g water, stir that once more, and leave until the following evening. Then add a further 150g of flour and 150g of water, stir once more, and use this to bake the following morning.

Start early, say 7am, mix your dough to the recipe given in the Jacks class notes here. However, so that you use up all of your room temperature starter (except for your store that you keep in the fridge), these quantities will help:
600g starter
900g water
1500g flour
40g fine sea salt (or less/none as you prefer)

and allow it to slowly ferment at room temperature until 1 or 2 pm, using the folding technique described (this will stimulate the yeast activity), then shape and leave to prove until 6 – 7 pm. The course notes will be your best guide here.

There are great bakers who keep their starter in the refrigerator, refresh it each day, and find that it has enough activity to leaven bread if used at a percentage of, say, 30% - 40% flour weight. I have worked at bakeries where this is done, and the bread has been excellent. However, this works best if the starter is refreshed daily; and really that requires you to bake bread daily – not a bad thing, but possibly not what you have in mind.

It’s funny, I’ve just come back from Denmark, fell in love with the country, and can think of little better than a slice of good Danish rye bread.

Regards

Dan

#47 oraklet

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 05:24 AM

ehy, that was a very detailed and probably usefull answer. makes sense. thanks a lot, i'll try following the advice (i am kinda anarchist...).

and the danish rye bread can be wonderfull if you can find a good baker. it's what danes abroad miss the most. sourdough rye bread from emmery's (or my mother...) buttered with thise butter, aaah!
christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

#48 chefrodrigo

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 07:34 AM

I need some help. I have been trying off and on to get a starter going for about 1year. I have no trouble getting the initial bubbles in a couple of days but when I start feeding it always just quits growing.
I am as careful as possible with temperature and cleanliness but it has literally happened to me about 10 times.

thanks
rodney

#49 slkinsey

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 07:43 AM

Why does the store bought sourdough taste a little "sour"?? Where as mine, while still great tasting, hardly has that sour taste. Is it the type of starter? or is there anything I can do to get a more sour bread?

A while back I made a "starter" by making a white bread dough with 1/8 teaspoon of yeast per 3 cups of flour. When it rose, I put most of it in a pan to bake into a loaf, and mixed the rest into a dough again. After about 2 weeks of repeating this procedure, it was starting to get pretty sour. After another month or two, it got so sour that it no longer leavened.

There are several things here:

1. The first loaf of bread you made wasn't sourdough at all, you only made a sponge with commercial yeast.

2. As you continued to keep and feed the starter, eventually the commercial yeast was replaced by soudrough microorganisms that out-competed the commercial yeast, which is not well-adapted to living in that environment. Only after several weeks did you have a sourdough starter, albeit a very young one. Even if you continued to add a little commercial yeast every time you fed the starter, it is likely that the acidity of the starter killed most of it off anyway once the sourdough microorganisms started to establish themselves.

3. There are several possible reasons it became too sour: 1) if you don't feed the starter often enough, it will tend to get sour and lost its leavening power; 2) if you were using the saved portion of dough to make most of your loaf of bread, you were going about it the wrong way -- the "old" dough is going to be sour because of all the acid that has been produced by the lactobacilli, and the leavening power will not be good because most of the microorganisms will have died off or gone inactive due to low pH and low food conditions. What you want to do is use the saved portion of dough (the "starter") as only a little bit of your final dough.

If you feed your starter appropriately and use a much smaller inoculum, you should get much better results.

This may be of some interest.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#50 slkinsey

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 07:49 AM

I need some help.  I have been trying off and on to get a starter going for about 1year.  I have no trouble getting the initial bubbles in a couple of days but when I start feeding it always just quits growing.

What is your feeding schedule? How much do you tend to feed relative to how much starter you keep?

This is one reason, by the way, that many (most?) long-time sourdough bakers recommend starting with an established starter rather than starting one yourself. When you start your own sourdough culture, you add another significant complication to what can already be a fairly tricky thing. If your bread doesn't rise right or if it's too sour/not sour enough, is it the fault of the starter, your technique, the ingredients? If you begin with an established sourdough culture with known performance characteristics, you eliminate one major source of variation.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#51 slkinsey

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 07:57 AM

I used organic red grapes as the yeast source, water and flour, and that's it.  PM me if you want some in a couple of weeks when it's stronger.

Eventually this should turn into a good starter, but it won't have anything to do with the grapes as a "yeast source." Sourdough microorganisms don't live on grapes. Grape microorganisms live on grapes. Grape microorganisms can't survive in the environment of a continually refreshed sourdough starter.

As I said in this thread, which has some information and discussion relevant to this topic:

...sourdough microorganisms don't live on grapes.  So all the grapes do is provide fermentable sugar and a bunch of resident grape microorganisms that eat the grape sugars and then say "my God!  this isn't a grape...  this is flour and water!  I can't live here... I ws evolved to live on a grape for God's sake...  It's getting dark... I... I... I... aaaaaaaaargh!...  rosebud..."


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#52 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 12:01 PM

This is one reason, by the way, that many (most?) long-time sourdough bakers recommend starting with an established starter rather than starting one yourself.

I agree. here's one that I have been using for nearly ten years with much satisfaction. It is available for the cost of a self-addressed stamped envelope from the family of a man who literally spent the last years of his life dedicated to giving it away to anyone who asked.

A good part of the sourdough spirit resides in sharing. Carl exemplified that.
Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

#53 gravelpot

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 12:24 PM

Questions regarding the use of a baking stone in a home oven:

1) Is it better to put the stone on a rack in the lower part of the oven or to put it on the floor of the oven itself?

2) I made a pizza on my baking stone last week and ended up setting off the smoke alarm in my house when I took the pizza out and the cornmeal left on the stone turned into black crispy bits. The crust was phenomenal, but I don't want to torture my dog everytime I feel like making pizza or bread. Any advice on how to avoid this phenomenon?

Thanks. Great lesson.

P.S. I made my first starter using water organic raisins as the "accelerator," and it worked beautifully. After soaking the raisins for five days, the water started to bubble like crazy. I drained the raisins out and mixed the water with flour, and went in a normal fashion from there. I don't think that the flour and water were mixed together long enough before the mixture started bubbling to account for spontaneous fermentation, but that's just a guess based more on gut feeling than actual empirical knowledge. :smile: I definitely feel that, for a certain type of person anyways, creating the starter from scratch is an integral part of the mystique of sourdough baking. It was like being in junior high school science class again! Anyways, this starter recipe is also in the bread section of "Fields of Greens" which was written by the head baker at the Tassajara Bread Co.

Edited by gravelpot, 15 September 2003 - 12:31 PM.


#54 slkinsey

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 12:35 PM

This is one reason, by the way, that many (most?) long-time sourdough bakers recommend starting with an established starter rather than starting one yourself.

I agree. here's one that I have been using for nearly ten years with much satisfaction. It is available for the cost of a self-addressed stamped envelope from the family of a man who literally spent the last years of his life dedicated to giving it away to anyone who asked.

A good part of the sourdough spirit resides in sharing. Carl exemplified that.

Yea. Carl lives on in the refrigerators of a great many sourdough bakers.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#55 danlepard

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 12:54 PM

Hello,

As both slkinsey and Robert Schonfeld recommend, do look out for bakers who have long-established starters, and ask (gently) if they might offer to give you some. Though I do make new starters, as a way of explaining the process to other bakers, I am always touched and proud to be asked if I would like a small piece of nurtured starter cared for by another baker. The link that Robert gives, and his comment about Carl, expresses that thought best. It also helps to get the idea across that we 'caretake' yeast, rather than create it. I have a starter that was given to me a few weeks ago by a baker in Denmark. I brought back some flour milled from a local wheat cultivar, rather grey but with a rich flavour, and I will use that with the starter tommorrow.

For my sins, I have found that adding currants to a mixture of flour and water, probably due to the sugars released as the fruit decomposes, does seem to stimulate activity in the young starter. It was a step I practiced after finding a recipe for leaven in a tiny, remarkable book, 'Nouveau Manuel complet du Boulanger', published by Julia de Fontenelle in France in 1827. I tried the recipe, and it worked for me. As slkinsey rightly states, the yeasts present on the surface of the fruit are not the cause of the fermentation we hope to acheive. But I'm rather attached to the method and the history linked to it.
regards
Dan

#56 torakris

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 04:33 PM

Ok I have a small problem.
Yesterday I started my bread at 10:00am I mixed one cup of the starter with one cup each of flour and water and left it in a warm place until 3:00pm, at that time I tried to read the rest of the recipe but was unable to log onto egullet for the next 6 hours. :sad: I kept getting sent to a different Invision board site! :blink:

I had no idea of the amount of ingredients to add next and scouring various baking books I couldn't find anything similar to what we are making here.
I put the bowl into the refrigerator at about 6:00pm last night and it is now 8:30am the next morning, can I just continue with the bread? or should I start over from scratch again?

Help........... :sad:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"
Manager, Membership
kwagner@egstaff.org


#57 jackal10

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 06:54 PM

Just carry on. When you take the bowl out of the fridge, the starter will be cold and asleep.
Wake it up by leaving it in a warm place for about 4 hours and feeding it (equal amounts of flour and water).
It should respond by being bubbly. Save some, and make the bread with the rest.

#58 FoodMan

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 09:34 PM

Ok, here are my results for both before and after...the oven rise of course.


Posted Image

Posted Image


FM

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Houston, TX

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contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com


#59 jackal10

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Posted 15 September 2003 - 09:59 PM

Yumm!

#60 oraklet

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 02:04 AM

I have a starter that was given to me a few weeks ago by a baker in Denmark.


who? (emmery's?)

I brought back some flour...


what kind? (uhre?)

...milled from a local wheat cultivar,...


who, where? (aurion?)
christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.





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