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Q&A -- Sourdough Bread

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#61 Mottmott

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 05:30 AM

[quote name='gravelpot' date='Sep 15 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?[/quote]
[QUOTE]

I'm waiting for the answer to that, too. I have my starter up and bubbling and am planning to take the next step.

Another question: Regarding the starter itself (now that it is fully active, resting in the fridge): I know that I must refresh it before using it, but how often must it be refreshed WHILE stored in the fridge? And if I go away on an extended vacation is to be stored in the freezer? Or must it be passed on to someone who will feed it occasionally, like the cat?
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#62 Mottmott

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 05:36 AM

[quote name='jackal10' date='Sep 15 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.[/quote]
[QUOTE]

Oh yes, and this brings up another question. When you refresh a starter that has been refrigerated, do you just add some flour and water to the batch or do you do the 1 cup each flour, water, starter, disposing of the remaining starter?

I've been reading about starters in the Silverton book which is sufficiently different from the information here as to have left me more, not less, confused. :huh:
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#63 slkinsey

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 07:35 AM

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?

I'm waiting for the answer to that, too. I have my starter up and bubbling and am planning to take the next step.

Floor of the oven is better, so the oven burner fires more or less directly into the stone. You want the stone as hot as possible for maximum oven spring.

Another question:  Regarding the starter itself (now that it is fully active, resting in the fridge): I know that I must refresh it before using it, but how often must it be refreshed WHILE stored in the fridge?  And if I go away on an extended vacation is to be stored in the freezer?  Or must it be passed on to someone who will feed it occasionally, like the cat?

Yes, you should refresh the starter before you use it. One good way to do this is to make a sponge with some of the water and flour from your recipe and inoculate it with maybe a tablespoon of starter. That sponge is that you will use to make your bread. You can then scoop most of the starter out of your storage jar (I only leave behind the starter that sticks to the sides and bottom of the jar) and feed that. Once the jar of starter starts to show some beginning signs of activity, you can toss it back in the refrigerator.

As long as you feed your starter well by high dilution so it is nice and healthy, a refrigerated starter should keep perfectly fine in the fridge for at least a month. Just make sure it's really humming along -- showing peak fermentation activity within 8 hours with a 10% inoculum -- before you put it away for a long rest and feed it several generations when you return.

Oh yes, and this brings up another question. When you refresh a starter that has been refrigerated, do you just add some flour and water to the batch or do you do the 1 cup each flour, water, starter, disposing of the remaining starter?

You should definitely get rid of any extra starter. As I mentioned earlier, if the percentage of old starter is too high, then the pH will be too low and the sourdough microorganisms (especially the lactobacilli) will be inhibited from growing. As a sourdough scientist relates here:

...in doughs that are continuously operated with a high inoculum (more than about 30%), you'll find more yeasts and fewer lactobacilli. Eventually, the lactobacilli flora may change, with more acid tolerant lactobacilli (e.g. L. pontis) prevailing.

If you use one cup of starter and one cup each of flour and water, you are refreshing your starter with an inoculum that is greater than 30%. This means that you are inhibiting Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis from growing and, after a number of such generations you may kill off the L. sanfranciscensis completely and end up with a less desirable lactobacillus in your sourdough culture.

The best way to feed your starter for maximum growth is to give it right around five to ten times more food than there is starter. I have found that the best way to do this is to use nothing more than the tiny bit of starter sticking to the sides of the jar as the inoculum and feed it with, say, a half cup of flour and enough water to form a thick paste.

I've been reading about starters in the Silverton book which is sufficiently different from the information here as to have left me more, not less, confused.

The best thing to do here is to find all the pages in the Silverton book having to do with starting or feeding a sourdough culture and tear them out. Silverton's book is notoriously terrible in that regard. Great recipes. Bad advice on starters.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#64 jackal10

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 07:44 AM

Amen, SAm.
Never freeze the starter. It will rest in the back of the fridge quite happily.
Freezing kills it. Give some to friends as back-up.
You can also dry it for long storage- make a thin lasagne sheet from it and dry that.
May take a couple of refreshments to wake up.

#65 slkinsey

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 07:53 AM

Never freeze the starter. It will rest in the back of the fridge quite happily.
Freezing kills it.

Actually, some starters seem to be able to withstand freezing quite well. Carl Griffith of the widely-disseminated Carl's Starter regularly froze some starter and never had any trouble activating thawed starter. In addition, when he prepared dried starter to send out to people, he always made it in batches and kept the dried starter in the freezer until he ran out. Carl's starter culture was famously fast to activate. So... at least in this one case, we have an awful lot of people using a starter culture that was frozen at least once, and probably many times.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#66 Jensen

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 08:17 AM

I have a question about tweaking the recipe. I thought that I'd like to try a longer loaf as I'm somewhat uncoordinated when it comes to knives and a long loaf would likely be safer for me :blink:

To this end, I went out and bought a French bread pan that holds two loaves and mixed up another batch yesterday. I baked this morning. I also wanted a softer crust so I spritzed the loaves with water before they went in the oven and I also added some water to a pan on the oven floor.

I've no idea if my crust method worked or not as the loaves are currently too hot to slice but one of the loaves looks pretty tasty.

Posted Image

The other loaf, which I have artfully hidden underneath the good one, was a fair bit smaller than the top one. This is because I didn't divide the dough evenly (see note above regarding knife handling issues). What I'd like to do is increase the recipe somewhat so that I can make two slightly larger loaves (hopefully of even size but one must be realistic!).

If I keep the same proportions of starter:flour:water (i.e., 1:3:1), will the recipe still work?

Ta!

#67 jackal10

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 09:53 AM

They certainly do look tasty!

I find a dough scraper (flat metal blade about 4 inches by 5 inches, handle along the top) the easiest to handle and divide dough with. They are widely available and not expensive.

YMMV, but freezing starter never works for me. I wonder if there is some special technique?

Yes, the recipe should scale, but you need to scale the salt as well. It should be about 2% of the flour by weight.

#68 slkinsey

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 09:57 AM

YMMV, but freezing starter never works for me. I wonder if there is some special technique?

Never tried it myself. Never felt the need to.

It is entirely possible that Carl's sourdough culture simply responded to his treatment by evolving a certain tolerance to freezing.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#69 Jensen

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 10:02 AM

I find a dough scraper (flat metal blade about 4 inches by 5 inches, handle along the top) the easiest to handle and divide dough with. They are widely available and not expensive.

Yes, the recipe should scale, but you need to scale the salt as well. It should be about 2% of the flour by weight.

Thank you for the tip on the dough scraper.

Your comment about scaling the recipe brings something to mind. The current recipe is in cups (for accessibility by the masses, I know). Can you give it in grams? (Please and thank you)

#70 Mottmott

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 10:16 AM

I just took out my first ever loaf of sourdough bread (sorry, no digital camera yet). It looks good, smells good. :cool: :smile: :biggrin:

The only problem is that the bottom is too blackened and will need scraping off. I baked the cold loaf in a 550f oven with a thick pizza stone on the floor after letting it heat up a couple hours. I spritzed some water in a couple times. It took only a little more than 30 minutes (Internal temp of 210).

Any suggestions? Lower the temp for next time? Raise the stone to the bottom shelf? Leave the dough out longer before baking? Should I have had the loaf on a baking sheet instead of placing it directly on the stone? Should I not have used some cornmeal on the board I use to move the loaf into the oven? :unsure: :unsure: :unsure:

Oh, and if not too off topic: what would a really good digital camera be? I've resisted getting one because I know their resolution is not as good as my old fashioned Olympus. (But then, I'm still a black and white freak who likes to potter in the dark room.)
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#71 FoodMan

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 10:48 AM

The only problem is that the bottom is too blackened and will need scraping off. I baked the cold loaf in a 550f oven with a thick pizza stone on the floor after letting it heat up a couple hours. I spritzed some water in a couple times. It took only a little more than 30 minutes (Internal temp of 210).

Any suggestions? Lower the temp for next time? Raise the stone to the bottom shelf? Leave the dough out longer before baking? Should I have had the loaf on a baking sheet instead of placing it directly on the stone? Should I not have used some cornmeal on the board I use to move the loaf into the oven?


I might be able to help with that since I had the same problem. I moved my baking stone to a low rack instead of keeping it on the oven floor and I also bake the bread till almost done and move it using a peel to a higher rack so that the bottom won't get charred for the final few minutes. I'm thinking moving the loaf to a higher rack is the more effective of the two points so I might put my baking stone back on the floor of the oven.

My 2 Cents

FM

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#72 Mottmott

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 11:06 AM

Thanks FoodMan, The odd thing is that most of the blackening seemed to occur in the beginning! :hmmm: Of all the problems I might have had, this is one I didn't expect. I use the stone all the time to make pizzas, scones, pies (it does wonders for the bottom crust!) and when doing the latter I do frequently raise them for part of the baking - partly to be sure that the tops are baked enough.

Iwill raise the stone on my next try and see what that does. I think I'll probably do another loaf later in the next couple days.
"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

#73 jackal10

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 11:23 AM

I'd try 500F, or even 450F rather than 550F

Most of the pictures in the unit were taken with a Sony DFCS717, which is probably overkill that Iot duty free on a business trip. . The advise I was given is buy the best lens you can. If you like Olympus stay with them - you may even be able to use the same lenses, and just get an electronic back.

#74 Mottmott

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Posted 16 September 2003 - 02:48 PM

The bread tastes mighty good despite its less than perfect bottom, though it cleaned up pretty well). I'll try some of the suggestions later this week. Each of my 2 boys have families, so I'll have to bake multiple loaves now that I know I can get such wonderful results!

Jack and Dan, you' ve been very generous in guiding guiding us all through this process (with me first whimpering and now crowing with joy). I will toast you and praise you as I sip wine and nibble on bread and cheese, fruit, nuts, a hearty bowl of soup. I've made yeast bread some years ago, but this is on another plane. We have some pretty good artisan bakers in Philly, but it tastes so much better made at home.

I''m also grateful to all the others who have shared their knowledge and experience. I'm not sure that I would ever have gotten into sourdough without this cyberclass. I've learned from everyone's posts and the answers to their questions. I'll incorporate some of the suggestions in my next batch. When I make freeform tarts on the stone I usually start at 475 or so, then reduce the heat with good results, the bottom of the tart just beginning to get dark. And if that doesn't do it, I'll take FoodMan's suggestion and raise the bread to a higher shelf. Also, I think I'll use Formerlygrueldelux's adopted trick of using a heating pad in the oven with my starter as I ususally keep my house on the cool side when nature cooperates.

Life is good.
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#75 Wimpy

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Posted 17 September 2003 - 08:01 AM

Hi Jackal10-

Firstly, welcome to Singapore! Secondly, great baking lesson! It so happens that I've been obsessed with baking the Poilane sourdough recipe from Peter (?) Reinhardt's book, "The Baker's Apprentice".

I thought the local Singapore weather would make things difficult for me, but guess what- room temperature here (80F or so) is apparently the ideal condition for fermentation. I suppose it also doesn't hurt that humidity here in the tropics is higher.

I made my own natural yeast starter by faithfully following the book's instructions and it worked! Frankly, it's a bitch for a working stiff like me to go through that painstaking 5 day process (never again), so am making sure that the starter is kept alive in my fridge with occaisonal refreshing each time I bake a new loaf.

Anyway, the recipe for the Poilane loaf is quite large (10 cups flour in total). The crust forms nicely, but I don't get very large holes in the bread. The real Poilane I had in France didn't have large holes either, but I was hoping to create that effect (and chewy texture) by using mostly white strong flour rather than wholewheat. What am I doing wrong? Here's basically what I do:

1) I refresh the starter with 1 cup starter, 3.5 cups strong flour, 1/2 cup water and mix into a batter
2) I leave in bedroom overnight (because I have airconditioner on, it is more like room temp in temperate climates)
3) by morning, it is nice and bubbly and alive
4) I take one cup, add 2 cups strong white flour to make firm starter, let it rise (4-6 hours) outside, then pop in fridge
5) I follow recipe etc, let it rise overnight in bedroom, form boule, then pop in fridge to retard
6) I take out of fridge 4 hours before baking to let rise, then bake

If the dough is cold, it takes longer than the prescribed time for the internal temperature to reach 200F which is what the book says is the correct temperature. Problem is that the outside will tend to burn while inside still is shy of the 200F target (fahrenheit).

By the way- to fellow amateurs- do NOT use Pyrex pans as your steam pans!! I found out the hard way with bread no. 3. I did not heat the 2 cups of water all the way to boiling, so when I poured it into the hot pyrex, it exploded! Glass shards (and all the water) fell into my dough, flattening it into a saucer shape. I baked it anyway, to see if I could learn something from the resulting product. Luckily, I didn't get hurt.

Edited by Wimpy, 17 September 2003 - 08:06 AM.


#76 jackal10

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Posted 17 September 2003 - 08:45 AM

Singapore is certainly interesting and beautiful. I'm sorry I have only one more day here, but I hope to visit the food expo, and no doubt will visit again.
There are some very interesting Asian breads (Bread Talk and Delifrance are just by the hotel), but I have not seen any sourdoughs here. Maybe there is a market opportunity!

Some points come to mind, and I am sure that Dan and Sam can contribute more.

a) If the outside is burnt before the inside reaches temperature, then the oven is too hot. Larger loaves need a cooler oven. Cooking from cold helps control the spread in the oven, and helps the oven spring.
b) In general, the wetter the dough, the bigger the holes. You don't give the full recipe, but I would aim for a total of about 70% hydration (total weight of water: total weight of flour)
c) Dan's technique of gently folding the dough sides to midle and top and bottom to middle every hour during the bulk fermentation stage (your overnight in the bedroom) helps stretch the bubbles. Obviously you don't want to stay up all night, but three or four times (evening, last thing, first thing, mid-morning) might help.
d) You don't say how long you retard (which is also the final proof) for. You may be over-proving, which will reduce the oven spring and total loaf volume and hence give smaller holes. I leave mine in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours (once it is cold it moves only slowly), and bake from cold. The dough is fragile at that point.
e) Poilane is reputed to use 20% Spelt (ancient grain) flour to give that wheat taste.

Hope this helps

#77 FoodMan

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Posted 19 September 2003 - 09:46 AM

I hope it is not too late to ask one more question.

Do you have some kind of formula to substitute sourdough starter for instant or Dry Active yeast? For example if a recipe I am reading asks for a teaspoon of instant yeast, how do I go about using sourdough starter instead??

Thanks
Elie

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#78 jackal10

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Posted 19 September 2003 - 02:21 PM

Ther is really no substitute for trying it out, and correcting until the dough feels right.
However ideally you should reduce the dry yeast recipe to its formula, and then rebuild it using 10% to 20% of the flour by weight as the starter. (Sam would say less, I prefer 30%, but I am impatient).

As a very rough approximation to this just add 20% of the flour weight in the recipe as starter.

Sourdough technique is different, and the fermentations take much longer.

Bear in mind that instant yeast often contains amalyoses, malt and Vitamin C as flour improvers in addition to the yeast You may ned to add these, or compensate for their absence with techniques like delaying adding the salt.

#79 slkinsey

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Posted 19 September 2003 - 02:30 PM

Do you have some kind of formula to substitute sourdough starter for instant or Dry Active yeast? For example if a recipe I am reading asks for a teaspoon of instant yeast, how do I go about using sourdough starter instead??

Follow this link to see my method for converting a commercial yeast recipe to a sourdough recipe.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#80 slkinsey

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Posted 19 September 2003 - 02:36 PM

However ideally you should reduce the dry yeast recipe to its formula, and then rebuild it using 10% to 20% of the flour by weight as the starter. (Sam would say less, I prefer 30%, but I am impatient).

Hee! Actually, I think different proportions of starter make for different effects in the final dough. I do sometimed like to use more in the bread dough -- sometimes even 50% depending on what I am shooting for.

Where I think it's important to use a small inoculum is when you feed the storage medium in which you are maintaining your sourdough culture. Small inoculum = maximum growth condition = maximally healthy microorganisms.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#81 formerly grueldelux

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Posted 21 September 2003 - 01:24 PM

Do you have some kind of formula to substitute sourdough starter for instant or Dry Active yeast? For example if a recipe I am reading asks for a teaspoon of instant yeast, how do I go about using sourdough starter instead??


I have way too little knowledge to offer any general rules, but I can offer the recipe for my one successful adaptation. I tried the loaf in this lesson a total of three times and had only marginal improvements on my first one. It's a mystery why it didn't work for me, since it obviously worked for others, but so it goes. Fearing for my baking skills, I went back to my old recipe and again produced a lovely loaf. It's not really sourdough, nor is brimming with character (it's a Stepford loaf) but I'd be proud to serve it to anyone.



Cook's Illustrated Rustic Loaf Adapted for Natural Leavening and Hand Kneading

1. Make starter according to instructions in this lesson. I keep about 1/2 cup in a jar in the fridge.

2. Place 1 large tablespoon of starter in medium bowl. Add approx. 1/4 cup each bread flour and water to remaining starter. Stir and return to fridge.

3. Make biga/levain. To starter in bowl, add 1 cup water, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup bread flour. Stir. Leave at reasonable room temperature for 24 to 48 hours until very bubbly and expanded. (24 hours is usually enough). If it has become inert looking, stir in a tablespoon or two of flour and check in an hour or so; it should come back to life soon.

4. Mix levain in large bowl with 3 cups bread flour, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup whole rye flour and 1 1/2 cups water. Stir for a couple of minutes. Let rest for 1/2 hour, covered. Lightly dust counter with flour. Scrape levain onto counter. Flour hands. Measure 1/4 cup bread flour and keep nearby. Begin kneading dough, pressing the heal of both hands into the dough and pushing away from yourself, stretching and pulling the dough towards you on the "backstroke". Do this for 10 minutes. It will feel weird. Your hands will be encased in sticky dough and it will seem like some force is trying to pull you hands first through the counter. The dough will be one with the counter. Whatever the case, resist the urge to add more than the 1/4 cup of extra flour and keep kneading. After 10 minutes, scrape dough together and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Scrape off and wash your very sticky and doughy hands. Sprinkle dough with 2 teaspoons salt. Add optional tablespoon of honey or barley malt syrup. Knead another ten minutes. (After a minute the dough should be significantly less problematic, barely sticking to counter or hand and standing up nice and tall and squeaky. ) Place dough in optionally oiled bowl.

5. Allow to rise at room temperature until at least doubled if not tripled, 3 to 5 hours, "turning" dough gently at least twice. Shape into one or two loaves and place in floured towel in collander(s) or other similar contraption(s). Retard overnight in fridge.

6. Remove loaf from fridge. Preheat oven with baking stone on lowest shelf and metal pan beneath at 500 degrees for one hour. Bring two cups water to the boil. Gently place loaf on peel dusted with semolina. Slash artfully and place on stone. Carefully pour boiling water into pan and close oven door. For large loaf, turn oven down to 450 after 5 minutes and cook until an internal temperature of 210 degrees, 35 to 50 minutes, flipping loaf upside down after 30 minutes. (Smaller loaves can go longer at 500 and won't take as much total time.) Cool on rack for two hours.
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#82 Anna N

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Posted 21 September 2003 - 06:20 PM

So I finally found the time to try the Sourdough Bread but....

I made my own starter and up until one day ago it was happy, healthy, full of life and bubbles. I had hoped to make the dough yesterday but other things happened and so I put the starter in the fridge. Bright and early this morning I found the starter separated into two layers but that was covered in the lesson so did not worry me too much. I took out one cup of the starter (after stirring it well) and added 1 cup bread flour and 1 cup water and stirred to make a thick, creamy batter. I put it in a warm place 83F and it DIED! There were no signs of life in it after 2 hours, 3 hours or 4 hours. I dumped it down the sink and took another cup of my starter from the fridge to try again - same result - it is DEAD, DEAD, DEAD. What did I do wrong - could my fridge be to cold - it is around 0C on the shelf where the starter had rested. Thanks for any help.

Anna N
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#83 jackal10

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 12:46 AM

I doubt if it has died. It may just need a while to wake up. Try leaving it in a warm place overnight - 12 hours or so....

#84 Anna N

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 06:56 AM

I'm trying again and am willing to let it sit for as long as necessary but right now, after a few hours, the refreshed starter is simply two separate liquids. I don't recall this being the case when I was nurturing the starter. Is there still hope?

Anna N
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#85 jackal10

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 08:49 AM

That is very odd. It takes (at least for me) days to seperate into two parts.
If you have just flour and water, and all you have done is put it in the fridge, it is hard to see how you could have killed it.

#86 Anna N

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 10:55 AM

Just flour and water exactly according to your lesson. So, it's still two separate liquids - should I abandon it and try again with a completely new starter? I would hate to watch this one for 24-48 hours only to have to abandon it any way. It was so lively and so bubbly and so obviously alive and well until its brief sojourn in the fridge.

Anna N
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#87 jackal10

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Posted 22 September 2003 - 01:42 PM

Add some more flour so it is a thick batter. If it is not bubbly by morning pm me your snail mail address and I'll send you some of mine

#88 Anna N

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Posted 23 September 2003 - 12:20 AM

Thanks for the offer, Jack but I have already started a new batch and will see how this goes. I will try to make the dough without having to refrigerate the starter this time. It's sometimes hard to schedule things around here but that's my plan!

Anna N
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#89 rickster

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Posted 24 September 2003 - 05:08 AM

One of the most interesting ideas I have seen here is the idea of baking the loaf cold from the refrigerator without bringing it up to room temperature, which is a tremendous timesaver but is contrary to conventional wisdom, at least as published in baking books. Silverton's book warns about the possibility of "blowouts" if the loaf is baked from too cold a temperature.

I succesfully baked the Reinhart sourdough loaf from The Breadbaker's Apprentice cold from the fridge a few days ago. I then experimented, modifying the recipe to directly use the barm rather than a firm starter and using a little less water to get a firmer dough. I also shortened the rising time slightly believing my orginal loaf to be a bit overproofed. I was attempting to get more oven spring and a loaf that would hold a boule shape in the oven. The dough this morning had not risen that much overnight in the fridge, so I left it out for about half an hour while the oven was preheating. The loaf blew out during baking. Any idea whether this was due to leaving it out for half an hour, too firm a dough or some other factor?

Edited by rickster, 24 September 2003 - 05:10 AM.


#90 jackal10

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Posted 24 September 2003 - 05:34 AM

I can't say for sure. All my experience is with a soft dough, that the cold stiffens sufficiently to hold its shape and not spread too much until its sets, but that is pliable enough to give good oven spring.

The only times I have had the loaf blow out was when I have not slashed it well enough





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