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Sourdough Starter - Hows, Whys, Whats

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#61 jackal10

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Posted 20 August 2004 - 01:54 PM

a) Omit the grapes. Contrary to popular belief they encourage the wrong sort of yeast. Just mix equal amounts by volume of flour and water and keep it at 85F - the temperature is important, and in a few days it will start to ferment. When it starts to bubble, throw half away, and replace with equal amounts of flour and water. Do this every 12 hours for 3 or 4 days, or until its active and smells OK, and ther is your starter.

b) Alternatively PM me with you snail mail address and I'll send you some of mine.
I usually ask that people make a donation to their favourite charity in return, and of course to pass on starter to those who need.

#62 Carrot Top

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Posted 20 August 2004 - 02:10 PM

Alleilieuia (or however it is spelled) to the last two starter recipes you guys posted.

Nancy Silverton's book is lovely and inspiring but bluntly the list of stuff she insists you have in the kitchen before you even approach the task is onerous (I am sure sourdough starters were not originally conceived with this much equipment in mind) and the following directions sort of wore me out before even getting started... :wub:

#63 Katherine

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Posted 20 August 2004 - 02:32 PM

Ever notice that if you soak grains overnight, the liquid forms bubbles? I tried the following not long ago as a wild experiment, based on the idea that soluble carbohydrates rapidly ferment in the presence of airborne yeast, while the rest of the flour serves to retard fermentation. I've made naturally leavened bread before, but it took 3-4 days to rise, which doesn't work in the summer, as by that time the exterior is furry and blue. Proper sourdough doesn't work for me, as I rarely bake bread.

I was prepared to chuck it as a failure. I was surprised to see that it worked great.

Starterless sourdough rye bread

Soak 1 cup of whole rye berries in water to cover for 24 hours, longer in the winter. Put water and rye in the blender until smooth. Scrape into a bowl, add 1¼ teaspoons salt, caraway seeds if desired, and enough whole wheat flour to make a bread dough. Knead by hand or in a stand mixer. Put in a greased pan or bowl, cover, and allow to rise 12 hours, or until doubled. Bake.

It rose well, and had a nice sourdough tang.

#64 paul o' vendange

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Posted 21 August 2004 - 06:44 AM

Just an incidental, but a nice discussion of this topic is also to be found in "Chez Panisse Cooking," in which they discuss grapes, raisins, potatoes...

Paul
[size="3"]Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais[/size]

#65 bakerboy

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Posted 21 August 2004 - 07:41 PM

I tried the grape thing et al. When it comes right down to it, we're trying to ferment the grain in a way that develops the most flavor in the bread. This may sound like heresy but mix your flour and water with a few grains of yeast. thats what your trying to do anyway. when i finally did this, my starters were bubbly, my bread was great. If your adding commercial yeast to your dough, and most big artisan bakeries do, than why fool around with different "races" of yeast. they're unpredictable and i don't believe they bring any difference flavorwise to the table than that which could be acheived with commercial yeast. bottom line, its HOW you handle and ferment your product thats going to dictate the quality.(slow, cold, ovenight fermentation is what we love!!) But hey, don't take my word for it, just try it. Maybe you'll be happily tossing that grape sludge, cheesecloth, and potato water right in the garbage:)
...and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce it tastes alot more like prunes than rhubarb does. groucho

#66 carswell

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Posted 21 August 2004 - 08:05 PM

Just an incidental, but a nice discussion of this topic is also to be found in "Chez Panisse Cooking," in which they discuss grapes, raisins, potatoes...

Hear, hear! It's the best introduction to the topic I've read. And the recepe for levain bread using a grape-based starter comes from Steve Sullivan, who went on to run Acme Bread Company.

#67 Young2Cook

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Posted 07 September 2004 - 08:32 AM

I'm sitting here, reading these discouraging posts, and only five feet away sits my bowl of hopeful starter on Day Six, with a bag of our own grapes submerged under bubbly goop. To be honest, even if the starter is great, I don't think I can promise the Powers That Be that I'll feed it three times a day that Nancy requests.

#68 albert_crowley

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Posted 07 September 2004 - 09:10 AM

To be honest, even if the starter is great, I don't think I can promise the Powers That Be that I'll feed it three times a day that Nancy requests.

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I have a plastic container of starter made from Silverton's book sitting on my counter right now. When I first made it up I fed it 2-3 times a day and baked quite a lot. After missing a few feedings here and there, and then a few more and more, I've found that it can limp along fine with a feeding every 36 hours.

If you do that for a few days you will need to go back to feedings separated by 8-12 hours for day before you bake to make sure it's "full power." I know that doesn't make much scientific sense since it should be full power after each feeding, but my casual experience has shown that gives me the best rise if you aren't going to supplement with commercial yeast.

-Al

#69 SethG

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Posted 07 September 2004 - 10:01 AM

You have to remember that Silverton came at the subject from the perspective of a professional. She wrote a wonderful book, but her experience was simply not that of a home baker. A professional can easily feed starter three times a day. A professional needs more than seven pounds of starter, and may not see how impractical that is for a home baker.

Moreover, as to all this stuff about using grapes, raisins, commercial yeast, malt, or whatever in order to "jump start" a sourdough starter: there are a lot of superstitions in this bread business, and a lot of these superstitions find their way into very good bread books. I know that flour and water alone are enough to make a wonderful, vigorous starter, because I've done it. And I tend to believe Jack and Sam when they say that other additions are at best benignly unhelpful, and at worst counterproductive, because they've conversed with scientists who know what they're talking about.

Don't be discouraged from using Silverton. If I were to use Silverton's advice to create a sourdough starter from scratch, I'd drop the grapes, but I don't think they really do any harm. And I'd also feed it twice a day for convenience-- it really won't hurt your starter to feed it less frequently; it is more important to be consistant than to feed any set number of times per day. I'd cut the starter by half or two thirds at each feeding, to keep it at a reasonable size. This is only sensible and creates no disadvantage at all; you'll save a lot of money on flour.

Finally, I'd advise that you disregard the schedule given in the book-- or in any similar book. If you are making a starter from scratch, you might not see as much development on day 3 or 4 (or whatever) as the recipe says you will. Carry on. Keep feeding it for several more days, and you very well might get where you want to go.

Once you have a good starter going, you should make all of Silverton's recipes. She has exceptional taste.
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#70 FoodMan

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Posted 07 September 2004 - 10:38 AM

My starter is over 2 years old now. I keep about a cup of it in the fridge and only feed it the night before I need to use it. I makes great bread following Jack's recipe.

Elie

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#71 polack

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 11:16 AM

I made Nancy Silverton's sourdough starter and I have to admit it has made some of the best breads with only one problem. The problem I perceive is that, in her book she says that you will get a sour flavor and that's something I feel is missing from the bread. The crust is crispy and chewey, the bread is light and has the hole texture that I'm looking for, but to me it doesn't have that sour flavor that I'm used to when I buy the commercial sourdough bread--what can I do to rectify the perceived problem.
Polack

Edited by polack, 15 October 2004 - 11:18 AM.


#72 jackal10

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 11:40 AM

Ferment the sponge starter stage longer and hotter - 85F for 8 hours say, so that it becomes quite sour. This then flavours the bread, without interfering with the bulk rise

#73 polack

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 11:55 AM

Ferment the sponge starter stage longer and hotter - 85F for 8 hours say, so that it becomes quite sour. This then flavours the bread, without interfering with the bulk rise

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Jackel,
Would you also use a commercial yeast in the recipe? I feed my starter for one day prior to baking and on the second day when I put my dough together I also use two teaspoons of yeast along with two cups of starter and approx. 6cups of flour to make up the recipe. Will the commercial yeast have an effect on the sour flavor?
Polack

#74 slkinsey

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 12:02 PM

Will the commercial yeast have an effect on the sour flavor?
Polack

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Yes. It will make the bread less sour. The faster the bread is leavened (and commercial yeast rises much faster than sourdough yeast) the shorter the time the lactobacilli have to produce acid.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#75 jackal10

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 12:47 PM

Aieee!

What you are making is a yeasted bread flavoured with soudough starter.

Sourdough and commercial yeast have different profiles, and are somewhat antagonistic to each other. Its like having a modern racing car and a old but cherished car on the same road. The commercial yeast will grow much faster, and compete for the sugars, squeezing out the sourdough. You are left with a light well risen bread, but any sourdough flavour is what you put in with the starter. This is a perfectly valid route - many make "sourdough" baguettes this way, but you need quite large amounts of sponge starter, maybe 30%, well fermented to give flavour. Its the pate fermentee principle: you let some of dough ferment out completely and go sour to give flavour to the bulk. Some bakers keep a pail of old dough from one baking to the next, and use that.

If you have a mixture of commercial yeast and sourdough, and keep refereshing it, the sourdough will eventually win, and kill the commercial yeast, as it can split sugars from the starch that commercial yeast cannot.

Sourdough is slow - mine takes typically 6 hours from starter to sponge, half an hour amylisation, another six bulk fermentation, and overnight to prove. The flavour comes from the culture type, and the slow fermentation

#76 polack

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 02:14 PM

Thanks everyone on some very good knowledge and experience. The trouble with me is that I'm too impatient and expect the dough to rize in a heartbeat and have it in the oven ready for baking.
In Nancy Silverton's book, she does add yeast to the recipe when she is making Rustic bread and some other breads. I guess she is not looking for the good sour flavor that is in the regular sour white bread.
Anyway thanks for the info and I will try your suggestions starting tomorrow and bake day on Sunday for dinner.
Polack

#77 jackal10

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 02:43 PM

Ypu might like to check the recent thread on "turning" the dough, and the egCI Sourdough unit, especially the science section referenced there.

The overnight proof is in the cold - put the dough in a fridge

#78 artisanbaker

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 08:10 PM

proof it overnight in the cooler

#79 NhumiSD

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Posted 15 October 2004 - 10:45 PM

Ferment the sponge starter stage longer and hotter - 85F for 8 hours say, so that it becomes quite sour. This then flavours the bread, without interfering with the bulk rise

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Hi Jackal10,


Can you please elaborate on this? I have the sponge in the refrigerator. When I like to bake, I would take out like 2 Cups, let it warm to Room Temp., then feed it. From this I would take 2 Cups to use to make the bread. I then would let it rise in Room Temp for 4 hrs, then retard over night.

Which part do you mean to ferment the sponge starter longer and hotter?

I have also used Nancy's recipe for a sourdough starter and have also noticed that its not so sour also. Could I just use more then 50% sour dough starter in my bread recipe to make it more sour?

I will also be trying out the sourdough starter you had sent this weekend.

Thanks for your inputs.

-Nhumi

#80 lovebenton0

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Posted 16 October 2004 - 12:25 AM

I keep my starter in the fridge. When I want to bake I remove about 1.5 to 2 cups starter, add one cup flour, cover, and let work to form sponge for several hours in a warm cupboard under the oven. Six to eight hours is good. Then proceed.

I add flour and liquid 1:1 (milk or water -- depending on how you feed) to the remaining starter, allow it to ferment, stir down, and return to fridge for the storage.

Remember not to put anything in your starter to feed it you didn't build it with it. In other words, fresh dough to starter is fine, but not with any additions such as sugar, oil, egg, etc., or you'll kill it. I also keep a bag of dough hunks from one baking to the next to add to fresh dough. Opening the bag can give you quite a whiff but the rewards in sour flavoring are worth the nose wince. :wink:
Judith Love

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One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

#81 jackal10

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Posted 16 October 2004 - 12:51 AM

I too keep my starter in the fridge.

I mix the sponge - about 20% of the flour and an equal weight of water with only one tablesoon of the mother starter, and leave that to ferment at 85F for 6 hours or so. Temperature, witin a few degrees is critical SeeTechnical details in the eGCI sourdough unit.
When the mother starter is getting low I refresh it the same way.
I then short mix all the sponge with the remaining ingredients except the salt.
I let it autolyse for an hour or so (the enzymes split the starch into sugars to feed the yeast - salt inhibits this process. Also allows the gluten to develop, which salt hardens), then add the salt and mix in.
I let it ferment for 4 hours at 85F, turning (folding) every hour, and let it then stand for another hour or so - the dough will tell you.
Portion, shape, and put into bannetons (cloth lined baskets)
Put the baskets with the dough, covered with a cloth in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
Turn out, slash, bake. I find baking from cold gives a better rise and wet doughs are easier to handle cold. Nancy Silverton lets hers warm up, but I disagree.

If you add commercial yeast to the dough it will not be very sour. The commercial yest inhibits the sourdough.
Sourdough starters adapt to their feeding regime, and as the original junk drops out to form a stable culture. Keep your starter out, feeding it every day, and it will get sourer.

#82 lovebenton0

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Posted 16 October 2004 - 02:30 AM

I too keep my starter in the fridge.

I mix the sponge - about 20% of the flour and an equal weight of water with only one tablesoon of the mother starter, and leave that to ferment at 85F for 6 hours or so. Temperature, witin a few degrees is critical SeeTechnical details in the eGCI sourdough unit.
When the mother starter is getting low I refresh it the same way.
I then short mix all the sponge with the remaining ingredients except the salt.
I let it autolyse for an hour or so (the enzymes split the starch into sugars to feed the yeast - salt inhibits this process. Also allows the gluten to develop, which salt hardens), then add the salt and mix in.
I let it ferment for 4 hours at 85F, turning (folding) every hour, and let it then stand for another hour or so - the dough will tell you.
Portion, shape, and put into bannetons (cloth lined baskets)
Put the baskets with the dough, covered with a cloth in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
Turn out, slash, bake. I find baking from cold gives a better rise and wet doughs are easier to handle cold. Nancy Silverton lets hers warm up, but I disagree.

If you add commercial yeast to the dough it will not be very sour. The commercial yest inhibits the sourdough.
Sourdough starters adapt to their feeding regime, and as the original junk drops out to form a stable culture. Keep your starter out, feeding it every day, and it will get sourer.

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I add equal liquid to the flour also for the sponge -- forgot to add that in post. It appears I can use far less of my starter than I have been, according to your formula. Although perhaps not as little as yours, as I did not use a starter pack to build it. I need to go back to look at your course. Which has been helpful, adding to my sourdough experience from previous . . . mumble mumble . . . many years.

I like baking from cold also after overnight retard in fridge.

But, I do have two questions, jackal.

How do you maintain the 85 degrees for the sponge?

How do you prep the cloth for banneton so the dough does not stick to it, but "turn out" smoothly?
Judith Love

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One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?" Terry Thistlewaite

#83 deltadoc

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Posted 16 October 2004 - 03:00 AM

I don't bake very much, but was intrigued by Nancy Silverton when I saw her on Julia's show.

So, the next day, someone I work with gave me a whole bunch of red grapes from their backyard vine. So I decided to try her starter recipe.

It didn't work out very well. I found out later that my wife had rinsed the grapes and I had used bleached white flour. It worked enough that I got one small loaf of sourdough.

Then another friend at work gave me a bunch of concord grapes. This time I didn't rinse them at all, and I specifically went to the whole foods store and got unbleached flour.

I'm sitting here looking at the big glass jar that has been sitting on my kitchen island for 3 weeks now. It does not appear to be doing anything!

I actually got lots of bubbles and such with the first try. I got nothing this time around.

I'm wondering what I did wrong? Should I leave this jar (covered loosely with saran wrap) sit longer? I have fed it a couple or three times in the last week, and have stirred it everyday since beginning over 3 weeks ago. I tried following her recipe strictly as I could. Temperature has hovered between 74 - 80 degrees, with an average closer to 75.

doc

#84 jackal10

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Posted 16 October 2004 - 04:33 AM

How do you maintain the 85 degrees for the sponge?

How do you prep the cloth for banneton so the dough does not stick to it, but "turn out" smoothly?

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I have a spot next to the Aga that is at 85F. Others use the warming oven, with the door open a bit, or over the pilot light, or on top of the hot water tank. You can make your own "proving box" from one or those insulated picnic boxes, or an expanded polestyrene fish box, and a low wattage lamp.

For the linen, I flour it well, from a sieve, then turn it over and tap the flour out. I also shake some flour or polenta on the dough before putting it upside down into the banneton.
Don't wash the bannetons, and they won't stick.

#85 jackal10

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Posted 16 October 2004 - 04:39 AM

I'm sitting here looking at the big glass jar that has been sitting on my kitchen island for 3 weeks now.  It does not appear to be doing anything!

I actually got lots of bubbles and such with the first try.  I got nothing this time around.

I'm wondering what I did wrong?  Should I leave this jar (covered loosely with saran wrap) sit longer?  I have fed it a couple or three times in the last week, and have stirred it everyday since beginning over 3 weeks ago.  I tried following her recipe strictly as I could.  Temperature has hovered between 74 - 80 degrees, with an average closer to 75.

doc

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There are lots of threads here about making a starter from scratch.
Throw yours out and start again.
Leave out the grapes. They are the wrong sort of yeast. Just use good organic flour, and if you like, some rye flour, although I think it better just to use the flour you are going to bake with.
Mix equal parts flour and water by weight, and leave covered in a warm place. You might have more sucess with bottled water, as some tap water has lots of chlorine in it. It will start to bubble after a couple of days. Feed it daily when it is active: throw half away and then add equal amounts of flour and water.
After a week or so its ready to bake with as your mother starter. It will keep in the fridge for ages.

#86 boulak

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Posted 16 October 2004 - 02:14 PM

To add to jackal10's comments:
If using bottled water, do not use distilled, it is devoid of mineral content. You can use tap water if you get it from the tap and leave it on the counter overnight or for 24 hours just to be safe-- the chlorine will dissipate, but the valuable minerals will remain. If you use ogranic rye flour as 5% to 50% of the total flour(organic as well) for the very beginning, it will be more active more quickly (but not too quickly) due to the abundant yeasts and amylase enzymes in rye flour. As you make subsequent feedings with bread flour, the rye will be dilluted each time until it disappears. If your starter gets sluggish, you can awaken it by using 5% rye for a feeding or two. If your starter has been in the refrigerator for a while, remove it and feed a few times before actually baking with it in order to bring it back to full power.

#87 polack

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Posted 16 October 2004 - 05:46 PM

To add to jackal10's comments:
If using bottled water, do not use distilled, it is devoid of mineral content.  You can use tap water if you get it from the tap and leave it on the counter overnight or for 24 hours just to be safe-- the chlorine will dissipate, but the valuable minerals will remain.  If you use ogranic rye flour as 5%  to 50% of the total flour(organic as well) for the very beginning, it will be more active more quickly (but not too quickly) due to the abundant yeasts and amylase enzymes in rye flour.  As you make subsequent feedings with bread flour, the rye will be dilluted each time until it disappears.  If your starter gets sluggish, you can awaken it by using 5% rye for a feeding or two.  If your starter has been in the refrigerator for a while, remove it and feed a few times before actually baking with it in order to bring it back to full power.

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Well it looks like I did a whole bunch of things wrong that will have to be corrected on the next try. Right now I have a starter that's being fed and will use tomorrow morning for baking. I used tap water in it but I do have a lot of small bubles and it seems to be working A okay for the moment. I will try, on the next go around to cold proof the dough so I can have it ready for baking when I want it and not when it wants to. So much to learn and so little time.
Polack

#88 boulak

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Posted 16 October 2004 - 07:26 PM

Most of the time, tap water is OK. It is more critical at the initiation of the cycle than later on. If it ain't broke..................

#89 polack

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Posted 17 October 2004 - 06:45 AM

Most of the time, tap water is OK.  It is more critical at the initiation of the cycle than later on.  If it ain't broke..................

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It looks like I took on a hornets nest when I wanted to add a new hobby to my every day life, to bad I wasn't 30 yrs old, maybe I could have taken on a new profession.
Anyway what about a good rye bread made with this starter is there a good recipe available? There used to be a Jewish bakery in the neighborhood that made some of the finest rye bread and I was wondering if it can be duplicated? This bread was very heavy and sort of moist on the inside with a very crispy crust. As for their New York Rye, It was even heavier and the crust was so hard you really had to pull hard to break it. These two ryes were the best I ever ate and haven't been able to find someone in our area that would even come close to making it as good.
One last thing, my Irish bride of near 40 years is starting to give me the evil eye because I'm taking over her oven on Sunday when she's making dinner for the family. Hey I was up before 5am, got the dough mixed, had it rising while I went to church came home shaped it and had it proofing again before she started, and she says I'm stealing her stove. I'm definitely going to have to cold proof on Saturday and I'll only have the baking on Sunday. What do you think?

#90 Sobaicecream

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 12:16 AM

One last thing, my Irish bride of near 40 years is starting to give me the evil eye because I'm taking over her oven on Sunday when she's making dinner for the family. Hey I was up before 5am, got the dough mixed, had it rising while I went to church came home shaped it and had it proofing again before she started, and she says I'm stealing her stove. I'm definitely going to have to cold proof on Saturday and I'll only have the baking on Sunday. What do you think?

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Polack, just make sure your dear Irish bride doesn't start feeling like this "sourdough stuff" is stealing her husband as well as her oven! :biggrin: Ever since I got into sourdough bread baking, my own husband has been giving my precious starter the evil eye and complaining that I care more about it than him.

I'm not sure if this answers your question, but I've left my dough to cold proof in the fridge as long as 20 hours and it was perfectly fine.





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