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Q&A -- Sourdough Bread

185 posts in this topic

Hello MottMott,

It's unlikely that the culture would have all died, but some of it may have. The most important thing is consistent refreshment, according to your preference, in the days prior to using it. Try a twice a day (or every 8 hours if you sleep light) refreshment schedule, keeping perhaps one fifth back and replacing the remainder with almost equal quantities of flour and water (I prefer 120g flour for every 100g water). The life contained within the mixture is much more tolerant than you might at first imagine.

I must agree with slkinsey and Robert about terminology being misleading. I do think of a good San Francisco sourdough whenever the term 'sourdough' is mentioned. It's not a word I feel comfortable using to describe naturally leavened breads in France, Germany, anywhere outside of the US region, as the encouragement of acidity was rarely considered a primary goal in the good European bakeries I know of. Just a different set of criteria. You might ask 'why leaven bread naturally if not to achieve sourness?'. For me, it is the pleasure and inherent beauty of the slow process. The simplicity, if you like.

Good to see the extraordinary rec.food.sourdough mentioned here. It is a mighty resource, and one that must be required reading for every bakery student. Darrell Greenwood's sourdough faq's are, as he rightly describes, 'the definitive web pages on sourdough bread information'. If you haven't looked and been inspired, go to http://www.nyx.net/~dgreenw/sourdoughfaqs.html

regards

Dan

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Let me be the first to offer up my results ...

bread.jpg

I followed the incorrect recipe and so ended up with a very wet dough. I floured the inside of my basin quite heavily to ensure that the dough wouldn't stick to the cloth (as it had been sticking to the SS bowl in which I mixed the dough). It didn't stick but I did end up with a heavy flour encrustation on top.

Oh, I also didn't find the information on the course in time to request starter so I used a purchased starter from Whole Foods Market. I followed the instructions given with the packaged starter a few days before the course started and just left it in the fridge until needed.

I don't have an oven thermometer (well, I had one but damned if I could find it!) so I preheated my oven to 500 F this morning and then turned it down to 450 F when I put the dough in the oven. Baked for 25 minutes, then turned it, and baked for another 10.

I haven't cut the loaf open yet (I am a model of self-control!); I hope my faux pas in the quantities doesn't affect the crumb too much.

Edit: Well, obviously, my estimation of my own self-control is highly inflated. I couldn't wait and so I cut it open on the pretext of taking another photograph. (Realspeak: I wanted to taste it.)

Here's the photo:

inside.jpg

It tasted great. Because I'd used a purchased starter (purportedly of "Gold rush" origins), I thought I might end up with a very sour loaf. I didn't (which suits me just fine, btw). It was moist and chewy and had great flavour.

I'm a happy girl. :raz:


Edited by Jensen (log)

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Wow,

Beautiful crust colour, a good bit of spring in the dough, too (maybe you could try a slightly longer final prove?). A good lift around the base of the loaf (it looks like it was peeled on to a hot surface?). Can't wait to see the crumb.

Jack will log on as soon as he can after his plane gets in (the jetsetting baker :smile: )

regards

Dan

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Wow,

Beautiful crust colour, a good bit of spring in the dough, too (maybe you could try a slightly longer final prove?). A good lift around the base of the loaf (it looks like it was peeled on to a hot surface?). Can't wait to see the crumb.

I'm afraid I'm not advanced enough to even know what "peeled" means! I did go and re-read the lesson though and can say with some confidence that I did not peel the dough onto a hot surface. I used a SS cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cold dough on a cold surface.

Re: the final prove

Had I proofed it longer, does that mean the top wouldn't have split as it did?

(edited for clarity)


Edited by Jensen (log)

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You might ask 'why leaven bread naturally if not to achieve sourness?'. For me, it is the pleasure and inherent beauty of the slow process. The simplicity, if you like.

Well... I also think that naturally leavened bread has an infinitely more complex and interesting flavor. Once I got used to naturally leavened breads, breads leavened with commercial yeast began to taste insipid to me.

Good to see the extraordinary rec.food.sourdough mentioned here. It is a mighty resource, and one that must be required reading for every bakery student. Darrell Greenwood's sourdough faq's are, as he rightly describes, 'the definitive web pages on sourdough bread information'. If you haven't looked and been inspired, go to http://www.nyx.net/~dgreenw/sourdoughfaqs.html

Yea. It's a great source, although some of the personalities there can be a bit strong from time to time. One is well-advised to lurk for a while and get a feel for the place. References to "sourdough starter" made with commercial yeast and fed with sugar or recipes for "sourdough bread" leavened with commercial yeast or assertions that "I can call this yeasted bread 'sourdough' if I want to" are not likely to be met with a positive response.

As I said, I don't post there too often any more, but I am proud that some of my materials are preserved in Darrell's FAQ.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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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

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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"

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 (log)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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