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Q&A -- Sourdough Bread

185 posts in this topic

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

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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"?

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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 (log)

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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

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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

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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:


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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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.

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

fb13e1d8.jpg

fb13e1d3.jpg

FM


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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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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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.

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?


"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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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.

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:


"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

french.jpg

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!

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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.

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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

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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)

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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.)


"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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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


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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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

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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.

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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.


"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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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 (log)

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