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Q&A -- Sourdough Bread

185 posts in this topic

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

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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


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.


"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."

-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson

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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


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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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....

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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


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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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.

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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


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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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

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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


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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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 (log)

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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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OK, it tastes good, and it looks good, but NO spring. My loaves spread out more than up. Perhaps because my slashes on the top are too vertical? It happens whether I bake directly from the fridge or I rest it at room temp for an hour or so. Or is it something about my starter perhaps?

Also, even at 475, the bottoms are still too black, so next time I will raise the stone from the bottom of the oven to a low shelf. It's odd, because I do free form tarts directly on the bottom of the oven and I haven't this problem. Maybe it's all the butter in the tart dough.


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

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So I've now made the bread twice with mixed results. The first time I was not strong enough in my convictions for the slashing. This resulted in some oddities to the shape but it otherwise came out well . . . except we couldn't/didn't wait for it to cool. The one I baked last night looks better thought didn't get the rise I was hoping for. We'll taste it tonight.

Here's my question now --

Given busy work and family schedules and all, is there some way to vary the part where you fold gently hourly for 5 hours? Like, for instance, how I slow things down with yeast bread by putting dough in the fridge and taking a few days till it's ready to bake. Here's what I'm thinking -- Mix dough, wait 30 minutes, add salt, wait 2 hours, fold once, then into the fridge. Then, do the additional folding say the next morning once, back into the fridge while I'm off to the office, fold again in the evening (perhaps more than once) and back into the fridge, etc. Essentially, take 2-3 days before baking.

Jack -- what say you?


So long and thanks for all the fish.

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My standard bread I follow the following schedule. All times are approximate.

9am Take starter out of fridge, refresh

1pm Mix dough. Put the remains of the starter back into the fridge for next time.

1.45pm (half an hour or so after mixing) Add salt. Mix some more

3pm turn the dough, if I remember

4pm Divide and shape. Put into bannetons. Put bannetons in fridge.

Next day: Take out of fridge and bake for 40 mins

Thus I would not bother to fold, once it goes into the fridge. If you are leaving it there for more than 12 hours slip it into a plastic bag (garbage bags work well) so it doesb't dry out too much.

MottMott: I'm not sure what is going wrong. No oven spring indicates the dough is overproved - try shortening the proof times, especially the second proof. I doubt if it is the slashing. Spreading sideways seems to indicate the dough is a bit too wet. Again, shortening the proof time will help, as the acid dough gets weter as it proves.

What is the protein content of the flour you are using?

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Ok I made my first bread last night.....

My Wife and I agreed it was the best bread we have ever had. Warm rustic bread slathered with butter just can't be beat. The crust was phenominal, crunchy and thick. I have pictures just nowhere to host them.

One quick question, the inside seemed a bit damp and spongy. Was it underdone or was there some other issue involved? It didn't seem to raise much during the proofing, and I have to admit it probably was closer to 80 F.

Once you have a healthy starter, the effort/reward of this stuff is just incredible. Jack just so you know, I named my starter Jack! :smile: ( I have a whole wheat one we named Jill too!)

Thanks,

Mike

Msk

P.S. Off to feed Jack!

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My guess is that you did not leave it to get cool before eating. Hard to do, but needs that time to set up. Some breads, like Rye, are even better next day.

If the bread is underdone it is kind of pudding-like and claggy. If the crust is good, but the crumb is under cooked, cook a litle cooler for longer. I'm sure you will soon dial-in to whatever suits your environment.

Jack and Jill will rest perfectly happily in the fridge without attention until needed.

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Msk, PM me and we can make arrangements for hosting your pics.


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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Here are the pics. You can see the sheen on the cut loaf to show how it was sort of "spongy." I promise to have more self control next time on letting it cool!

i260.jpg

i261.jpg

Msk

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I'm just about to get started making the bread for the first time. I began with a very dry starter and started refreshing it on Friday night - adding 1 cup water and 1 cup flour. On Saturday AM, it was looking bubbly and refreshed again with 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup flour. I was going to make the dough Saturday night but ran out of time. I just left the starter out on the counter and am going to make the dough now - Sunday evening.

Reading through all the Q&A here, I think I probably should have put the starter in the fridge when I realized I wouldn't have time to make the dough. Anyone think there's any harm in leaving the starter out an additional 24 hours (in a sealed jar)? It seems fine - looks and smells pretty much the same as it did last night.

I'll let you all know how the bread turns out. I might post pictures, if I remember to take them at critical points along the way.


Edited by iain (log)

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Looks great bread! Well done! Good texture crumb and crust.

Starter should be fine - just hungry. If you put it in the fridge it takes a while to warm up and wake up.

If in doubt refresh it again

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That loaf looks over-malted, i.e. there was too much amylase breaking down the starch for too long a period. I've learned to look out for that sheen, and the gummy, moist texture. Regular flour has enough malt to support a 2-4 hour fermentation; much beyond that, the gumminess begins to emerge as the starch chains break into much shorter chains. I've made a number of well-fermented, flavorful, and gummy sourdoughs due to this fact.

Organic flour doesn't have malt (an organic product) in it for some reason, so you can mix it 50-50 with regular flour to lengthen the fermentation time, or use all-organic and add small amounts of malt separately (it's easy to make from sprouted grain, but the strength is hard to gauge). I believe rye flour has copious amounts of amylase in it as well, due to a tendency to sprout on the stalk.

Whole wheat (of any type) flour also lacks malt, presumably because it wouldn't be wholly wheat if it did.

In any case, try flour with less malt in it; you have a number of choices.

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