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Q&A -- Sourdough Bread

185 posts in this topic

I'll try a lower temperature next time. Now where the loaf burst.. would that slash have been too deep or too shallow? That slashing is a scary thing because once you've done it there's no way back.

I suppose it was foolish to think that my first loaf would be perfect, but the way this one turned out was very discouraging!

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I use a scalpel because they are available to me. I can only get a depth of maybe a little more than 1cm into the dough before I run out of blade. Ultimately I think I would like to be able to cut deeper into the dough but I haven't yet purchased one of the blades that is shown in the pictures from the course. When I cut, the outside of the shaped dough has dried because it was chilled overnight. I usually oil the blade and try to cut very quickly to get a nice clean cut through the dried out layer and into the soft dough. By the time the dough has gone into the oven (only a minute or so later) the cut portion has opened significantly as the dried outer crust on the dough appears to be containing a more pliable exterior that wants to expand.


Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

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Well.. the first 2 ended up in the bin but today I have baked my first real sourdough loaf! I am so excited! I was much more patient this time with the kneading and proofing.. I baked the loaf for 45 minutes on 180 C.

gallery_21505_358_1100704629.jpg

it did not raise very high but maybe that is also because the basket I used was quite large, so it was very flat when it went into the oven.

More importantly.. it tastes great.

I do have a final question about the starter, because Jack's instructions and some of the info in this thread are confusing me.

This is what I do now:

- jar of starter in fridge.

- take out 1 cup of starter, refresh this with 1 cup of flour and one cup of water. Throw the rest of the old starter away.

- from the refreshed mixture, take 1 cup to make the dough for the bread.

- the rest of the mixture, put back in the fridge.

So this is what I do when I make the bread. What if I want to feed the starter between baking sessions? How often should I do that and how much should I feed?


Edited by Chufi (log)

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On various people's advise (thanks!) what I do now is slightly different to that in the unit.

1. Take out jar of starter ifrom the fridge. Stir if it has seperated.

2. Make a thick batter for the sponge (poolish) with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water

3. Stir in a tablespoon of the starter. Let it ferment for at least 4 hours (or even up to about 12 hours) at 85F, until it is well bubbly.

4. Put the rest of the jar of starter back into the fridge for next time. If it is getting low, then make a double quantity of sponge (2 cups flour, 2 cups water) and put half of the finished starter back into the jar.

5. Use the sponge to bake with.

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On various people's advise (thanks!) what I do now is slightly different to that in the unit.

4. Put the rest of the jar of starter back into the fridge for next time. If it is getting low, then make a double quantity of sponge (2 cups flour, 2 cups water) and put half of the finished starter back into the jar.

5. Use the sponge to bake with.

Jackal10,

I've been following your advice closely and would like to ask for clarification sake if in #4 above you meant "....and put half of the finished sponge back into the jar"??

Tx,

doc

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Jack, I don't think I'm following you. You seem to be saying that you put your starter back in the fridge unfed.

If you just take out a tablespoon at a time, won't it take a while to empty the jar? And, more to the point, won't the starter over time become a little sluggish, and in need of more than one feed before you can bake from it?


"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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Works for me.

I bake maybe once every week or two and the mother starter goes perhaps a couple of months between refreshments.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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hope it's not too late to ask a question..

with a regular (smallish) oven and no pizza stone/tiles- what temperature should the oven be at, how long in advance should I preheat the oven and would be ok to bake the bread on a cookie sheet type of surface?

thanks

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220C/430F or ovens most ovens hot as you can get it.

Preheat for an hour if you can

Sure use a cookie sheet. I sometimes use a pan, upside down as it is flatter. A thin sheet might warp a bit in the heat, but that just means the loaf looks a bit rustic.

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well... i attempted the first loaf... it was edible but that's about it. there was very little rise in the bread, which may be due to underproofing? there was also a distinct difference between the center the loaf and the outside edges, on each slice there's an outside ring that's more dry and fluffy surrounding a center that's very dense, more moist and rather gummy.. but I thought gumminess was due to overproofing? I had halved the recipe so I baked it for about 30 minutes in a 500F oven. Any suggestions? more baking time?

thanks

PS: the crust was also rather chewy and there were very very small holes in the loaf, not like the big holes shown in the pictures here


Edited by yushoe (log)

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Longer proof at the right temperature - 85F plus or minus only a couple of degrees. Proof temperature is fairly critical. The dough should feel light and alive, and if you make a cut you shoud seee the bubbles.

You are cooking to short and hot. Try 420F and 45 mins.

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Well.. the first 2 ended up in the bin but today I have baked my first real sourdough loaf! I am so excited! I was much more patient this time with the kneading and proofing.. I baked the loaf for 45 minutes on 180 C.

gallery_21505_358_1100704629.jpg

it did not raise very high but maybe that is also because the basket I used was quite large, so it was very flat when it went into the oven.

More importantly.. it tastes great.

I do have a final question about the starter, because Jack's instructions and some of the info in this thread are confusing me.

This is what I do now:

- jar of starter in fridge.

- take out 1 cup of starter, refresh this with 1 cup of flour and one cup of water. Throw the rest of the old starter away.

- from the refreshed mixture, take 1 cup to make the dough for the bread.

- the rest of the mixture, put back in the fridge.

So this is what I do when I make the bread. What if I want to feed the starter between baking sessions? How often should I do that and how much should I feed?

Chufi, I'm wondering what prompted you to do this? Why do you throw the rest of the starter away? :blink:

I never throw my mother starter away. I feed it occasionally, let it work up at room temp, then return to fridge, if I 'm not baking sourdough for more than two weeks. Otherwise I just use some to make the sponge, a bit more sponge than I need to bake with, and add the remaining sponge to the starter crock.

edit to add: that is a tasty looking loaf there. :biggrin:


Edited by lovebenton0 (log)

Judith Love

North of the 30th parallel

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

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Chufi, I'm wondering what prompted you to do this? Why do you throw the rest of the starter away? :blink:

I never throw my mother starter away. I feed it occasionally, let it work up at room temp, then return to fridge, if I 'm not baking sourdough for more than two weeks. Otherwise I just use some to make the sponge, a bit more sponge than I need to bake with, and add the remaining sponge to the starter crock.

edit to add: that is a tasty looking loaf there. :biggrin:

I guess I was confused by the instructions in the course. This is what it said:

To refresh the starter:

1 c sourdough starter

1 c Strong white bread flour

1 c water

For the dough:

1 c refreshed sourdough starter

3 c Strong white bread flour.

1 c water (you may need more -- see below)

2 tsp salt

It did not say what to do with the rest of the refreshed starter, after taking out the one cup for the dough. So I threw it out.. next time I will add it to the pot in the fridge.

Seeing that picture of my bread, I am reminded I have to bake again. That starter is just sitting there in the fridge doing nothing!

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I'm a bit worried that my bread is a bit too sour. I've made a leaven that seems to be working and developing fine. The first couple of loaves I baked were sourdoughs based on Dan Lepard's recipe. The outcome was pretty good for a first time and tasted excellent.

I then baked the oats and apples bread from Dan's book. The bread itself was good, it rose properly and had what I think was the right texture - the air holes were smaller than those in the sourdough and the crust wasn't as thick, nor was it as chewy, the loaf itself was nice and moist. The problem is though that it tasted really quite similar to the sourdough, it was just slightly sweeter - or is this the right flavour for the bread?

I'm therefore concerned that my leaven might have become too sour. Is this possible? Is there anything I can do to rectify it or should I start again? Last question, I've not refrigerated my starter but have been refreshing it daily, is it possible it's gone off? Just to clarify, no-one's had any adverse effects from the bread and frankly it looked pretty darn good - all I need to do now is sort out the taste.

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Hello asilverfish,

If your refreshment of your leaven is around 1:4 or 1:5 old leaven to fresh flour and water, and the mixture is kept on the firm side at 100g - 125g flour to 100g water, then it should be fine. My leaven at room temperature between refreshments, and I recommend that you do that. If the leaven smells cleanly acidic, its healthy. If it smells in the least bit unpleasant, start again.

It's more likely that you might need to tinker with is the recipe itself, to adapt it towards the result you want. For a recipe that combines yeast and leaven over a 1 1/2 hour initial (bulk) fermentation, I find that between 30% - 45% leaven to flour gives a range from very little acidity (30%, a slight tang to the crust) to 45% (quite a dominant sourness for a commercially yeasted bread). The oat and apple recipe was intended to be quite sour - a bread to eat with herrings in cream with raw onion and dill, or shavings of salt cured meat together with unsalted butter and mustard. So the recipe uses 100g leaven to 250g flour to keep the acidity quite high. If you reduce the leave to 75g (30%), that should bring the acidity down.

Regards

Dan

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Dan

Many thanks for replying directly.

Given your description I think basically I've done it right. When I tasted it again last night I think it was spot on - I'd had a bit of a cold resulting in things not tasting quite as they should.

btw I think the book is great. I know you say at the beginning that you had a bit of a battle being so proscriptive about recipes but it works really well.

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Hello Kelly,

Great loaf (is that your oven in your avatar?). Looks like a good crust and an a big open texture. Perhaps you could extend the first rise before shaping with another stretch and turn (that will opent he texture of the crumb around the big holes), together a longer final rise. You've got a very even crust, with the thickness of the crust at the base the same as the top of the loaf. And as for the blue sky, well.... I'm jealous.

regards,

Dan (chilling in London town)


Edited by danlepard (log)

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Thanks for the advice - I have a problem with the whole stretch and turn thing - I just dont get it. The techniques , the whys and the hows-- I have read all about it but I know it is something that I have to see in 3d with my own eyeballs to understand.

Its like making homemade pasta - for me the only way to really learn was to go to my neighbors house and watch her do it.

Having said that if anyone is in the area (central Italy) and wants to come over and do some stretching and turning of dough let me know.

... yes that is the oven that I use for bread and pizza ect.

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Turning is easy, and makes much better bread. It is a gentle form of kneading and stretching, and introduces some air of its own.

Every hour or so during the bulk fermentation only (the fermentation after mixing but before shaping the loaves), but not during the second proof stage, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board and fold it in three side to side, then top to bottom, as though you were making a turn (but without the butter) for flaky pastry or croissants:

gallery_7620_135_1105951614.jpg

Then put it back into whatever container you are fermenting the dough in.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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I tried the turning and stretching thing once - I think I did it with the wrong attitude ... the whole time I was thinking well this is dumb- whats the point?

(yes I know the point of it has been explained various times on the message board)

It didnt make any difference in the bread - but like I said maybe it was an attitude problem. A friend of mine is convinced that the only way to get a good bread is to be positive when you knead the bread so that the positive vibes go from your hands to your dough (this is the same person that stuck rocks on her belly for 3 weeks to get rid of a toothache).

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My leaven keeps exploding. I keep refreshing it, it's looking and smelling healthy but has recently started exploding. It's being kept in an airtight pot yet somehow continues to seep out despite that.

Anyway, why is it doing it? Does it imply a problem and if so, how do I stop it?

thanks

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Don't keep it in an airtight pot

Keep it cold - in the fridge

Make it wetter - 100% hydration, like a batter, then the gas can escape

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I want to make an authentic loaf of san francisco sourdough. So I am trying to start a mixture of flour and water per the course and I'm not sure how well it is going.

I started some flour by combining roughly equal amounts with water and leaving the mixture in a warm spot in San Francisco until it bubbled. It has been about 6 days, the mixture bubbles and smells a bit acidic... although I might not describe it as a "clean acidity" as someone described above. It is a bit slow (by comparison- see below) and by the time I feed it again, what was a relatively tight batter/wet dough, turns into a veru runny batter... like thick tempura-ish.

I also have a starter I purchased in an envelope (Goldrush- San Francisco-Style Sourdough Starter made by the same company that sells Marie Callender's corn bread mix) and it is very different than the stuff I purportedly might have caught in the wild. The stuff is a lot more active and although it does settle into a puddle of bubbly glop, it has a lot of strands of dough and as I try to stir it, it comes together and is definitely not runny. I have fed both of them the same type of flour and pretty much treat them the same way. They smell similar, but in almost every respect they are quite different. I realize they ARE different, but I wonder if my wild yeast is normal. I read in Cook's illustrated that it takes about two weeks for the starter to develop properly and it's only been half that time... but am I getting there?

Should I just keep to the stuff out of the envelope? It's from San Jose and for most that's probably close enough...

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Personally I would use the one you captured ....if its active you can start to bake with it.

Personally I don't like the Goldrush starter. I think its mainly for asale to the tourists, although they did do pioneering eductional work.

After a while whatever starter you begin with will evolve to your own, adapting to your flour and your feeding regime.

If you are in SF why not beg some starter or a piece of dough from one of the bakeries, like Acme, or visit SFBI http://www.sfbi.com/

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