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gsquared

The rehabilitation of a failed baker

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My name is Gerhard and I cannot bake bread. That abject failure is not due to a lack of trying. I am reasonably comfortable in the kitchen and have never had a problem with cooking techniques. Bring on braising, roasting, sauteéing, velveting and emulsifying: I can hold my own and even now and then produce something edible. But I cannot bake a bread. This has haunted me for years. I have read more books on baking than you can shake a stick at. I have followed the EGCI bread baking course. All to no avail. My lounge has sliding doors opening onto a patio overlooking the Indian Ocean and I have taken to dropkicking my efforts through the doors onto the lawn. Where the seagulls, at least seemed to find the pathetic results palatable. Small comfort. I can dropkick a dense loaf pretty accurately, though. Practise does help.

In short, I have decided that I am genetically unable to bake bread. I thought that I have reached the stage where I may as well give up. No point being a fool about it.

Enter Jackal10. He read my food blog on eG, was somewhat indignant that I cannot bake bread and suggested that he send me a batch of his sourdough starter and coach me though my baker's block. I thought that the process may well be mildly interesting to my fellow gulleteers and intend reporting results here.

The starter arrived by post and, according to instructions, was whizzed up with 100gm flour and 100ml clean water. It should now rest for 24 hours at around 30C. I have a salamander that, paradoxically, can be set to low temp. I have carefully monitored the temperature at the bottom until I got it to 29C.

The agreed goal is to produce a baguette that I can incorporate into my breakfast offering at the guest house. Jack is off thinking. The starter is sitting at the required temperature. Place your bets. The game is on.


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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Good luck! I wish you well.

You are starting with a challenging sort (but also the best sort) of bread: wild yeast sourdough. But with Jack looking over your shoulder you should be fine, since even the most challenging bread is actually easy. It is a very forgiving process that usually comes out well under many less-than-ideal conditions.

But making bread is different than other cooking; in some ways it more resembles animal husbandry. This may be why it has presented you with more difficulty than other cooking. Once you get to recognizing what your dough is telling you, however, you'll master it quickly, I guarantee!


"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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I find sourdough a lot more forgiving than commercial yeast, partly because everything happens more slowly

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Oh how cool!! You can do it, Gerhard!!!

Then again geez loowez, the Indian Ocean??? Who needs bread??? :laugh:

No seriously, you are very brave--good writer too.

I'm looking forward to the next instalment.

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Gerhard,

After seeing what your guests already eat and the views that they have from their rooms...home baked bread will just be the icing on the cake! i loved your food blog and i hope this is as entertaining (for us...i imagine you're a bit anxious).

Good luck and good baking!

Alana

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Consider re-titling this with more of a metamorphosis* angle than the rehab** thing. If you drop kicked it all, there's nothing to restore.

*1 a : change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means b : a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances

A great aromatic supernatural hatching as it were, er gonna be. :biggrin:

**1 a : to restore to a former capacity

:smile:

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Thanks for all the good wishes.

The mother starter appears to be live and well.

gallery_7837_2715_7411.jpg

Further instructions have arrived. I have mixed 10g of the starter with 100g strong flour and 100g water. This preferment is at 30C overnight.

I am sceptical. I mixed the preferment two hours ago and it is just sitting there. If it had an eye, I swear it would be gazing balefully at me. I expected some slight activity, but Jack said to leave it for 12 hours. I will ignore it until then.

The Artist has admonished me not to sing. She is convinced that my habit of humming 60's hits while cooking is the main cause of my baking problems. I am not convinced, but have decided to give this every chance possible. Deathly silence will prevail.

Referring to the starter as the "mother" appeals to me. There is something earthy about it. I imagine an amorphous Willendorf patiently waiting in the fridge to be brought to yeastful life.


Edited by gsquared (log)

Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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A great aromatic supernatural hatching as it were, er gonna be. :biggrin:

No more references to the supernatural, if you don't mind. :biggrin::biggrin: I have confidence that Jack, using science and common sense, will do the trick. :biggrin:

edited to emphasize tongue in the cheek.


Edited by gsquared (log)

Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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But making bread is different than other cooking; in some ways it more resembles animal husbandry.  This may be why it has presented you with more difficulty than other cooking.  Once you get to recognizing what your dough is telling you, however, you'll master it quickly, I guarantee!

Change of mindset required, you mean? Your comments demand some thinking. Which I will do forthwith (Allerverloren Cab 2003, $7).


Edited by gsquared (log)

Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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. . .  Place your bets. The game is on.

My bet's on you.


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)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Not that it matters, but you will get better texture for baguettes if you use ordinary white not strong flour.

T55 (french) T550(german) or 9% protein (UK) AP (US).

Organic ideally and check the small print for additives. There should not be any, but bread flour often has Vitamic C and malt or amylose enzymes added to it. They won't hurt, but may need to adjust timings if they are present, and not add extra Vitamin in the dough step if its already there..

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Not that it matters, but you will get better texture for baguettes if you use ordinary white not strong flour.

T55 (french) T550(german) or 9% protein (UK) AP (US).

Organic ideally and check the small print for additives. There should not be any, but bread flour often has Vitamic C and malt or amylose enzymes added to it. They won't hurt, but may need to adjust timings if they are present, and not add extra Vitamin in the dough step if its already there..

Oh vey!

The packaging says "Stone ground bread flour - no additives. Add 3% more water."

The pupil awaits advice.


Edited by gsquared (log)

Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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My bet's on you.

Thanks Anna. Your support helps a lot.


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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Thats great, but is it white or brown/wholemeal flour?

White.


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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Does the starter have a skin on it??? Is it just the picture???

Looks a little dry on top to me. Jackal, are you getting nervous??

We want video if you gotta' drop kick the starter :laugh:

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Gerhard,

As a minimally-competent bread baker, I feel your pain and applaud your valiant efforts to persevere. Fortunately, you're in great hands with jackal10! Thanks for sharing this experience with us. My bet's on you too.


Ilene

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Not that it matters, but you will get better texture for baguettes if you use ordinary white not strong flour.

T55 (french) T550(german) or 9% protein (UK) AP (US).

Organic ideally and check the small print for additives. There should not be any, but bread flour often has Vitamic C and malt or amylose enzymes added to it. They won't hurt, but may need to adjust timings if they are present, and not add extra Vitamin in the dough step if its already there..

Oh vey!

Gerard,

The proper expression is oy vey. :laugh::laugh::laugh:


Ilene

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Gerard,

The proper expression is oy vey.  :laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:

You might mean oy vey zmir (the reflexive form - sort of "woe is me"), or even oy gvalt! (roughly "what have I done?")

Yes I am worried. I don't think there is a skin on the starter, I assume it was covered. I just hope its bubbly and active...


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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oh vey, oy veh.

I've done that too. The english-speaking hand is soooo used to typing oh..... :blush:

C'mon starter, you can do it..... c'mon yeastie boys go go go !

Have you ever goosed your starter with a little shot of sugar, jackal10?

My college roomies and I brought ours back from the dead that way, tho it never tasted quite the same after. It got insanely sour, in fact.

That does look like a skin - local humidity? A salamander will make the heated air quite dry I should think... your abode might be a bit damper. England is damp by definition.


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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The proper expression is oy vey.  :laugh:  :laugh:  :laugh:

Shows you what happens to you when age creeps up and memory starts failing! I have this theory that when you are over 50, you should never sleep on your side lest your brains dribble out via your ear.


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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oh vey,  oy veh.

That does look like a skin - local humidity? A salamander will make the heated air quite dry I should think... your abode might be a bit damper. England is damp by definition.

Skin it is. Bubbles below, though.

The mother is and was covered. In one of those snap-on lid plastic thingies.

The preferment is not looking good:

gallery_7837_2715_136.jpg

It has now been 12 hours. A few reluctant bubbles......

oy gvalt!

Does this mean doom? I swear that I did not sing.

Jack?


Gerhard Groenewald

www.mesamis.co.za

Wilderness

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I'm wondering whether your starter was fully active before you started your preferment. It's difficult to tell from the pic, but I'd say it looks a little weak.

Maybe you might want to reactive your starter before you proceed to a preferment. I use a little more flour to water as well and proof in a box (a plastic cooler) with a 40 watt bulb for a few hours at a temp of 85 degrees.

I think I mentioned this before and Jackal wondered whether my culture survived that process. Or maybe I misunderstood. But I started it four years ago and it's a gorgeous thing.

I agree, though, that sourdough is, as Jackal noted, way more forgiving than commercial yeast which surprised me once I got used to using it. Apart from producing the best breads I've ever had, it's actually easier in many ways, once you get used to the process. And once past the hurdle of figuring out how to activate and feed and use, a sourdough is, ironically, turning out to be simpler in pretty significant ways. At least that's so for me. You wouldn't have been able to convince me of that even a couple of years ago.

I still consider myself a novice. And I wish I'd had this forum to consult when I started!


Edited by devlin (log)

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G,

My money is on you. With jack on your side you can't lose!

Even if the bread is less than you'd hoped for you'll learn so much that you'll call it success anyway.


If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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Hmm...maybe the starter is not yet fully active.

No worries, just give the preferment a few more hours, if you can.

and refresh the starter (throw out half, add another 100gm flour and 100gm water0, leave out (ideally 30C but room temperature will do) for 24 hours.

Actually this part of England has less rain than the Negev, and people are seriously worrying about a drought this summer.

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