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Sourdough Bread Troubleshooting (Part 1)


adrober
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Funny. I haven't tried warm temperatures but cool ones only. And the bread is coming out consistently very good. I never considered 85F or higher as this doesn't seem to benefit baker's yeast bread, to say the least. The cooler and slower the better, I have been taught. Is this wrong?

I have also generally favored cooler proofing temperatures because I believe this makes for tastier bread. However, Ed Wood says 90-93 degrees will favor the bacteria that produce the lactic acid and I find he is right. For the most part I still like to use a slower, colder rise because I like the flavor, which is not really that sour but has a nice complexity and texture. I often don’t bake for many weeks at a time, so when I start up again I feed and activate the starter at 80-85 degrees for a day or so (maybe more depending on how long it’s been). This brings out some acidity, but not as much as I find in most commercially baked sourdough. However, if you raise the temperature to 93 degrees, the acidity really takes off. This also makes the yeast really active, which then makes it hard to catch the yeast at just the right point so that upon baking they will make the bread rise. The really sour breads come out kind of flat. I suspect some of the commercial sourdough producers enhance the acidity of their product without sacrificing texture by either adding lactic acid to the dough or by adding other strains of yeast to a starter that has mostly lactic acid producing bacteria and not much viable yeast (or some other method… although I would hope they’re not adding rotten milk).

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I recall watching a show with Julia Child--I think it was "Baking With Julia"--and her guest was a professional baker who made her own starter for her bakery. Her way of creating a starter was rather unique. She used flour and grapes. IIRC she placed a bunch of grapes, stems and all, into a jar slightly crushing them with a wooden spoon. Then she added flour. Over several days as the grapes broke down I think she kept added a little more flour each day and stirred it a little. At the end she had her starter and I remember that Julia was quite impressed. Anyone ever hear of this method? Do you think this method would increase the acidity?

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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I recall watching a show with Julia Child--I think it was "Baking With Julia"--and her guest was a professional baker who made her own starter for her bakery.  Her way of creating a starter was rather unique.  She used flour and grapes.  IIRC she placed a bunch of grapes, stems and all, into a jar slightly crushing them with a wooden spoon.  Then she added flour.  Over several days as the grapes broke down I think she kept added a little more flour each day and stirred it a little.  At the end she had her starter and I remember that Julia was quite impressed.  Anyone ever hear of this method? Do you think this method would increase the acidity?

I've actually made a starter this way. I don't think it contributes to making the starter any more sour. The reason for using the grapes can be two-fold. One, yeast live on the grape skins. Two, the grapes have natural sugar that feeds the yeast. I've read both reasons in different publications. Who knows which is the more acurate! :wink: I think I got the recipe for using the grapes from Nancy Silverton's "Bread from La Brea Bakery". But I could be mistaken.

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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Fifty dollars is right.

Please use only flour and waer for your starter and keep it at about 90F to encourage the right bugs. Takes about a week from nothing to get going. The yeast on grapes is a different sort and will give you a quick fizz, then die as it runs out of grape juice.

Ascorbic acid is used in baking dor a differnt purpose. In low doses, (0.01%) it acts as an oxidiser and flour conditioner

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I think I got the recipe for using the grapes from Nancy Silverton's "Bread from La Brea Bakery". But I could be mistaken.

Nancy Silverton was the baker on the Baking With Julia show referenced. I've made starter her way and from a simple flour/water mix and her way was not any better.

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I think I got the recipe for using the grapes from Nancy Silverton's "Bread from La Brea Bakery". But I could be mistaken.

Nancy Silverton was the baker on the Baking With Julia show referenced. I've made starter her way and from a simple flour/water mix and her way was not any better.

You're right! I didn't notice that the grape starter was any more robust than one made with flour and water, but it was a fun experiment anyway.

Just a simple southern lady lost out west...

"Leave Mother in the fridge in a covered jar between bakes. No need to feed her." Jackal10

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You can use sour salt or citric acid (in the kosher foods section at your supermarket) to get a sourer taste in your sourdough or rye bread.

However, you do not add it to the starter.....

Measure out a cup of the flour and into it you mix just 1/2 teaspoon of sour salt.

Prepare your starter ahead of time then measure out the amount you need for your recipe.

Add the majority of the flour and other ingredients, mix and knead well - it should be sticky.

NOW add the remaining cup of flour and sour salt, continue kneading until the dough is smooth and silky.

Follow the rest of the recipe as instructed.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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For a recent chapter in an upcoming book on cowboy cooking, it wasn't until we put a lump of dough, water and flour, outside on the back deck, lightly coverd, that we triumphed with a perfect sourdough starter. I live in Houston, where the temperature matches the optimum range mentioned above. I knew from past work that you can grow really good yogurt outside or in one's car here. And creating a sourdough starter outside instead of on top of the refrigerator or inside the refrigerator is just what the doctor ordered.

Edited by Jay Francis (log)
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Temperatures of 85 to 90 degrees F encourage bacterial activity and the production of lactic acid. However, with a higher yeast activity, fermentation is more difficult to control. This is one reason many bakers refrigerate the dough -- to regain control-- but it is not actually control, it is suppression of fermentation that is truly taking place. Refrigeration's lower temperatures also encourage the production of acetic acid resulting in a more pronounced sour flavor which many people prefer.

Temperatures between 75 - 78 degrees F result in a more controled fermentation, proper dough development, and the production of balanced aromas (flavor).

In a professional setting, the 75 -78 degree range is preferred when a balanced flavor (between the lactic acid & the acetic acid) is desired. Home bakers might have a different schedule, but the same results can be achieved.

If bread is made of flour and water (and it is), then the starter should be made of flour and water. Grapes are not necessary; there are enough carbohydrates in flour to sustain the starter and enough yeast on the grain to promote fermentation.

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I experimented this weekend with two loaves. I mixed them in the food processor using the poolish starter, icewater, salt and flour. Then I refrigerated them immediately, a la pain d'lancienne.

A day later, today, I bulk fermented and proofed them out in the 84F porch. Then I baked them.

I am looking forward to seeing if the bread is tastier. One thing I did notice is that the crust is darker, like the baker's yeast pain d'lancienne I have made before.

True, two factors were different, making this experiment rather difficult to interpret, but I will enjoy the bread regardless...

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I have to admit I take a much more...Pioneer attitude toward bread baking.

I have been sort of working with a formula posted by Glenn a while back for a pullman loaf, except being American I dont do metric, and being lazy I dont have a scale and my math isnt very good either. So I took his formula put it into ounces then turned that into cups, which never works for flour so I just add enough to make dough....

Ahh but today I gave that dough 6 hours rising time and nothing...well almost nothing but it was getting late so I baked it. It rose quite a bit in the oven. Then I cut it hot because I wanted some.

Its really good but probabley no longer has anything to do with Glenn's raisin bread :blush:

the meaning of this...I dunno "eat more bread"

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the bread that I let rise outside in the hot weather wasn't sour tasting. I will go back to my refrigerator method.

However, it was very tasty, due to the use of icewater and pain l'ancienne method of immediately refrigerating after mixing. Creamy tasting. Excellent! This idea is a keeper, but I will next time retard a second time before or after proofing. I think this does make it more sour than fermenting at a higher temperature does.

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Fifty dollars is right.

Please use only flour and waer for your starter and keep it at about 90F to encourage the right bugs. Takes about a week from nothing to get going. The yeast on grapes is a different sort and will give you a quick fizz, then die as it runs out of grape juice.

Ascorbic acid is used in baking dor a differnt purpose. In low doses, (0.01%) it acts as an oxidiser and flour conditioner

Jack - can I just ask whether you use rye flour or just regular? I must admit I'm thoroughly confused about sourdough - not least because your expert advice seems to to contradict Dan Lepard's books, which recommend raisins to supply the yeast (rather than relying on anything airborne or on the flour itself) along with yoghurt.

Also, a little off-topic, but I've never been entirely sure whether it's necessary to leave the starter uncovered if placing in the fridge to lie dormant for longer periods. I'm assuming this would be a Bad Thing for the rest of the fridge's contents, but then last time I tried sealing the container all I managed was to get every colour of the rainbow in my starter.

restaurant, private catering, consultancy
feast for the senses / blog

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I keep my starter into the fridge in a cover container.I am not baking as much lately and I occasionally refresh it ( its made with water and rye flour by the way ),its been there for a while now and sometimes I even forgot about it :raz: , and its always fine, gives me a good raise etc, as the color mine tend to be darker on the top as I think its normal oxidation (?), just dig in and when refresh it I get the top out and refresh the bottom .I have to say I am impress to see how resiliant the starter is , but Jackal told me so and we have learned he is quite the pro here :wink: .

Vanessa

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! use only plain unbleached flour and water in my starter, My view is that adding raisins, yogurt, grapes, old boots, or anything else just makes it take longer to reach a stable culture. You can use rye if you want a rye culture.

I always cover the starter in the fridge. I keep it in a canning jar with a clip on lid ("le parfait") http://thecookskitchen.com/browse_2553 . These are designed to gas out, but not in, but snapwrap would do just as well.

Most of the flavour is added from the preferment, not the main dough, so if you want sour bread ferment out the preferment for longer, like 24 hours.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Jack, Vanessa - thanks for the advice. Time to try again! Hopefully a little more care wiping excess mix from the top of the container will keep those neon molds at bay.

I'm wondering why you're having this sort of response from your starter. Are you using only flour and water? Or are you using something else as well. If you're using only flour and water, there shouldn't be a mold issue at all (or not that I can imagine).

I refrigerate my starter (flour and water) in a canning jar with the usual screw top lid. It's the method Ed Wood (Classic Sourdoughs) suggests.

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my rules are I never feed starter anything except water and flour.

To start a new bread loaf, I will take a few tablespoons of my starter and put it in a bowl and add 1 cup of flour and some water to make a stiff batter. I will leave it in the kitchen at room temperature for a day, then refrigerate overnight. The next morning I will take out, warm up a little, and then mix my bread dough with it. I will let the bread dough rise at cool room temperature all day (in the basement) and then shape and refrigerate overnight to begin proofing. The next day I'll remove the loaves, let them proof longer if needed, and bake.

This makes the bread acceptably sour.

If I don't refrigerate the starter overnight, the bread isn't as sour. I just made a batch that way and noticed the difference.

So that to me is the key: let the yeasties do their thing at room temperature, then refrigerate a good long time, which as I understand it puts the yeast into dormancy but lets the bacteria continue multiplying, generating those tasty acids.

This is exactly what I do as well, based on the instructions given here by Jackal10. Actually I have two lovely boules in the fridge right now to be baked as soon as I get home this evening.

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I'm wondering why you're having this sort of response from your starter. Are you using only flour and water? Or are you using something else as well. If you're using only flour and water, there shouldn't be a mold issue at all (or not that I can imagine).

I refrigerate my starter (flour and water) in a canning jar with the usual screw top lid. It's the method Ed Wood (Classic Sourdoughs) suggests.

I got the mold on a batch made with the raisins and yoghurt, so hopefully it shouldn't be an issue next time around. :smile:

restaurant, private catering, consultancy
feast for the senses / blog

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Starter storage jar. Can't say I do anything special. Mostly it gets forgotten between bakes (weeks) and the hooch layer seperates. Don't seem to have a mold problem. I suspect they are worse with young starters. Once they are mature they are very tough.

gallery_7620_135_9738.jpggallery_7620_135_590.jpg

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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! use only plain unbleached  flour and water in my starter, My view is that adding raisins, yogurt, grapes, old boots, or anything else just makes it take longer to reach a stable culture. You can use rye if you want a rye culture.

I always cover the starter in the fridge. I keep it in a canning jar with a clip on lid ("le parfait") http://thecookskitchen.com/browse_2553 . These are designed to gas out, but not in, but snapwrap would do just as well.

Most of the flavour is added from the preferment, not the main dough, so if you want sour bread ferment out the preferment for longer, like 24 hours.

I would like to add that it can be beneficial to a sluggish starter to displace 5% of the bread flour with rye flour for one or two feeding cycles to reinvigorate the activity.

In addition, some bakers will start a culture with half rye and half bread flour, and wean the culture of the rye as feedings progress to speed things up.

I concur with jackal10, as always, that a culture is best made with flour and water; nothing else is necessary, or desirable for that matter.

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I'm wondering why you're having this sort of response from your starter. Are you using only flour and water? Or are you using something else as well. If you're using only flour and water, there shouldn't be a mold issue at all (or not that I can imagine).

I refrigerate my starter (flour and water) in a canning jar with the usual screw top lid. It's the method Ed Wood (Classic Sourdoughs) suggests.

I got the mold on a batch made with the raisins and yoghurt, so hopefully it shouldn't be an issue next time around. :smile:

Egad!... Next time, yes, only flour and water, and keep the raisins and yogurt for breakfast. :biggrin:

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Starter storage jar. Can't say I do anything special. Mostly it gets forgotten between bakes (weeks) and the hooch layer seperates. Don't seem to have a mold problem. I suspect they are worse with young starters. Once they are mature they are very tough.

gallery_7620_135_9738.jpggallery_7620_135_590.jpg

Now there's a pretty picture. Looks much like my jar of culture, paste and all.

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  • 4 weeks later...
! use only plain unbleached  flour and water in my starter, My view is that adding raisins, yogurt, grapes, old boots, or anything else just makes it take longer to reach a stable culture. You can use rye if you want a rye culture.

I always cover the starter in the fridge. I keep it in a canning jar with a clip on lid ("le parfait") http://thecookskitchen.com/browse_2553 . These are designed to gas out, but not in, but snapwrap would do just as well.

Most of the flavour is added from the preferment, not the main dough, so if you want sour bread ferment out the preferment for longer, like 24 hours.

I would like to add that it can be beneficial to a sluggish starter to displace 5% of the bread flour with rye flour for one or two feeding cycles to reinvigorate the activity.

In addition, some bakers will start a culture with half rye and half bread flour, and wean the culture of the rye as feedings progress to speed things up.

I concur with jackal10, as always, that a culture is best made with flour and water; nothing else is necessary, or desirable for that matter.

Hmmm - lots of recipes suggest grapes, raisins - or even potato peelings - but they have never workewd for me either. The only thing that did was using some natural yoghurt as suggested by dan lepard. I think that some additional acitdity helps to prevent mold - and I've read somewhere that a little pineapple juice works well - but can't say for sure.

My current starter has been going for about a year - has been left in the fridge for months on end in the middle - and now is plit between our flat & a shared holiday house - seems to revive very well... It makes very nice medium sour white bread - and is working nicely at the moment for the BBA Pain Poilaine.

dan

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      Place the vinegar, sugar and pickling spices in a 4-quart Pyrex or other microwavable container (the large Pyrex measure works very well)
      Microwave on high for 15 to 20 minutes. [if a microwave is not available, simmer the syrup in a narrow saucepan on the stovetop, over low heat, for the same length of time.] Allow the syrup to cool. Strain the syrup and discard the spices.
      ASSEMBLE THE PICKLES:
      Place one wide-mouth quart canning jar (or two wide-mouth pint jars) with their lids in a pot of water to cover, place over medium heat and bring the water to a simmer (180 degrees). Remove the pot from the heat and allow jar(s) and lid(s) to remain in the hot water until needed.
      *After the 4 hours are up (crisping the vegetables as described above) pour the vegetables into a large colander and rinse well. The cucumber slices should taste only slightly salty. Return the rinsed vegetables to the bowl, add the mustard seeds and celery seeds and toss well until evenly distributed. Set aside.
      Return the syrup to the microwave, microwave on high for 8 to 10 minutes [or heat the syrup on the stovetop] until an instant read thermometer shows the temperature of the syrup is 190 to 200 degrees.
      Place the vegetables into one wide-mouth quart jar, or in 2 wide-mouth pint
      jars that have been scalded as described above. Pour the syrup over the vegetables, place the lids on the jar or jars, tighten well and place in the refrigerator overnight.
      The following day, turn the jar upside down - then continue to turn every day for 2 weeks. (This is to insure that the pickles are evenly flavored)
      After 2 weeks open the jar and taste. The pickles should be ready to eat.
      Pickles will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 months.
      ( RG2154 )
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