Adventures in Sourdough

Again, I am sorry for the late release! My school schedule is interfering with my blog much too efficiently. The worst part is that I had the post written earlier today and just needed to add photos before posting and noticed as I was about to get into bed that I had forgotten to complete the entry. Without much further ado, please enjoy my first sourdough post.

Since I love sourdough and have a breadmaker, I figured I needed to get to where I can stop buying San Francisco Sourdough from the grocery store. About 5 days ago, I got a dry sourdough starter from Kitty Sharkey. It had been sitting in her kitchen for a while but she’d never

I’m working off of this recipe from King Arthur Flour.

July 5, 2011: Attempt No. 1

Attempt No. 1- Dough on the sheet

First, I cut the recipe in half. I(not knowing any better) used whole wheat flour not white. The dough was very dry and I added an unknown quantity of water to get better texture. I think the dough was still too dry but i didn’t want to deviate that far from the recipe. I think I mismeasured the flour or something becasue it shouldn’t have been so dry. I set the dough to rise in a pyrex bowl for one hour and was thrilled when it seemed to have doubled in size. I pulled it out of the bowl and all the air when right out of it. Crap. The recipe calls to let it rise again so I put it on a baking sheet and let it go for another 45 minutes. One problem. It didn’t really rise again. Nope, it spread laterally though. Didn’t get any flatter, just spread out. Weird… but I decided to bake it anyway. It needs more gluten for sure if I’m going to use all whole wheat flour. The loaf  turned out very flat, dense, chewy, and not very sour but hearty. I ate some with butter and jelly and it wasn’t too bad. It tasted a little yeasty though which makes me wonder.

Attempt No. 1 - A bread flavored brick

July 7, 2011: Attempt No. 2

Same recipe but this time I used half whole wheat flour and half white  and added 1tbsp vital wheat gluten. I didn’t feel like heating the whole house to bake what might well turn out to be a brick, so I’m baking in the bread maker. The dough turned out a MUCH better texture this time and I was very hopeful. I put it to rise in the bread-maker pan and decided I wouldn’t try to move it for fear of deflation. So much for that. In trying to get it into the bread machine the jerk from getting the pan into the clamps deflated the dough substantially. I actually HEARD the air go out of it. Sadface.

Attempt No. 2 - Deflated but doing okay

But, miraculously, the bread worked! It could still stand to be improved, but it’s much less dense and isn’t too crumbly. It didn’t taste as yeasty as the first loaf and rose much more. It’s still chewy, but I like that in a sourdough loaf. The crust didn’t turn out particularly nicely but its got a good crunch to it which is a goooood start.

Attempt No. 2 - Looks like bread alright!

July 10, 2011: Attempt No. 3

This one was another half and half loaf using the same ratio as before but I did I full recipe instead of a half. I added two tablespoons of vital wheat gluten and gave it a single rise of an hour and a half. I did this one in the breadmaker again since that seemed to work well last time and I’m really happy with the results! The crust looked much better since I was able to keep it moistened while rising and turned a beautiful golden color. The bread was still a touch crumbly on the inside, but it was nice and moist and light.

Attempt No. 3 - Looks like bread, tastes like bread, must be...

My mother was a baker for many years. She Delivered bread of Bread Workshop in Berkeley when I was very young and got hooked on baking. I just got hooked on fresh bread. She then worked for the Cheeseboard until she helped found the Arizmendi Bakery Cooperative in Oakland in 1997 and worked there until 2004. Sufice to say she’s got a lot of experience with breadmaking and sourdoughs.

Attempt No. 2 vs. 3 - Double recipe and stronger starter

She came over last weekend and gave me some tips for improving my starter and bread and I think it worked. Turns out I’d been feeding it too often but the goo(flour and water mixture) I’d been giving it was too liquidy and not enough of it.  I’m now feeding it about two cups of goo per one cup of starter and the good is very thick; I’m calculating the ratio by equal weights instead of equal volumes which is what my starter recipe had called for. Clearly it’s not the best recipe. Once I started halving the starter at every feeding, giving it a thicker goo and doing so less often it got waaay more active. The whole thing is permeated with bubbles and it tastes nice and sour but in the right way. Not like yogurt or cheese, but like SOURDOUGH! :] Now I’m not afraid it’ll die in the fridge!

The recipe I had been going off of had also stressed that using metal utensils or containers for the starter would somehow weaken or even kill it. I think this might be an old wives tale. I’ve been mixing up my goo with a  fork and stiring it into my starter with the same utensil and it’s doing really well. I’m not going to get a special small wooden spoon just for stirring my sourdough starter and I doubt most people do.

July 15, 2011: Attempt No. 4

Potluck! Time to try out my bread on a bunch of friends and strangers! I made this one with onion kneaded into the dough before letting it rise for an hour. Again the same recipe as above, but I used all white flour this time becasue I was in a rush to get it done. It was lighter and rose more than any of the others had. The slices were tender but stable and didnt crumble despite being handled roughly. The sour flavor was a little better, but I’m hoping it’ll get even stronger as the starter matures.

July 17, 2011: Attemp No. 5

I’m running out of the whole wheat flour so I’m using all white again. Made another full recipe based on the King Arthur Flour site. I think I added a little too much water since the dough was a little wet. I did a one hour rise this time and used a spatula to stir it in the pan it was rising in before giving it a second half hour rise. The starter is definitely getting much better. When I pulled it out of the fridge last night, I was a little worried becasue I saw no bubbles. I left it out overnight to come up to room temperature and this morning it was gorgeous again! Completely bubbly and had grown since the night before when i pulled it out. The bread was a little denser, but still very tender with a really crunchy crust. The texture was great and flavor even better than before. I’m thrilled with the way this bread just keeps getting better and better. I’ll try a new recipe soon and maybe I can go back to experimenting with whole wheat flour now that I’m getting the hang of white flour sourdough.

Attempt No. 3 - From starter to finish

I hope my adventures in sourdough have given a little insight into making sourdough at home. I’ll be sure to add updates on the blog as I learn more. And if anyone wants a bit of starter in the San Francisco East Bay, I’m more than happy to share. Just let me know!