I am trying to add sourdough bread to the varieties I bake.
I believe my starter is good (very bubbly and I pay attention to it.) But I am having problems in the next 2 stages.
In the 2 recipes I have tried, the first step is to create a "sponge" using the starter. Once the sponge is mixed, it should be placed in a warm place to proof for 8-12 hours. In the next step the remaining ingredients are added and the mixture is left to rise for another period. In both recipes, it is said that I should see significant rising. Enough to be noticeable.
My problem: my sponge does not increase in bulk in any perceptible manner. And therefore neither does my mixture in step 2. I did try to bake it both times to see if it would rise it remained too dense even though the flavor was good.
My sourdough starter was purchased...but wait as the TV salesman proclaims. There is a great difference in dry yeasts. What I have done is to maintain the starter culture weekly with the action of throwing away or using half the starter mix. Since my starter is maintained using one cup of flour and half a cup of water letting it work full up to a rise that doubles and then some I use half the fresh working culture knowing that half will be about a cup leaving about one fourth to start and make the new starter. This when fully doubled can be held in the fridge for a week after which you must use it again or toss about a cup full out and feed it again with another cup of flour and half a cup of water containing no chlorine or bromides found in public water sources.
In a five to six loaf batter I use one cup of starter and one teaspoon full of good quality dry yeast with one tablespoon full of sugar and two tablespoons full of honey. Whole grain flour requires or may need a tablespoon full of added gluten per cup of full grain flour to help the rise.
Another problem may be that you could be using to much water leaving you with a soft dough. Cut back on your water to get a stiffer dough that is approaching being harder. The rise in the begining may be your oven light and one minute of the oven set for 400 degrees. This should double in about an hour get knocked down panned and doubled again before you bake. When handling for the bake you will lose some of the rise. Be sure you oven is back up to bake at 425 degrees before entering the pans for the bake.
Before the bake I cut a half inch slit in the top of the loaf. I cover the loaf or loaves with foil just over top of the loves for fifteen minutes. The dough will rise again but have difficulty browning. Remove the foil and brush the top with butter to get a real nice browing. You now have a butter top loaf.
I had trouble just like you and this is how I whooped it into a success. You may add half a cup of multi grain reground to course texture and a cup of course oatmeal. I would not do this untill you get a decent loaf using just the flour. I use King Arthur flour for bread which is very high quality and their whole wheat by removing just one cup of white flour and adding whole wheat.
I think in this flow of comments you will find your answers. My source for gluten and dry yeast is King Arthur by mail order. The flours are in our grocery stores. I firmly believe they are the best money can buy...quality wise.
Let me know by Dmail how your next batch comes out. I may miss your comments here.
Good Question. Some bottled waters are just tap water, labels lie or mislead. Marketing, y'know... Distilled water IS chlorine free, but it is also Dead Water and I will only use it in my steam iron on the rare occasions I actually iron anything! I buy drinking water, refilling my several 3 gallon jugs from a natural foods store that uses a Reverse Osmosis procedure. 39˘ a gallon, higher than city water but much cheaper than bottled water.
Chlorine is supposed to evaporate in 24 hours if left out in an uncovered jar of tap water. My thoughts about that are that there is still a very high level of scale (hard minerals) remaining in the water...
We also have a small amount of rat poison chemicals for teeth which I prefer to not have in my baking water. This chemical does not evaporate out. It is not in bottled water. I am healthwise to frail to make bread by hand. I use a Kitchen Aid with dough hook to do the hard work and have had no failures since doing the mixing with mechanical help. I do have more difficulty with the rises and handling of the dough if I get the dough to wet. No one can nail down the hydration because of humidity changes day to day. If in doubt try it a bit drier. Roughly speaking you should be able to handle the dough and not have it to be soft and sticky. Each baker has to learn this simply by doing bread until you understand what is best for your daily situation. I just did everything the same making very small changes until success appeared. No coach or book can show you this. Likewise every make of flour is different and it's physical make up changes when the humidiy changes where you are working. Becoming a baker is more learning and doing than taking coaching...however being with someone who has learned well is a definate advantage in the begining. We have a Now We Are Cooking franchise store that runs one night schools. I go to the baking classes when my health permits. Our classes are priced at fifty to seventy five bucks for a hands on up close class.
I worked my way through a large portion of my college years at a commercial bakery. When the term "proof" was used it meant something very spcific. The product was placed in a special environment where temperature and especially humidity were tightly controlled.
When I proof bread at home I probably pay more attention to the temperature aspect than humidity. Actually, other than placing a warm towel over my bowl, I don't even think about it.
BB, my personal experience is that temp. makes a BIG difference in proofing (unless doing a long overnight proof) and humidity less a factor once the dough is covered in a bowl. Humidity in the flour is a factor in the addition of water, though.
Proofing is done by me...in an oil sprayed glass bowl covered with seran wrap. I warm the oven with the oven light and set the oven temperature on for "one minute" at 400 degrees. The oven is then turned off. Nearly perfect proofing is done in home baking this way. The bowl cover maintains the moisture or humidity to just about perfect. This does not relate to commercial baking which produces a whole different product under extremely carefull control of all elements. This of course assumes that the bowl is large enough to permit doubling. Our largest bowl in a bowl set handles a five to seven cup dough nicely.The proofing both times in pre-ferment doughs is aproximately one hour each time. Your commercial bakers can not or do not devote this much time in process. Again the doubling is more important than the specific time to achieve the proof. My second proofing is sometimes done in a reed basket which requires a floured surface not an oil spray coating. The proofing in the basket pushes into the basket weave design and adds interest to the sides and bottom of the proofed dough.
This type of handling is best done by baking on a baking stone base to create an artisen loaf. The baking stone pulls moisture out of the bottom of the loaf and gives the baker a crisp bottom crust. Pizza can not be made better than when done on these stones. This assumes you like a crispy crust.
Yes 400 degrees for one minute brings your proof box up to just about perfect for the first proofing. If you do not do this the thermal mass of the oven will not be warm enough to give the best proofing. This tip came from King Arthur's whole grain bread baking book. I have the oven light on while I make the dough. The dough goes into the oven. Then I stand there watching my wrist watch and turn off the 400 degree boost immediately after the minute is used up.
Nothing would please me more than to see anyone reaching out there for a quality loaf of bread while saving money and learning another skill at the same time. It is the opinion of many that any pre-ferment or sourdough bread is the best you can eat. At the markets you will pay upwards to five dollars for a pre-ferment process loaf of bread. Your cost exclusive of labor considerations might be a dollar a loaf. You are reaching for gormet bread that makes just super toast or toasted sandwiches. If you have time to do it I doubt you will ever go back to Wonder Bread...which is not bread anyway. It is closer to being a lifeless loaf of air and flour loaded with goodies many will not put in their food program. I actually wonder how they call it bread. You are working on a very good and healthy loaf of bread.
It is well worth the 39 or 50 cents per gallon for clean drinking water that has been through an RO filter. In addition to the chlorine or bromine, there are also lots of pharmaceuticals in our tap water these days as the water treatment plants aren't setup to remove these.
In our area, the water district uses chloramine, which needs a special filter to remove. Chloramine can't be boiled off or evaporated off.
You might enjoy these articles on the slow ferments and the havoc wreaked by the fast loaf:
Bread Dread: Are you Really Gluten Intolerant?
Quoting: One of the very first actions these corporate bakers were to take was to introduce the fast loaf (3 hours from start to finish), effectively eliminating the need for half, or one entire shift, of their labour force. This was actually required by a new law called The Bread Act.
This seemingly innocuous cost-cutting decision would relentlessly impact and compromise the health of each and every bread lover since – that’s virtually everybody since the 50’s – and would cause countless deaths, bestow myriad miseries, as it continues to do. The first act of a major tragedy that still plays, everywhere, everyday.
Very basic bread that had once been fermented for a healthy 8 hours or more was now brewing in just 2 hours! Yeast levels were increased, accelerants and proving agents introduced. Glutens, starches and malts were not given the remotest opportunity to convert to their digestible potentials, in a sickly anti-nutrient-laden, gluepot stew. Breads are still made this way, even the so-called health breads!
Fast-made bread is one of the most destructive implementations into the modern diet. It has become normal fare, and poorly-prepared and poorly-digested wheat is the chief contributor to the current plague of “gluten-intolerance”, obesity, diabetes, candida diseases and many allergenic conditions.
Quoting: Whilst 6 hours is the minimum ferment time, longer is better, allowing the activated enzymes t-i-m-e to do their priceless work.
So I prefer the overnight ferment, creating the dough at sunset, which means you get a loaf of 12>16 hours’ fermentation. But at a squeeze, you can make a dough at 7am, and bake it in the evening. Remember, the longer the ferment, the more nutritious and digestible the bread.
Forgot to mention, if you still wind up with a dough that is too heavy, consider making a flat bread instead of a loaf. Just roll it out and bake stovetop on a griddle. You can cover it with a lid after you flip sides to help it rise a bit.
This has been a good thread with lots of proceedures discussed. Now garden-mermaid shows us the why we prefer to bake our own. I too was an advertising person for a major white bread baker...largest in the east. While they correctly advertised the old fashioned ferment base they did use the fast sponge ferment. Yet the loaf was more than eight hours in process. That would be the American Company Stroehman Bakers using a franchise bread dough process with the Sunbeam Image and others where territories overlapped. It was a home town company to me and a great employer to work for. Times and ownerships change. The Stroehman Images are now owned by a Canadian firm and up for sale again. It is still a great loaf of commercial bread...as good as commercial comes but I wonder how long the quality will continue to be maintained. My stock was bought back in prior to the sale to the Canadians. Big smile on that deal too. The only thing I have missed are the original ownership family and their mostly home area executives. At this point I bake about two thirds of the bread we eat. My wisdom is narrow because I only bake pre-ferments or sour dough breads.
Persons wishing to get a good start can order it from King Arthur. It comes with simple to follow instuctions. They presently have "in my opinion" the best product line which includes books, high quality flour (found in many super markets) and many boosters or dough improvers all of which are not modern processing products. Once you have a purchased start it will always become your starter over several weeks in your house. There is no need to continue purchasing starter...ever unless you lose it from not maintaining the active starter. I would gladly share my starter but their mailorder price will work out to cost less considering handling involved. I think ten bucks or less will get the good starter into your hands from them.
King Arthur is on line with all of their products. Buy the flour locally for less in most instances. Their books are excellent. All processes are tested continually in their bakery. If you get stuck with a problem you can call and talk to a real professional baker in their employmentI . The company is now employee owned and one of the very best in my opinion. They are certainly one fine company today. You will never be sorry dealing with them today. I do not think their quality can be beat by any other firm. Be prepaired to pay a little more for that best and to get a better product because you do. I may purchase forty or fifty bucks worth of "stuff" a quarter but I am treated like any other buyer when I call for product or occasional help.
g_m, thanks... I have read that same text elsewhere (not on an Australian site).
I feel like I am going in too many directions at once with my 'learning fermentation' tangents... kefir, wanting to make cheese, making my own sourdough starter from scratch, learning to bake GOOD bread (not there yet)...reading Sandor Katz, and the List goes on!
All the Virginia Gals I ever knew were blond, five foot two, eyes of blue and baked a dandy loaf of bread could fry left over grits and country ham just right. Most of them were keepers. You deside if I meant the gals or the food. ]:o )
That's where I got my recipe. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, by all means go. He is a very engaging, animated and knowledgeable person. Have you tried any of his veggie ferments? I'm still trying to get a combo I like.
Once again, thanks for all the info! This is a great thread.
BB, haven't tried any veggie ferments yet. I did buy 2 good sized Harsch crocks though.
There was a fellow on DG when I first joined who did ferments. His screen name was Roger, and he lived in Europe somewhere, maybe Belgium? I forget. Anyway, he and his wife supported themselves by doing a farmer's market several days a week. They made and sold over 100 kinds of fermented veggie combinations.
Ahhhh...Harsch crocks...how do Iove thee, let me count the ways.
Now if Santa would just bring me one of my own. That's the salt in the wound when our elders pass on. In addition to losing our loved one, the cookware passes on too, too often to another member of the family.
BB, when you finally get your own Harsch crock, you won't be able to go back to plastic, food grade or otherwise.
I lost what I fermented from the last fall garden stuff... the water in the lid ring kept evaporating overnight, even fully filled. Finally found (as the batch spoiled) that all 3 cats preferred to drink the water from the lid, LOL. So now I have a safe, cool place for my crocks. But man, they are heavy when filled!
Yes, they are heavy. Grandma had a storage bench in the pantry where she kept the crocks at a comfortable working height. They would be moved to the sink for cleaning, then replaced on the bench and refilled insitu. She didn't need to move them when they were full.
My starter is kept in the crock behind the breads. Between baking days it is kept at about forty degrees. The starter is two cups of fermented flour. I use one cup or roughly half by eye ball then add a cup of flour and water to work for the next baking. Depending on the day it ferments for twelve to eighteen hours before being placed in a forty degree environment where it will stay good for a little more than a week. If I do not bake within a week I throw away about half and re-feed the starter.
Is it too late to get in on this thread? I have never made a sourdough starter using yeast, but this year I am thinking about it. My usual starter didn't work well last time. Fermented fine, then the sponge was awesome, at the last addition (flour water and salt) the rising stopped. Wondering if I used too much salt (I think that could cause it) or if it is because I use good old filtered cistern water for all my baking. It doesn't seem to affect any other breads, but I wonder...
I saved the fallen dough in the freezer and add it to the starter made with potato water to get a good flavor, so at least it wasn't a waste.
I wouldn't suspect the cistern water. I don't use my own tap water; instead I buy water (in 3 gallon refillable jugs) that has gone through a Reverse Osmosis treatment. I use it for all drinking, cooking, and coffee.
So, it would have to be the salt, or some accidental exposure to something airborne? I know salt affects yeast.
How long did you let it rise after adding the other ingredients? How much salt to how much flour?
Salt does retard the yeast, so if you need the dough to take a longer rise to fit your baking schedule, you can add more salt.
I used the rcommended salt - 2 t, but I used raw island (sea) salt, and that may have been too concentrated. I let it raise for over 18 hours and stopped. I do a LOT of cooking when the bread is rising (natural yeasts?) and can't think of what airborne may have gotten in. I guess I'll just try again. It is usually too humid here to get the starter going on the countertop - I grow great mold!!! Thanks for the input!
Interesting. If "raw island sea salt" means you gathered your own, I doubt that would be the issue.
Has anything else changed? Was the flour the same? Anything different in the treatment of your cistern water? Did your starter receive its regular feedings in between bakings? Was the room temperature higher than usual? Have your neighbors sprayed anything on their landscaping recently?
I once grabbed a bag of bleached flour by accident. Decided to use it anyway rather than drive back to the store. This resulted in a live demo of how the bleaching agents in the flour will wreak havoc on a good starter.
Well...this time I used organic rye flour for the starter, recommended by a friend who was a baker. It worked best for the starter, and as I said the sponge was perfect. I didn't feed the starter, as it was the first batch and I used it to make the bread - I rarely keep the starter going as I bake so many other breads that I don't get around to sourdough again for a month or so, and forget to keep feeding it. I just give myself 5 days notice and start a new starter.
I don't really have any neighbors, so spraying wouldn't come into the mix, but thinking back we were probably mixing concrete at the time so maybe cement dust was in the air?...
I will just try it again, and see what happens.
I did an experiement last year and baked a batch or sourdough in widemouth pint jars, then put on the lids right out of the oven. Just opened one after a year and no mold - tasted fresh!! Fun shelf-stable party bread!! Thought that might interest someone...
My mother used to bake zucchini bread and Boston Brown bread in canning jars, and we are all still kicking. (Well, she's dead, but not from that!) I thought about doing it myself, but 2-3 years ago I read on the USDA canning site that they recommend against it for food safety. I don't recall if they mentioned regular bread (as opposed to a dense fruity "cake") though.
Back in those good 'ole days there were at least one brand of very wide mouthed jars. I have not seen them lately not even in country sales. Likely if you found them the lids would be a problem to locate. I have done similar baking by using coffee tins and then adding a baggie for moisture retension in the freezing process.
An entertaining fun bake can be made by permitting the coffee tin to proof above the top of the can. The net result will look like a giant mushroom. Creatively presented with finger foods this makes an interesting fun table presentation. I just fill the coffee tin to about 75% for the second proofing. I use spray oil to greese the tin.
I still like clay pots and purchase a good many of those .89 four inch China pots. I make up stuff for gifting and swaps in them. I enamel paint the body of the pot and it goes out looking like three times the money. The cheepie pot is a goes with.
I have gotten it down man! Yes, that's right, I can now make sourdough bread. I made a successful starter after reading about it in Nancy Silverton's "Breads from the La Brea Bakery." She suggests using grapes to help get the starter growing with their natural yeasts.
I didn't have any grapes so I used a few raisins. I also used Hogson Mills rye flour at some of the feedings, but mostly used bread flour. You must feed it several times a day, for a week or longer, pouring off some of the starter to avoid accumulating too much, but keep about a quart going. Stir the new flour in well to entrain some air in it. If everything goes well the starter will become bubbly, even foamy at times. The consistency should be kept about as thick as pancake batter or a milkshake.
When you are not going to be able to keep up the feeding schedule, put it in the fridge. I currently keep my finished starter in a large plastic mayonnaise jar, with the lid on loosely. According to the book, it will be okay in the fridge without feeding for a month.
When you are going to want to bake, take it out and allow it to begin warming to room temperature and then feed it. When it is digesting the new flour it will get bubbly again and increase in volume. In fact if it is vigorous it will say "Feed me! Feed me!"
To use it I pour two cups into my large bread mixing bowl, add a cup of water, and about a cup of flour, and mix thoroughly with a wire whisk. This is the sponge or biga. Cover it with a towel and leave it alone for an hour or so until it gets bubbly. Once it gets bubbly, you can start adding flour to make your bread. Wait to add salt till dough is almost done but still wet enough to absorb it well. Feed the original starter remaining in the jar so when you put it back in the fridge you will have two or three cups ready for next time.
Also, I add a pinch of ascorbic acid to the sponge as yeast needs a slightly acidic environment to grow best. I also put a pinch in the starter once. Use your eyes to judge when dough has doubled, if you let it rise too long it won't have any oven spring. I find the process can be started mid morning and the loaf will be ready for the oven by 5 or 6 pm.
Yes, Andidandi, I have made pancakes. Extremely tender, but I am not totally satisfied with the taste of plain sourdough. The addition of Bob's Red Mill buckwheat or 10 grain pancake mix makes for a more interesting taste.
Incidentally, Nancy Silverton in her book "Breads from the La Brea Bakery" has sections on making whole wheat and rye starters. She says whole grain starters are tricky and unforgiving and require different procedures, hence the different sections devoted to each. I have not read much beyond the directions for making the basic white starter.
N.S.'s recipe for waffles calls for starting the night before with milk, butter, brown sugar, flour and salt added to the starter. Next morning batter is completed with eggs, oil and baking soda. Haven't made them yet.
I made a deep-dish pan pizza last week that ended up being about 1 & 1/2 inches thick.