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Thread: Sourdough

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon


    Rather than further hijack the Fry Bread thread, I figured I'd start a new one.

    First up there are a couple of books I really like:

    The Bread Bakers Apprentice:
    This book has a great detail on different bread types and how they should look and feel and how to properly cook them for best results. I don't however use the sourdough starter from it - there are better ways.

    I also found Rienharts other book:
    Whole Grain Breads:
    to be really useful. In this one he really expounds on the details of delayed fermentation and uses it to make some really fantastic whole grain breads.

    Not quite as in depth but still a great book is
    Bread Alone:
    Personally I prefer the Rienhart books (in the order listed mostly) but this is still a really good book.

    Now on to the starter. You can buy a starter and the couple of those I've tried seem to work pretty well so that's definitely the easy option (or get a starter from someone who has one). Making your own from scratch isn't all that hard, you are basically breeding the natural yeast and bugs (lactobacillus primarily - at least ideally..) on the grain up into a culture.

    There are many basic starters and I've only tried making a handful but have settled on a couple I like best. We tried the "dry starter from rye flour" from The Bread Bakers Apprentice and it does work but it goes through a smelly stage, takes a long time and doesn't imho have the "best" flavor (a few years back I did several starters at once and we had a bakeoff / taste comparison over a few weeks to see how/if the flavors changed.. LOTS of bread!). There are two types of "wet" starters I've settled on; the best is a "mash" based starter and a close second is an "acid" based starter. Both last indefinitely if you keep them fed, at least every other week is best more often is better. Interestingly based on my experiments the initial flavors tend to "hold" even after a whole lot of feeding and weeks/months of use (I reckon the initial bugs setup a stable colony and that defines the flavor largely).

    For all of the starters I would strongly recommend the freshest ground whole grain flour you can get - the best is obviously that which you grind yourself; for that I use a "Nutrimill" brand impact mill - reportedly the "whispermill" (maybe sold as "wondermill" now - not sure) is as good - both are noisy but a heck of a lot easier/faster to use than a burr/stone mill and produces fantastically fine flour (grinding bread ready flour on a burr mill in my experience requires multiple passes and you'll definitely be ready for bread afterwards!!). If you can't grind your own grain get some localish whole grain flour (again you are breading bugs so you need to get grain that has bugs on it and fresher grain will have more naturally occurring bugs and produce a healthy culture faster/more reliably).

    Mash starter:
    This is my favorite, it makes a "smooth" sourdough that has a deliciously rich and not to sharp of a flavor. I got this out of one of our breadmaking books might have been the one above but I can't find it now so doing this from memory (which is I'm sure infallible although I've made this enough times its pretty reliable)..

    1 tsp ground barley malt
    1 C fresh flour
    1 1/2C water
    Mix and hold in the oven at 150F for ~2 hours (you are essentially doing a mini mash here)

    Take 3 tbsp of the mash and 3 tbsp of fresh flour and enough water to make a thin paste mix and let set covered on the counter for 12 hours. Store the rest of the mash in the fridge.

    +12 hours
    Add 1 tbsp of the mash and 6 tbsp of flour and enough more water to make a thin slurry (still on the counter)

    +12 hours
    add 1 tbsp of the mash and 12 tbsp of flour and enough more water to make a thin slurry ..

    +12 hours
    Double with flour and water every 12-24 hours until its nice a bubbly and you have "enough". Usually I double it until I have 4-6 cups worth. It should be really bubbly by the 2nd or third day after which you can feed it a bit more often.

    Acid starter
    This recipe uses pineapple juice, I suspect that almost any acid (white vinegar, citric) would do the trick but haven't actually tried others. I believe that this works mostly because the lower PH sets the environment properly for a good culture to get started (most bad bugs can't live very well in a low ph environment). I would avoid apple cider vinegar or other "live culture" vinegars for this at least because they would be mostly acetobacter which you don't want. This makes a slightly sharper starter than the mash starter so if you like a sourer bread this may be one you like better.

    1 Tbsp pineapple juice (less of something more acidic like vinegar)
    3 tbsp fresh flour
    enough water (maybe a tbsp or so) to make a thin slurry

    Double as above using fresh flour.

    Store starter in the fridge when not feeding between uses. I usually try to use enough so I can double it when I feed it and leave it out for ~4-12 hours until its nice and bubbly again. If it gets to sour you need to feed it more and should take a smaller amount and feed it back up through a few doublings.

    Now you have a starter.. More to follow.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    I would probably be remise if I didn't mention Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: I personally found the Reinhart books to be more generally useful but you have to extrapolate a bit on some of the techniques. The Artisan Bread book is pretty straight forward though and a good basis for making some decent breads easily. Essentially they are doing "sourdough" here without the sour so you can substitute in sourdough pretty close to 1:1 in those recipes. For the Reinhart recipes I'm using the sourdough mostly as a replacement for the "biga" (or "poolish") starter and sometimes for both that and the rest of the bread.

    A few things I've done with sourdough (obviously there are a LOT more, you can make darn near any bread with it).

    The key to good Baguettes (and indeed a lot of other french breads) is a hot oven and a slack (wet) dough that is thoroughly "developed" (i.e. the gluten has had plenty of time to get its gluten on). I tend to bake a bit from touch and feel so forgive me if the recipes are a bit on the vague side.

    3C sourdough
    2C flour
    1tsp salt
    1-2 tbsp of oil (I like olive, but others work, grape is also nice)
    enough water to make a "slack" dough. Its hard to overstate how soft the dough should be; it should just barely hold together and be a bit on the oozy side. The nice big holes in french bread (and perhaps even more so many italian breads) are due to steam rising in the oven and if the dough isn't wet enough it won't develop those.

    Mix until.. mixed, doesn't have to be kneaded much maybe stretch and fold 6-8 times..

    Oil a bowl and let the bread rise in it until at least doubled.
    Punch down, stretch and fold another dozen or so times and let rise again until doubled again.

    Cut (using a dough knife or something like that) into chunks into 2 or more equal sizes depending on how big of loaves you want (2 chucks would be large baguettes sized, about 8-10 would be closer to individual sandwich sized). Fold into loaves, the below video shows how to do this fairly well and how wet the dough should look as well as how to setup a support for letting them rise. Proper folding helps make the loaves shape well and evenly distributes the bubbles.

    About 30m before you reckon they'll be doubled again start heating the oven, Heat it to at least 450F and preferably closer to 500F. I also use stones in the bottom and ideally overhead of the loaf as well. I use "quarry tiles" from the home center instead of expensive baking stones. All of the stones will eventually crack so cheaper is imho better.

    You can also steam the loaves while cooking if you want to do this put a deep sided cookie sheet on the very top shelf of the oven before heating and then use a turkey baster to squirt water onto it at 0m, 1m and 3m into baking. This will cause a thicker chewier crust to develop.

    Getting the loaves into the oven is a bit of a trick, use a well floured pizza peal and a quick flip and slide and usually its not to bad If you put the loaves onto parchment paper when rising you can slide that into the oven with them which is easier for sure - although I like to remove the parchment about 1/2 way through cooking to make sure the bottom of the loaf gets nice and crusty.

    Bake until the loaves are nice and brown and thump hollow, probably 20-30m and would be good to rotate them at around 15 minutes.

    Quick Pitas
    3C of sourdough
    1 tsp salt
    1 Tbsp oil
    enough flour to just stiffen it up to make a loose dough (should be about the same as the baguette)

    Mix and then cut and form into ~1" balls. Cover and let rise while the oven is heating.
    Heat the oven to ~500F and let it soak for maybe 30m - 45m so that its fully heated. Again stones on the bottom rack.

    Roll the dough out to about 1/4" thick. This is the hard part to get right a small pinch or thick spot and they won't rise as well.
    I do this in batches of about 3 at a time otherwise they're just to hard to handle.
    Either use a peal (slide off) or your hand (flip off) onto the hot stones.
    If you did it right they'll swell up like a balloon. By far the most fun bread to watch to cook.
    Usually they take about 15m per batch to cook.

    Pancakes and Biscuits
    I'm using the acidic character of the sourdough here to make this work as well as some of the yeast rising ability together.
    Take your favorite recipe, cut the flour by 1/2C, remove the baking powder add 1/2 tsp of baking soda to the dry and add 1C of sourdough to the wet ingredients.

    1 1/2C flour
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    2 Tbps sugar
    1 tsp salt

    in a 2C measure
    3/4C to 1C sourdough (depending on your tastes)
    1 Tbsp oil
    1 egg
    enough milk to make up to 2C plus a little more after maybe another 1/4C or so.

    Pour the wet into the dry and mix just enough to be mixed but no more.

    Cook like pancakes

    2C flour
    1 Tbsp sugar (helps browning)
    1 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp baking soda

    3/4C lard or shortening
    mix into flour until mixed and crumbly again don't over do it

    3/4 - 1C sourdough to taste
    ~3/4C of milk (may take a smidge more if really dry or less if your flour or sourdough is wet).
    mix together

    Mix wet into the dry until just barely mixed. There can be a few dry crumbs at the bottom.

    Turn out of the bowl and fold twice.

    Cut or form into miscuits
    Bake at 400 for 15-20m until golden

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Reno NV
    Wow, that really looks good.
    I did sourdough once upon a time, I'mma gonna need to do it again...
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Reno, Nv
    What do you store the starter in Ryan? I have a few 3/4 gallon Tupperware tubs and so on. I guessing something non-reactive due to the high acid?
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Man you killing me. LOL I love bread more than anything. How the heck do i loose weight while we have a cooking forum.?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    North of Reno, NV...middle of the desert
    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Keeble View Post
    Man you killing me. LOL I love bread more than anything. How the heck do i loose weight while we have a cooking forum.?
    Unfortunately its called "Taste Everything, Eat Nothing" don't use me as an example, I think I've gained 10 pounds since (and including BW)...darn Smoker

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Spitting distance north of Detroit Michigan
    Good eats are a necessity, do like I do, enjoy it all and put all the weight issues behind you
    The perception of perfection is perfectly clear to everyone else

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Burr View Post
    What do you store the starter in Ryan? I have a few 3/4 gallon Tupperware tubs and so on. I guessing something non-reactive due to the high acid?
    I've used both tupperware and ceramic with no issues (as well as stainless for intermediate storage of barms, etc.. for a day or so in the fridge).

    The acid isn't really all that strong in the grand scheme of things; the PH just isn't all that low. Below 3.5 would be pretty unusual with the normal ph being between 3.6 and 4.5 (imho close to 4 would be ideal, but really who is measuring ). Also ideally most of the acid is lactic acid which isn't very reactive compared to many other acids, you might get a bit of acetic acid (vinegar) or some other stuff but most of that is less desirable flavor wise so you generally try to minimize it (and you'd taste it as excessively sour pretty quickly, lactic tasts more "tart sour", whereas acetic is more burning sour like .. well vinegar ).

    Having said that I wouldn't use cast iron for storing my sourdough , but most other food safe containers would be fine.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Billings Missouri near Springfield Mo
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cook View Post
    Good eats are a necessity, do like I do, enjoy it all and put all the weight issues behind you
    I'm with Ken
    A Turn N Time
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    Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Wisconsin Dells, WI
    Another bread recipe book is "The Bread Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum.

    A chef friend gave it to me a few years ago. I've tried several of the breads and starters, especially the sourdough starter. One of the ones I'd really like to conquer is Ciabatta. Love Ciabatta with some good EVOO and a glass of wine.

    Thanks for the recipes and other books on breads.


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