Oh how you missed me. I’ve been a little awol the last few days, and I’m sure you’ve been waiting with bated breath for me to come back. Well, wait no more. So there’s this website called seriouseats.com whose recipes I’ve used in the past, and lately they’ve had this ongoing thing where they make a sourdough starter. You follow it day by day, and at the end bake some bread. Well here’s my story.
To start – a sourdough is a term for a type of bread, and the reason it’s called sourdough is because it’s not sour at all….I joke, the reason why it’s called sourdough is because it’s sour, shocking right?
Ok so what’s the deal with this type of bread, and what makes it so special. Well the way we’ve come accustomed to baking bread is – take some yeast from a packet, and let it come back to life in warm water, and use that live yeast to leaven your bread, as we’ve seen in previous posts. Now yeast is a living, breathing thing-a-mabob, just like you, me, and all the strep mutans living in your mouth. And these yeasts will naturally grow on flour if given the chance, the problem is, we’re too darn impatient to do that. The basics are – take some flour and water, and let it sit for a few days, and a few days later, with some special loving care you”ll have your own yeast farm. You then simply take that yeast, combine it with some good ole’ flour and water, knead to allow the gluten proteins to form a nice mesh, and hold in some CO2, and voila – you have leavened bread.
The crazy thing about a sourdough is that it uses the natural yeasts that are presently crawling all around you, so it actually matters where you make the starter. This is why San Fransisco is famous for their sourdough, because there’s a specific yeast that only lives in San Fran, and it actually makes a difference.
So without getting too into it, with a sourdough, there’s the yeast, which gives us the carbon dioxide, and a bacteria present (Lactobacillus) which produce the acid, and these bacteria outnumber the yeast by a factor of 100:1…bottom line – because there’s acid, and more bacteria than yeast, the rising time for the bread is different.
To start this magical mystery tour, all you need is flour and water, and on day one – just combine 1/2 oz flour and 1 oz water, and let it sit over night. This is basically the invitation to the party. You’re calling all the yeasts and bacteria around to come party with you, because you’re that lonely.
On top is 1 ounce water and .5 ounce flour
And this is what it looked like the next morning. You can already see bubbles starting to form, which is what we’re looking for.
Day 2 was all about mixing, just give it a stir, whenever you think about it. This allows yeast to come in contact with the food they so desperately crave.
Then on day 3 – to switch up the ratios, we added 1 ounce flour, and .5 ounce water. This brings the ratio of flour to water at 50:50, which apparently in baking term is called 100% hydration. At this point, it also might start to smell a little like buttermilk/vinegar/alcohol/rotten glue (I dunno why, but mine smelled like that), but much to your wife’s chagrin, that’s normal, so keep on going.
From that point on, it’s all about keeping the starter alive, and feeding it regularly. All it needs is 1 ounce flour and water every day, and lots of stirring. Besides getting the yeast in contact with the food, stirring also brings oxygen to the yeasts, which helps the yeast, and makes it less acidic.
Keep this up for the next few days, and you’ll know when your starter is ready when it’s bubbling like crazy. I mean bubbles all over the place, up and down the sides of the jar you chose. But on top of that, you also have to see what happens when you feed it. How long it takes for bubbles to re-appear. If you see the bubbles re-appearing really quick, that’s also a sign that the starter is ready.
This is a picture of my starter a few more days in, not quite ready yet.
Ok so it’s bread baking time, the way to do that is take 4 oz of the starter, and combine it with 2 oz flour, and 1 oz water, and let that sit over night. This is the yeast part of your dough, and it’s only gonna grow so much, and then the next day, you add that to more flour and water, knead that a little, and allow that to rise.
Here we go!
The picture on the left is after I added the starter to flour and water, and on the right is the picture the next day. You can definitely see some action going on in there, but it wasn’t enough…I wanted more! So I took that, added it to even more flour and water …yeah, I’m that crazy – and kneaded it some, and let that rise for 2 hours.
When that was done, I shaped it into a loaf, and then …wait for it….I let that rise for another hour (you’d think I have all the time in the world).
When it was ready, I slashed the top, and then it was time for some baking.
This is my final product, and as you can see from the this view it looks nice, but there’s more going on.
First of all, I wanted the crust much darker and crustier, and when I was baking I spritzed it with some water and tossed ice on the bottom of the oven to allow for that to happen (more on that another time).
But my main concern was the “crumb” of the bread – ie the interior
It just didn’t do what it was supposed to do. I’m not sure where I went wrong. It could’ve been I was over zealous, and went ahead with the bread, even though it wasn’t finished. I dunno. The bread was too dense, and heavy. Bottom line – this was a quasi flop. Quasi, because fresh bread is still fresh bread, and is always good, but it could’ve been a lot better. Fear not, I still have plenty of starter left, and a lot of time to experiment with it.
That’s all, for now.
To find out what I did with the bread, stay tuned…because it was amazing.