my first foray into sourdough

Yeast breads are obsessive. Sourdough even more so. I feed off the god-like power of creating new life from seemingly dead ingredients, namely flour and water. I read a crap ton of information – thanks, the perfectloaf.com – on sourdough but it is definitely a learning-by-doing activity! Just like any other kind of baking.

It all started with a starter (aptly named):
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This is simply 40g flour (50/50 rye/wheat) and 40g water – what they call 100% hydration.
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I fed and watered it for 9 days (shout out to my flatmate Katha who took care of it while I was away for the weekend), discarding half of it at every feeding. “Discard” = keep in tea cups in the fridge… more on that later.
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Once the starter is mature enough, i.e. the wild yeast from the air that found its way in is strong and hungry enough, it was dissolved in water and mixed with more flour. This is called a levain (or leaven).
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After a night out on the counter, more flour, more water and salt are added to the levain to form the dough. This one’s about 20% whole wheat, 80% wheat, with walnuts. The dough is folded a few times (done by my flatmate as she was home during the day), shaped and then left in the fridge for a long cold proof. To be honest, I hate working with 100% hydration doughs. They’re so difficult. They ooze all over your counter and hands and I basically had to pour it from one surface or vessel to the next. I think some of the bubbles are lost this way. The bakers in the youtube videos never seem to have this problem…
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It was baked in a pot in a very hot oven (covered half the time), hence the shape. Some blisters! I think this is what they call “nice caramelisation”, with colours ranging from medium to dark brown, to a hint of black on the ear. Unfortunately there’s not much of an ear despite the score, indicating a lack of oven spring. It was heavier than the NY Times no-knead bread that I usually favour.IMG_2025
The first cut into a freshly baked loaf of bread (60min resting/cooling period please!) is always such a joy. The crust was thin and crisp, though not as “shattery” as I had hoped. I am a staunchly open-crumb kinda gal, so I was a bit disappointed that the holes here were only medium, but at least not as small as most German breads (sorry, German breads). The colour was beautiful, with a bit of purple from the walnuts and perhaps the rye starter and whole wheat dough. The texture was soft and a bit chewy. My theory for this chewiness – not gumminess, mind, but chewy, heading in the direction of gelatinous/rubbery – is the long proof that might have created some serious gluten.

My first slice was sour! Then I had two more with butter for breakfast this morning, and they were delicious.

Remember all that starter in the tea cups in the fridge? Some of it got commissioned into crepes:IMG_2020

That’s the end of Chapter 1 of my sourdough adventures. This saga will continue for as long as there’s starter in the fridge – which can be forever if I keep feeding it!

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3 thoughts on “my first foray into sourdough

  1. The way you talk about feeding and keeping it locked away in a cold room sounds like the script for a horror movie! What has happend to the kind person I got to know? :)

    Anyway, it is strangely satisfying to make your own bread. And people love it. Dispite not having mastered it, yet. I started off feeding my dough three weeks ago, and I’m still feeding it. What I’ve done after I made my first batch of sour dough, was, to always take away some (50 g) for later use. I understood that you re-grow (feed) it to a certain size before you use it again to make bread?! Did you add any heat growing it?

  2. Great that you’re making your own as well! Let’s bake bread together when you’re in Rostock :)

    The way you’re doing it (saving 50g from every batch) is indeed the way it’s supposed to be done. If you put it in the fridge because you’re not using it immediately, when you do use it it should sit out on the counter for long enough that it’s strong and hungry again. You can tell by the smell (sour = acid = it’s hungry). Would be cool if you wanted to share more of your experience (photos??)

    Our kitchen is cold, so for my starter I occasionally turned on the oven to the lowest temperature (50 degrees) and then off again and kept it there to give it a little kick.

    Now I want to write a diary entry from the perspective of the starter/dough. In Cantonese we use a saying that means, “No kindness to be negotiated” in strict, stressful or extreme situations. When it comes to me baking bread, there’s no kindness to be negotiated!

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