Diary

Sourdough, Finally


I have been an aficionado of sourdough bread for as long as I can remember. And even though I’ve baked a lot of bread at home I have never before successfully managed a loaf of sour dough. But hey, even at 71 you can teach an old dog new tricks and I’m having a ball.

A big part of my problem through the years, and I’ve recognized it for a long while, is that I always tried to start my sourdough starter during the winter, when it’s harder to keep a counter-top creation at the right temperature to work right. So, as a result, I’ve ended up with half a dozen foul-smelling aborted attempts and had given up all thoughts of ever getting the hang of it until this year when I started following some different sourdough online sources. Reading about other people’s success inspired me and I’m now the proud papa of a yeast colony!

If you are unaware, sourdough colonies have been known to be passed on from generation to generation. Many folks, acknowledging the living nature of their sourdough colonies have taken to naming them. For example:

  • Kirsten Collins: I’m honestly not sure how I thought of Rye Breadbury, I’m not normally that punny. But he started off with pumpernickel flour so I wanted something to commemorate that.
  • AnnaMarie MacLean: Clint Yeastwood because I either heard it somewhere or stumbled upon it myself and it cracked me up.
  • Taylor Ashlock: Mine is Levi because we have two seminary graduates in this house so Biblical names are everywhere. Also because I thought it was a funny play on words like leavening and levitate, levity, etc.
  • Cathy Guinan: Love of My Life is decades old sourdough
  • Ashley Ferrer: Brady, because I started it after the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl. (Heidi Walth Furth’s quip in response: And your dough never deflates?)
  • Nicole Kriedeman: Mine is named Audrey. She is 16 months old and I named her after Audrey in the Little Shop of Horrors since I have to feed her every day.
  • Stephanie B: Mine is Berry because I used the yeast on wild black raspberries to get it going. Is most of the microbial community now maintained by whatever is in the flour I feed it with? Sure, but at one point there was some wild berry yeast in there.
  • Corey Cramer: Augustus Gloop. Always been a huge fan of Willy Wonka and it’s both very sticky and amorphous.

But, I digress.

A bit over a week ago I decided, if my problem has partially been cool ambient temperature, why not try to grow a starter during the summer. Duh. Suffice it to say that it worked, my little beasties are quite happy, and I’ve pulled off the first batch of bread and I’m quite happy with it.

Owning a colony is rather like having children or a pet because they take regular care and feeding. You can store one on the counter, or in the fridge, but either way they require feeding (daily on the counter & weekly in the fridge) and loving attention. Many people even vacation with theirs — afraid to leave them home unattended. Or they get starter-sitters to care for them in the family’s absence.

The bottom line however is that nothing tastes quite like a good sour dough loaf. Mine, being a new starter, hasn’t developed a lot of unique flavor yet, it will over time, but my first batch wasn’t half bad and you can see from the photos that even in a bread machine the end product came out quite nicely.

Of course this means that I have to convert my bread recipes.

In the interest of greater consistency I have gradually converted my recipes to weights in grams. My counter-top scales, quite an inexpensive purchase nowadays, and still quite accurate are easy enough to use. But the addition of “starter” to my recipe in place of yeast means that I have to settle on the best amount of starter to use for my breadmachine (Zojirushi 1 Lb. BB HAC 10). I can’t really change the machine cycle beyond the minor variations they give for crust control — so I have to get the dough adjusted so that it will work with the timing limitations of the machine. That means getting out my algebra and figuring out how much water and flour were contained in the starter that I poured into the machine.

Your starter is really equal amounts of flour and water so it’s a simple matter of weighing out the starter you add to the machine, then taking half of that weight in flour and water off the total amount of flour and water you add to make up the final recipe. Sounds complicated, and the first time I did it I had to think my way through, but it’s not a big deal when you’ve done it for the first time.

I’m looking forward to regular batches of sourdough now. Wish me luck, and longevity of my starter.

Life is too short to eat bad bread!

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3 thoughts on “Sourdough, Finally

  1. Liz W says:

    I am a sourdough starter failure. Love the bread toasted with orange marmalade so when a friend gave me a delicious loaf and the starter. Did some reassign, but just couldn’t do it. Now you are inspiring me to try again. I know you like your bread machine, but the lovely round shape and crust of hand shaped loaves is worth the extra effort. Maybe let the machine knead, then you shape?

    Like

    • Yeah… I hear you…
      Then again I stepped on the scale this A.M. for the first time in a while and my starter may have to live in the fridge for a while.
      I have friend who do the artisanal 24 hour loafs and have been working up the courage to try, and sourdough would make it worth the effort. We’ll see

      Like

      • Liz W says:

        Seriously, spell check seems to have taken over my reply! I meant to say I did some “research” after being given the starter but just wasn’t able to keep the starter going. Good luck with the 24 hour artisanal bread.

        Like

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