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Some Sourdough Stuff

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
In a different thread, LuvPie posted a couple of lines about a show she's seen about sourdough starters. It led to some more general thoughts about sourdough starters, and ... well... sourdough is always worth its own thread.

Getting back to LuvPie, her TV baker used cumin to get the starter going. Here's her post: Cumin is definitely an interesting thought unless you stay current with the baking forums. At any rate, cumin supposedly adds and/or attracts the right sort of wild spoors to start the starter. Other popular choices are (organic) grapes, plums (or just their skins), and red cabbage leaves.

One warning about sourdough starters -- some areas don't have the right wild spoors for a good sourdough. So if you're trying to grow a starter in one of those areas, a starter grown entirely from wild spoors won't ever be very good -- a tautology if ever there was one.

If you can't grow a good starter in your area, it's pretty easy to buy (or get for free) a good one. Friends of Carl will send you Carl's (an excellent starter) for the price of a SASE. Be aware though, that wild spoors can eventually overtake an imported culture; if that happens, you'll have to start over.

You sometimes get instructions which involve an awful lot of flour for the week (or so) it takes to get the starter ready for its first baking. Instead of doubling the previous amount at feeding time -- reduce it by half and replace that with fresh flour and water. You can always bump up the quantity of of starter to whatever amount you like by adding flour and water in that amount in the appropriate proportions -- which are equal weights or twice the volume of flour to water.

Similarly, you can keep the starter more economically, by keeping the kept starter down to a reasonable to feed amount. This also helps keep the amount of storage space required manageable. Small requires extra planning and time; but keeping a starter going is something like having a wild animal for a pet. Small is better.

Also, you can convert a rye or wholewheat starter to white by feeding only white flour. In my experience, a hybrid rye/wholewheat mixture works best as the original flour component and for the first couple of feedings. After the culture is going, it doesn't make much difference.

If you want instructions to try your hand at a homemade starter, they're ubiquitous on the web. Sourdough is one of the more interesting online baking topics you can find. The research is fun.

But, heck. You know I couldn't resist.

Sourdough Starter: A "Running Recipe."

Start with the ideal mixture 1/2 cup rye flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup water, and whatever you're going to use to start the starter -- I suggest Carl's or a torn up leaf form an organically grown red-cabbage, and a pinch of cumin. Also, if you don't have rye and whole wheat, you can use one or the other or just try it with white flour, AP or B for B.

Leave the starter on the kitchen counter and feed it daily by adding 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water until you begin to see bubbling. When the culture is active, remove the leaves, reduce the total amount of starter to about 1-1/2 cups, and continue feeding daily in the same way -- you c. The liquid which forms on top of the starter is "hooch." While you're developing the starter, stir it in at feeding time rather than draining it off.

The best time to wean the starter off the wheat/rye mixture is after it first becomes really active. If you're not seeing activity after 72 hours, you might start worrying. If none after 96, time to google "friends of carl starter." Or, save yourself the trouble: Carl Griffith Sourdough Page

It takes at least four or five days after the starter first becomes active before the starter is ready for its maiden outing. Divide the starter in half, feed and reserve one half in the refrigerator; use the other half to grow enough starter on the countertop for your recipe. Most sourdough recipes work best with one part sourdough to two parts new flour/liquid (plus whatever else the recipe calls for).

BDL
post #2 of 6
Sourdough is a great discussion topic! For me, one of the most appealing aspects of bread baking is that is so utterly transformational. What you start out with is nothing like what you end up with, whereas a chicken looks reasoably similar before and after the oven :) Sourdough is the ultimate transformation. Flour, water and salt! I've developed starters using grapes and starters from nothing more the flour and water. The latter is far more managable :) As to the wild spore aspect, I've been told that about 85% of the wild yeast we are cultivating is present in the flour we use. As such the flour we choose is more responsible for the flavor profile of the starter than its environment.
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
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"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
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post #3 of 6
Sourdough bread has got such good character.

To diverge somewhat, in relation to your comment about cabbage leaves BDL. Was watching video of baker doing sourdough loaves in wood fired oven. He rested the unbaked bread on a green cabbage leaf, topped it with another, and baked. Reckoned it helped it cook better. Wondered why...now I have an inkling..thanks for the info.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #4 of 6
Excellent info, thank you very much!
post #5 of 6
how much hydration do y'all look for in your starters?
bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!


Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
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bake first, ask questions later.
Oooh food, my favorite!


Professor Pastry Artswww.collin.edu
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post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Classic poolishes and sourdough starters run close to 200% hydration (using baker's "percentage"), I.e., 1 cup water per 1 cup of flour. At least, that's how I start a starter. A biga, the Italian equivalent to a poolish, is 100% hydrated, or even less if memory serves (I don't use bigas anymore).

Down the line, when preparing to make a sourdough bread, I stiffen the starter up a little to around 150% hydration at its last feeding the night before mixing it into the dough. Then , the next morning, mix the dough at a ratio of 1 part starter to 2 parts other dough (with hydration adjusted appropriately to net in the 70%+ neighborhood. A recipe might look something like 2-1/2 cups starter, 5 cups flour, and about 1 cup water, plus some salt. Don't forget the salt.

I make the final adjustment by adding bench flour during the kneading period.

Compared to other artisanal breads, even with similar hydration, sourdough bread dough feels very slack and slippery; so you have to adjust your "touch" accordingly when you gauge how much bench flour the autolysed dough-ball needs.

I forgot to mention in the first post, that you can use commercial yeast (but not very much of it) to get a starter going. Just treat it like a poolish for a week or so, and the stress of "feast and famine" cycle will not only select the sourest spoors, but will also give local spoors a chance to overtake the colony if they've got the moxie.

Ideally, you want local spoors. Alas, it itsn't always possible.

BDL
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