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Sourdough

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I've been baking a lot of bread, almost every day because I was terrible at it and desperately wanted to practice it and get it right. I've got a good basic bread consistently accomplished, and I want to try out some sourdough recipes I have.  My problem with sourdough, however, are the wild starters.  I'm reading they need to sit out at room temperature (or favorably 90°) for days.  I have room mates that I don't trust will just leave my living creation alone. Would it be too cool out of the way in the basement? We're talking maybe at low as 60° down there.  Considering a starter of either potato or grape.

 

Also looking for information about the levain as well. In my recipe book it's an optional step, and goes into little detail. One recipe actually has you make a starter, then a levain, and then the bread. And mentions later that many bakers use leftover dough as a levain. Does this suggest that if I have leftover dough I don't need more yeast? Doesn't seem right...

post #2 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by pcieluck View Post
...And mentions later that many bakers use leftover dough as a levain. Does this suggest that if I have leftover dough I don't need more yeast? Doesn't seem right......

Remember, yeast is a living thing and continues to multiply as long as it is not "killed", so, you can actually use a little bit of leftover dough as a basis for your starter, or for that matter, your next batch of bread, though for bread it WILL take longer to ferment and adequately rise, unless you add more yeast. To me, the main purpose of using the leftover dough is to capture the flavor.

 

I maintain my starter at 100% hydration, equal parts, by weight, of liquid and flour, because that makes it simpler to calculate substitutions in bread formulas (for me, it is easier to thing "formula" rather than "recipe", reminds me to be careful when making any changes crazy.gif ).

 

Once you have some starter, you will quickly discover that it multiplies quite rapidly once it gets going, a pint today, a quart tomorrow, a gallon in two days, next week the WORLD!
 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Here's where I get a little confused. I've got recipes that say to go Starter > Levain > Dough. There are ingredients in the levain that aren't in the dough (wheat germ, for example). This doesn't disrupt that concept the concept of using a reserved portion of dough for your next loaf's levain?

post #4 of 5

From "The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook", "King Arthur Flour, pages 235-235

 

Quote:
...Levain is the French incarnation of what we know as sourdough starter...

There is a lengthy discussion of starter, sponge, poolish, biga, levain, and Chef/mère, a derivative of a levain.

 

They are all "pre-ferments", use the method called for in your recipe. They are all used for two purposes, flavor and leavening (alternative to adding yeast products).

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #5 of 5

You can get a starter going at 60F steady, but it will take a while longer than if you colonized it in a slightly warmer environment. 

 

You don't want to make it to easy for the little beasites.  It takes a little stress -- like temperature changes and a bit of underfeeding -- to get them nice and sour.  If their life cycle is too easy they taste flat.

 

Starting a starter from wild yeast can be problematic. For one thing, they don't always start; and for another, not all wild yeasts are created equal in terms of flavor.  There's a reason some areas are not known for sourdough. 

 

Instead of using fruit or a potato as a starter starter, start your starter with a known starter, such as the FREE one you can get from Friends of Carl.   It will not only cut about a week from the time it takes to get it established and sour, it's a really good tasting spore. 

 

There are some good recipes on the site as well.

 

I suggest not getting too complicated with your first preferment loaves.  Learn to bake with a poolish and learn to use a sourdough starter, yes.  Just learn to use them one at a time.  Even proven sourdough starters can be weird.  Limit your variables until you can consistently control the outcomes.     

 

BDL

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