#11  
Old 09-06-2007, 06:02 AM
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Default Re: Playing with sourdough

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Originally Posted by CanuckJim View Post
RLF,

Here's two pics that might help you. One is a close up of the grigne of an olive levain hearth loaf. The other is the crumb of the same bread. You'll notice the pronounced caramelization in the loaf shot, as well as the dark portion on the flap of the grigne. Both have to do with grain sugars on the surface of the dough that benefit from overnight retardation.

Jim
Thats exactly the crumb I'm looking for. If you plug all those holes up, you'll have a picture of my bread.
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  #12  
Old 09-06-2007, 07:37 AM
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Default Re: Playing with sourdough

RLF,

If you're kneading by hand, you should practice the "windowpane test" to make sure the gluten is properly developed. When you think you're close to a full knead, tear off a piece of dough a bit larger than a golf ball. Roll it around in your hands to make a ball, then stretch it out between your hands. You should be able to get a very thin film of dough, with NO tearing. When you hold the stretched dough up to a good light source you should see a dark web of gluten strands in the "windowpane." Then you know you're there. If the dough tears at all, you should continue kneading until the test works.

Suggest that 80 F is a bit high. I'd try to lower the dough temp a few degrees by lowering the water temp a few degrees. Also, wild yeast levains are sensitive to water type. I'd use filtered, bottled (no salt added) or spring water, not chlorinated tap water.

Jim
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  #13  
Old 09-06-2007, 07:52 AM
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Default Re: Playing with sourdough

Quote:
Originally Posted by CanuckJim View Post
RLF,

If you're kneading by hand, you should practice the "windowpane test" to make sure the gluten is properly developed. When you think you're close to a full knead, tear off a piece of dough a bit larger than a golf ball. Roll it around in your hands to make a ball, then stretch it out between your hands. You should be able to get a very thin film of dough, with NO tearing. When you hold the stretched dough up to a good light source you should see a dark web of gluten strands in the "windowpane." Then you know you're there. If the dough tears at all, you should continue kneading until the test works.

Suggest that 80 F is a bit high. I'd try to lower the dough temp a few degrees by lowering the water temp a few degrees. Also, wild yeast levains are sensitive to water type. I'd use filtered, bottled (no salt added) or spring water, not chlorinated tap water.

Jim
Thanks for the advice. I did the window pane test on the second batch, which passed, but not on the first batch. I'll try cooling my water about 10 degrees and shoot for a finished temp of 75 or so. I've been using distilled water since I have quite a bit of it.
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  #14  
Old 09-06-2007, 07:55 AM
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Default Re: Playing with sourdough

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Originally Posted by rlf5 View Post
Thats exactly the crumb I'm looking for. If you plug all those holes up, you'll have a picture of my bread.
Ha... that's hilarious! I've baked a few loafs like that!!

Suggestion - don't use the starter until it is really active... Like CanukJim's picture. Early in my sourdough baking I would sometimes tend to rush the process and use starter that was only partially active... often ending up with edible, but less than perfect, bread.

Other suggestion - keep feeding and baking: the starter will keep getting better and bettter.

Another suggestion - sell a camera and buy a mixer. Just kidding. Buy a mixer. Kneading by hand helps build biceps, but kneading with mixer helps increase the amount of bread baked.
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  #15  
Old 09-06-2007, 11:26 AM
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Default Re: Playing with sourdough

On the topic of obsessive feeding (I agree it is obsessive), the reading I have done suggests that it takes 2 days to build up the sourdough. I think about it this way. If I pull my sourdough from the fridge it is not nearly as active as it is when it has been fermenting on the counter. So rather than just double a cold starter, I feed it so it doubles a few times.

For example:
If I need 1800g of starter on Friday evening, I start with 225g on Thursday morning, and double that (add another 225g or flour and water). On Thursday evening, I add 450g combined flour and water, on Friday morning, I add 900g (to get to 1800g total). That way I have had a few feedings where it has had a chance to double.

Jim how do you feed the sourdough while it is in your fridge? Once a day? less? I think I will do an experiment trying 2 batches, one directly out of the fridge and one using my current method. See if there is any noticeable difference.

Drake
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  #16  
Old 09-06-2007, 01:35 PM
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Default Re: Playing with sourdough

I do expect that starter taken directly from the fridge rather than from a recently fed starter will behave differently - it will take longer for the initial bulk fermentation. But what's the difference between spending a few days bringing your starter up to speed vs giving eight hours for the bulk fermentation (instead of 3-6 hours)? Once the yeast starts feeding on the starches in the dough, it's active. Now, if you are a commercial baker, you need more consistency than I can achieve with my lazy starter feeding schedule. I suspect the obsessive feeding approach is geared towards achieving consistent results in a professional kitchen, but I also suspect it's not a prerequisite to achieve good (but probably more variable) results.

I'm interested to know how much the different variables that affect the quality of the bread (ingredients, starter, mixing times and temps, rising and retardation, handling of the dough, and oven conditions) actually contribute to the end result. In my efforts to make good bread at home, where should I spend more or less energy?
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  #17  
Old 09-06-2007, 02:02 PM
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Default Re: Playing with sourdough

Drake,

Your question is a bit tricky to answer because I use my starter on such a frequent basis. It never really gets a chance to become inactive. When I'm measuring out small amounts of starter, a la Hamelman, I simply take it out of the fridge to measure, then mix it up, then let it stand for fourteen hours at room temp. The "mother" starter is refreshed at the same time, left to rest for the same time, then back in the fridge. I've also taken the more frequent route you use, but if the amounts are relatively small, I've seen no difference in performance at all. If I was doing a very large starter build, say ten pounds or so, I'd split the feedings over several days to give the yeast a chance to digest all that water and flour. It's very true that the more often a starter is refreshed the better it becomes.

Maver,

Yours is also a tough one, simply because there are so many variables, and kitchens and conditions vary. Overall, though, I'd say controlling mixing times and temps are the two factors that have a great impact on the finished bread. That's not to say the others aren't important as well, but I'd try to control times and temps first.

Jim
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  #18  
Old 09-06-2007, 04:21 PM
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Default Re: Playing with sourdough

This is an interesting discussion. Hopefully it will lead to a more relaxed feeding schedule for my starter(s) in the future...

Jim, are you able to more than double your starter when mixing it up from the fridge? How much more than double do you think is acceptable?

Maver, I think there is a difference in letting the starter ferment longer vs letting the bread rise longer. The latter is a drier environment favored by a different type of bacteria than the wet environment of the starter. I believe, that a longer, drier, fermentation will result in a more sour flavor, while a longer wet environment will result in more sugars that help with crust development. I may be out of my league now, but I think that is the difference between Acetic (sour and dry loving) vs Lactic (sweeter and wet loving) acids...

Again, I am not exactly sure, but this is what my reading has led me to believe, that the overnight retardation is the dry loving, sour flavor producing phase of my particular bread schedule...

Baking again on Sunday, my Mother in law is in town and she has her own ideas about baking so...

Drake
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  #19  
Old 09-06-2007, 04:36 PM
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Default Re: Playing with sourdough

Earlier today I took 1/2 of the starter I usually use and added 1/4 wt water, 1/4 wt whiteflour/rye mix. Once its nice and frothy I'll use it to make my barm, and then the bread....either Fri evening or Sat morning. Hopefully things will be more active than usual.
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  #20  
Old 09-06-2007, 06:58 PM
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Default Re: Playing with sourdough

We use a mother dough, much the same texture as most preferments. It is fed directly from the fridge and usually just double 24 to 48 hours before using...we don't feed it obsessively at all...2 or 3 times per week as my baking schedule is usually for Wednesday and Saturday markets. It is allowed to ferment at room temperature for anywhere from 6 to 10 hours.

I wholeheartedly agree with Jim in controlling mixing times and temperature are crucial...with a capital C.

I know that this may be a bit of a stretch but...and that is a big one...I have on occasion refridgerated the dough after the primary fermentation and added cold dough as well as cooler water to create the final dough and had great results. In that case I have no worries about the dough becoming too warm during mixing and kneading. The extra time in fermentation is really no inconvenience.

Jim, what's your take on that?
Best
Dutch
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