#21  
Old 02-15-2011, 05:19 PM
SableSprings's Avatar
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Default Re: Sourdough Bread FAILURE!!

Eric, sounds like you've already gotten some fabulous advice here. FYI, I started out with a "San Francisco" sourdough starter in 1974. For many years my sourdough loaves looked and felt more like hockey pucks than bread--sound familiar? I'd basically kept my starter (named Bill) alive for almost 37 years simply for making waffles. When I retired and built a WFO in 2009/2010 I started looking at sourdough bread again. I agree with Jay and Splatgirl as to "all the details" that make for a success one day and a failure the next with the oven breads.

As to good sourdough bread formulas, Joe Ortiz in The Village Baker has excellent explanations, formulas, and time charts (I use his Country-Style French Bread formula for my favorite sourdough bread). I highly recommend his book. I found in the reading that I had three basic problems with my previous sourdough bread attempts. 1) My sourdough culture was not active enough. By feeding and refreshing Bill (now Chef Bill) 2-3 times a week, I got a much stronger culture that worked far better for my bread, 2) My fermentation temps for Chef Bill were better when in the 60-70F range rather than the +80F I'd seen in most other formulas and finally 3) loaf rises of 12-16 hrs at the cooler temps were to be expected and 6-8 hr rises were my norm.

Also check out The Art of Wood Fired Cooking by Andrea Mugnaini for info on how to get a consistent heat loading in your oven for baking and other firing techniques for everything else (including pizza).

Bottom line is that now I keep Chef Bill active on the counter, don't worry about warming the house to proof bread on baking day, and plan for longer final loaf rises, my sourdoughs have been continuing to improve. I've got a link to some pictures of my oven and breads on www.sablesprings.com at the bottom (Dragonfly Den). A neighbor and I bake together each week and normally produce a total of 16-20 loaves (variety rules when we bake...anything from Challah to baguettes might be planned) on an average day.

Mike
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  #22  
Old 02-15-2011, 08:20 PM
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Default Re: Sourdough Bread FAILURE!!

Thanks Eric. The red sculptural element around the door was the worst and most painful mosaic project of my life (and I have done some huge and crazy ones). I still have grout embedded in my skin.

Starter management is a huge piece of the puzzle, yes.
IME, the keys are:
Always do at least a 4x feeding (expansion) of your existing starter
If you store your starter in the fridge (I do), always allow it to peak/double before putting it back in.

I bake fairly regularly, so I end up feeding about once a week in preparation. I never feed unless I know I want to bake within the next few days. If it's been more than two weeks since my last bake, I allow enough time for two feed-peak cycles prior to using the starter. My starter takes about 6-8 hours to double at cool room temp when it's in good shape. If it takes longer than that, I know I need to repeat the feeding before I use it.
As Mike points out, every starter is different--find what works for you and yours and stick to it. There isn't a right or wrong way.
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  #23  
Old 02-16-2011, 06:09 PM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
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Default Re: Sourdough Bread FAILURE!!

SplatG is triple right on IMO. Happy yeast is critical (though in SD EVERYTHING is critical!). Good advice from both SplatG and SableS.

Great sourdough is an evolution. The good news as SableS suggests is even mediocre SD can be wonderful. And getting it all right is divine!
Jay
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  #24  
Old 02-16-2011, 08:19 PM
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Default Re: Sourdough Bread FAILURE!!

Thanks again for all the help, I feel like I have progressed quite a bit with the guidance provided by you guys and finally reading the books I have.

And Splat, I am just threw in my first No Knead Bread in the oven - and now am waiting!



In the past few days my wife and I have been buying tools, thermometers, baking stones (also known as HD satillo tiles for $1.17 each), a cheap basket, a Danish wisk and some wood spoons.

My wife has two (or three) different starters going (SD & a Desum starter from scratch using wheat from a local grinder) and I have my pre-ferment ready for some indoor loaves to bake tomorrow night. If the rain lets up this weekend, I may fire up the WFO again if the next couple of nights indoor loaves go good (or even if they come out ok, hell if I can I will fire it up anyway no matter how the bread comes out as I think I am a pyro!)

And Bill, if you need any more bricks I may have some for you!

Eric
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Old 02-16-2011, 09:43 PM
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Default Re: Sourdough Bread FAILURE!!

Well the "No Knead" came out pretty tasty!!





Now on to the more traditional style loaves!!!

Eric
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  #26  
Old 02-17-2011, 05:05 AM
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Default Re: Sourdough Bread FAILURE!!

Geez, looks better than any of my no-knead attempts. Tell me more about these tiles.. I LOVE the price. A SKU# should be good across the country.
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Old 02-17-2011, 08:52 AM
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Default Re: Sourdough Bread FAILURE!!

TMan, thanks it really came out awesome and it really was simple - Thanks Splatgirl for the suggestion!

The tiles are are just unglazed Mexican Clay Pavers and are about 11 1/2" x 11 1/2" x 3/8" thick. HD has them (at our store) just sitting out in the tile isle and they call them "Saltilo Tiles". Some of them even have "Animal Prints" labeled on the box which is a nice little marketing term as they run cats through the drying areas at the Mexican factories to give us gringos the feeling that we have something special!! I can check for a product number next time I am down there.

Just make sure they are Unglazed. And don't worry about thermo shock, just wipe em off and bring em up to 500 + F once to kill off anything and you are good to go. If one breaks - toss it. And for a buck a piece (OK $1.17 plus tax) you can stack them if you feel like it.

I haven't used mine yet, but plan on it tonight, so I will let you know how they work out.



And I do have a question for the WFO bread experts that have been helping me with my bread making endeavor --- I have a cast iron tea pot for camping (the one in the thumbnail) would that help with steam in the WFO? I can certainly pre heat it and stick it in the WFO prior to or during the baking process.

Any thoughts?

Thanks again, Eric.
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  #28  
Old 02-17-2011, 09:34 AM
Il Pizzaiolo
 
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Default Re: Sourdough Bread FAILURE!!

Hi Eric!

Glad the noknead worked for you. For oven steaming the cast iron teapot might work fairly well, especially if boosted by a burst of steam from lava rocks or something, but any steam is better than none and more steam is better than less. So go for it.

Good luck!
Jay
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  #29  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:34 AM
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Default Re: Sourdough Bread FAILURE!!

Jay,

Thanks, my wife will be glad as I did kind of a test with her favorite red teapot that had (as in past tense) red silicone (?) handle inserts that didn't quite live up to the heat of the WFO!!

My plan is to just insert the cast iron tea pot in the WFO after the initial kindling fire is good and going and then let it warm up with the dome and hearth, just before baking I will take boiling water from my wife's now messed up red tea pot outside and transfer it to the cast iron tea pot.

I figure it is worth a try!

Eric.
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  #30  
Old 02-18-2011, 10:40 AM
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Default Re: Sourdough Bread FAILURE!!

Your no-knead came out beautifully! It really is magic, that whole cast-iron pot baking business.

For creating steam, a wider, open surface will work better, IME. The teapot would be better than nothing, but a cast iron skillet will be superior because it offers a larger evaporative surface than a teapot...KWIM? A shallow depth, wide pool of water is more likely to maintain boiling temp and thus steam vs. tall and deep.

In the regular oven, I use a (preheated to oven temp) cast iron skillet and toss in a scoop of ice cubes right before the bread goes in. I typically do a full oven's worth of bread in the WFO so added steam isn't as critical, but I'd still do the skillet method.
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