Sunday, February 5, 2012
A Sourdough Journal
I've been baking with yeast doughs for quite a while. But recently I've really wanted to try baking with wild yeasts. I tried making a sourdough starter before and had little luck, but then my friend Bari got me the book The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. I absolutely love this book--information on container gardening (which I may try out on the roof this spring), information about canning and preserving, composting, home brewing, homemade eco-friendly cleaners, and sourdough bread. Spurred by our trip to San Francisco, the fact that Hot Bread Kitchen has stopped making Black Pepper-Cheddar Sourdough (which we pretty much lived off of for the month of December), and some inspiration from the book, I decided to give it a shot.
Day 1: Made my sourdough starter. 1 c water and 1 c flour in a one quart mason jar, as per the instructions in Urban Homestead (and on the Root Simple blog, and mixed until it was smooth. Covered it and placed it on the back of the stove, According to the book, this will keep the starter warm enough that it will actually do something. We keep our thermostat at an ecologically responsible 68 degrees in the winter and the starter should be between 70 and 80.
Day 2: The starter was beginning to bubble a bit. I stirred it, then I poured off 1 cup. I then fed the starter 1/2 c flour and 1/2 c water and stirred again. I'm not entirely sure what to do with the starter that I pour off. I guess it just goes down the drain until it's done it's thing and I can make bread with it? I suppose if I home composted instead of dropping it off at the farmer's market, I could toss it in the bin. I'm not sure though...I'll have to look into it.
Day 3: The texture has certainly changed. More bubbles on the top. More liquidy. The volume seems to have increased as well--there's more left over when I pour off a cup to feed it. Fed again with a 1/2 water and 1/2 c flour.
Day 4: Looks similar to Day 3. Smells more like sourdough. The volume seems to have decreased. I did some checking and when it's really dry (as it is in here) some of the water can evaporate, reducing the volume. I fed the starter with 3/4 c flour and 3/4 c water today.
Day 5: Smells more like sourdough and it bubbles up really quickly when I feed it. I think it's alive! I'm toying with giving my sourdough starter a name. Mostly so I remember to feed it. Like a pet. Although the number of text messages I get after I've left for work telling me that the cat has woken D up because I forgot to fill her water or food dish before I left would mean that his hypothesis has already been disproved. I'm thinking I'll call it Audrey. You know, like Little Shop of Horrors.
Day 6: Fed Audrey before I went to work. She bubbles up as soon as I feed her and smells a little like a brewery.
Day 7: Fed Audrey again. Same results as yesterday. Tomorrow I'm going to make the dough. I'll bake on Sunday.
I made the dough on Saturday according to the directions in the book (also found on the Root Simple blog). I decided to go with basic until I get the hang of things. Then it's Black Pepper-Cheddar Sourdough every day. I let the dough rise/ferment in a warm place for about 4 hours, punched it down, formed the loaf, and let it ferment in the fridge overnight. I took it out when I woke up this morning, and let it sit in a warm place while I made breakfast and did some chores. Then I baked.
I didn't really have any suitable proofing basket (nor suitable cloth to use), so I used a bowl that was well oiled and floured. It worked ok, but I may have deflated the dough a bit when I removed it from the bowl, and I think the bowl I used was too deep and sloped too quickly. I am definitely headed to Brooklyn Kitchen to buy a proofing basket at some point this week. It's less sourdough boule shaped and more UFO shaped. It rose quite nicely, just not in the way I had expected.
The bread had a good crust, and a great flavor, but was pretty dense. Overall, I think I'm going to keep up with this (and I think you should give it a try). Next time I'm going to let the food processor do the kneading for me though.