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sourdough for dummies?  RSS feed

 
Marion Kaye
Posts: 53
Location: Essex, UK
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The more I read the more I get confused.
My MIL was in charge of the sourdough, but apart from it being kept in a glazed earthenware jar, in a cool dark place, and added to the new dough mix, I have no idea what she did with it. I'm pretty sure that once it was in storage, nothing was done to it, until it was needed again, because one time, it had been longer than usual between uses, and MIL couldn't revive it, so had to get some from neighbours instead.
So, so far my plan is to make some bread, with multigrain flour, and fresh yeast, and keep some back, in a jar in a cool dark place with a saucer on top to keep the wildlife out. . .

I figure MIL probably didn't add more flour, as only a fraction of the starch will have been consumed to make the bread rise, so there's plenty left for the yeast to feed on for a couple of weeks at least. I figure she probably didn't add sugar either, for the same reason.

I guess I'll actually try a couple of variations, one 'as is' and one with added water, as I seem to remember it was quite sloppy at some point.
Any ideas what my chances of success might be? 0.o
 
David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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Hi
I keep mine in a box the fridge . My way of using it goes like this
Day before I take the dough from the fridge add 500g flour and 300ml water mix well leave it over night
Following day add 1500g flour 1lt water mix well add 30g salt mix a bit more then take a hand full put in fridge add the rest to pans, leave to rise when doubled in size cook . Works for me

NO SUGAR ADDED

David
 
Marion Kaye
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Location: Essex, UK
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Thank you so much! That is just what I needed to know. Nice and simple and even similar quantities to what I'll need to use.
 
David Livingston
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just thinking sour dough is not the same as yeast you can buy in the shops you realise ;-(
I would get some starter from some one who does this already
Although you can make your own starter its a bit of a faff
 
Marion Kaye
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Location: Essex, UK
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Well, if you can make 'proper' sourdough starter from just water and (wholemeal?) flour, will it be so terrible to help things along with a bit of bakery yeast?

I know that when making ginger beer, there is a bacteria that feeds on the alcohol, thereby keeping the yeast alive for longer making the end product fizzier. Hmm, a bit of googling reveals that lactobacillus can help keep down other moulds. It just so happens I have some yoghourt in the fridge (I eat tons of it) . . .
 
john mogey
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Location: oregon nw of eugene
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Producing a starter is not too hard, all it takes is time. I've been doing this for a few decades and periodically have to begin a new starter because I have neglected the old one and sometimes an old starter gets too old and too sour. All I do is start with a small amt of flour (whole wheat) and water and as for the amounts, a wetter dough than what I bake with. After a few days it begins to bubble some and I add more flour and water. I keep building it up until I have a nice batch and then launch into the baking. I keep my starter refrigerated and when I take an amount for dough I replenish the starter with the same amt of flour and water that I took out and let the starter work on that new flour for four or five hours and put it back in the fridge.
There are people who make wetter starters, some stiffer. Water and warmth will drive how fast your starter works on the flour.
As for baking I usually bake loaves of about 4 lbs and for that much bread use only about 2 tablespoons of starter. A little bit goes a long way, but I build up my dough over two days in "refreshments." It's always a "feel" and is dependent on many factors, such as weather, flour, etc.
The fun thing is that there is no right way and you can make wonderful bread with the simplest of inputs: flour, water, starter, and (usually) salt.
 
Steven Kovacs
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Location: Western Massachusetts (USDA zone 5a, heating zone 5, 40"+)
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Marion Kaye wrote:Well, if you can make 'proper' sourdough starter from just water and (wholemeal?) flour, will it be so terrible to help things along with a bit of bakery yeast?

I know that when making ginger beer, there is a bacteria that feeds on the alcohol, thereby keeping the yeast alive for longer making the end product fizzier. Hmm, a bit of googling reveals that lactobacillus can help keep down other moulds. It just so happens I have some yoghourt in the fridge (I eat tons of it) . . .


Many sources say that if you add bakery yeast, it will out-compete the existing "wild" yeasts in your starter, because the bakery yeast has been selected to be fast-growing. Such a "contaminated" starter would presumably still work, but might not have the depth of flavor that a "wild" starter has. Certainly you don't need to add any yeast (or yogurt, or whatever) - the flour already seems to have the needed yeast on it. That makes sense, since what we're looking for is a yeast that eats (preys on) our particular kind of flour, so we'd expect it to be lurking there already.

My starter took a few weeks to establish (spelt flour plus water, divided and fed as needed) but has lasted for several years now and produces tangy, complex bread. Like others, I keep it in the fridge. One evening a week I take it out, dump almost all of it, and feed it with 3T flour and 3T water. The next morning I put almost all of the (now foamy) starter in a bowl with salt, water, and more flour to make dough. The tiny bit of remaining starter gets another 3T each of flour and water and goes back in the fridge, and the bread rises for 8-10 hours (at 70F - more time if it's colder, less if warmer) before being shaped and baked.

It takes practice to get the hang of sourdough, and your local conditions (flour type, water, temperature, etc.) will shape what you end up with, but it's a lot of fun - and very satisfying when it's going well. Good luck!
 
Roberta Wilkinson
Posts: 175
Location: Washington Timber Country
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We don't eat as much bread anymore, so I've let my starter go by the wayside, but I did this for a couple of years, baking every 3-4 days. For starter, I just mixed water and flour in a 2:1 ratio and let it sit on the counter until foamy. I'd take a couple of cups of that for my bread (add sea salt and enough flour to make a suitable dough, rise, bake, etc) feed the rest with some new water/flour mixture, and stick the starter in the fridge. From the fridge, I'd take it out and give it a small feed in the morning, then bake bread in the evening when it had fluffed up and come to life again. Re-feed, refrigerate, repeat as desired.

If you leave it too long without use, it will get a brownish/blackish liquid on top that doesn't taste or smell great. If it's just a tiny bit, you can stir it back in, but I preferred to pour it off and add back an equivalent amount of fresh water. If you let it go too too long, your yeast will die and you'll need to start over.

One tip: be sure not to use chlorinated water. It will kill or greatly set back the very organisms you're trying to cultivate. Spring water is best, but you can let chlorinated tap water sit uncovered overnight to get most of the chlorine out.
 
Marion Kaye
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Location: Essex, UK
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Ok, you convinced me! I'll give it a go. I've got three and a half weeks before I'll really need it. (For a new cob oven 'christening' party.) We'll probably be using spelt, so I'll try some of each (separately). Spelt, wholemeal, and multigrain. I've got plenty of old kilner jars.


Roberta Wilkinson wrote:If you leave it too long without use, it will get a brownish/blackish liquid on top that doesn't taste or smell great. If it's just a tiny bit, you can stir it back in, but I preferred to pour it off and add back an equivalent amount of fresh water. If you let it go too too long, your yeast will die and you'll need to start over.

That reminds me of MIL peering at the starter and debating with someone (one of her SIL's), whether it was still viable or not. Home bread baking was getting rarer and rarer, even though, ironically, people were also getting more appreciative of home baked bread. Making starter from scratch was already a lost art, at least in our small town.

Chlorinated water, not a problem, I use cooled boiled water when baking bread anyway.
 
Roberta Wilkinson
Posts: 175
Location: Washington Timber Country
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Home bread baking was getting rarer and rarer, even though, ironically, people were also getting more appreciative of home baked bread.


Funny how that is, huh? I once absolutely floored a woman at least 30 years my senior by knocking out an apple pie from scratch while she watched. She said everyone she knew got their crusts from the frozen aisle.
 
John Master
Posts: 518
Location: Wisconsin
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I was a sourdough dummy until I got the book "100% rye" in a pdf. There were about 5 things I was doing wrong, after about 4 failed attempts, I read the book and my first loaf turned out great. for anyone who wants to learn (even if you want to use a different grain) that book was a great guide.
 
Bill Crim
pollinator
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Location: Issaquah, WA
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I have been baking sourdough, at least once a week, using my home made starter for about 3 years. I can't possibly eat that much bread, so I bake it for my coworkers. I started it on a whim after a night of drinking a lot of champagne and watching YouTube videos on sourdough. Here are some random-access thought on sourdough...

Normal bread yeast can't handle the level of acid in a sour starter. So don't worry too much about commercial yeast taking over or contaminating your starter.

I do a pure flour/water starter. I find this to be the most flexible. The "Return of Dough" work really well if you are making the same type of bread over and over. I use my starter in a much more generic fashion, so I keep it flexible. I don't weigh my ingredients, I just use 1 tbsp of flour(slightly heaping) to 1 tbsp of water as the proportions. I keep my starter at "stiff pancake batter" consistency. If the starter is batter-consistency, the bubbles rise to the surface; if it is a bit stiff, the starter will expand in volume. Both are perfectly fine. You just adjust the water in your final product.

Feed daily at room temp. Feed weekly if you are storing for long periods in the fridge.

Popsicle sticks(food grade, not craft) to stir the starter. Single use, unfinished wood, low risk of contamination. Also... freaky cheap. This is more important during the creation of the starter, less so after 2-3 months of a stable starter.

I use the Fido Style glass jars to store my starter. Make sure to remove the rubber ring, since you don't want an air-tight seal on your starter. Choose the size that fits your baking needs, however I usually have one large one which stores my "active" starter that I use for baking. I have a much smaller one that stores my "Oh Shit" starter which only lives in the fridge. This is a disaster recovery starter which I have used at least twice in 3 years. Its unlatched at room temp, but latched(to prevent it from absorbing smells) in the fridge.




 
Bill Crim
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Location: Issaquah, WA
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On a related topic, Northwest Sourdough is an amazing resource. The YouTube channel is an amazing resource. I can't recommend her enough. She does works with normal sourdough starters, but also mother-dough, salted starters, and techniques applicable to general bread making.
 
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