Saturday, July 4, 2009
I finally made the move into sourdough. I wanted to start as naturally as possible, so my culture was developed from only flour and water and the natural yeasties in the air. I developed the culture/starter using the method Susan at Wild Yeast has shared and in fact used her bread recipe as the first one to try. I started the culture last week, and fed it diligently twice a day until it was doubling in 4 hours or less. I then lowered the amount of culture used in each feeding and it still doubled in 4 hours, so I felt it was safe to give it a go.
The dough felt a little different while working with it, and I will admit that at times I didn't think it was rising enough. I was worried that I had what looked like at active starter but would end up with hockey puck bread anyway. Lo and behold, the oven spring on this bread was fantastic! I forgot to turn the heat down after putting the loaves in the oven, so they got pretty dark, but the taste was still wonderful. Pleasant crumb structure, slight sour tang. Overall, a success.
Next time I will leave the loaves in the oven with the door cracked open like Susan suggests. This time I felt I had to get them out since they were getting so dark. Plus, it's tough to leave the oven open and on when it's 101 degrees outside. I also think they would benefit from spending the night in the fridge after being shaped and before baking. This will bring out a little more of the sour flavor. The sourness should also increase as my starter ages.
It was a fun process and much less intimidating than I thought it would be. I had read a lot about the process from all the great bakers who contribute to The Fresh Loaf and may have information overloaded a bit. In the end, I just sort of fed it as regularly as possible, tried to keep it going, and built it up to the amount I needed for the first bake. I think the culture and starter are actually quite forgiving.
I am looking forward to trying the whole new world of recipes that are opened up to me now that I have an active and viable starter. In addition to all the loaves of bread, we'll be trying sourdough pancakes, sourdough english muffins.... Mmmmmmmm, carbs.