Saturday, 24 July 2010

Sourdough revisited

I have been experimenting with sour dough again. This is one type of bread that I have not been able to master - yet. Give me some yeast and I'm a happy camper! But sour dough...
Anyway, it's been irking me for a while (again) that I still can't produce a good loaf of sour dough bread. So I made a ferment (first stage) that looked really good. Then fed the ferment (stage 2), and that's where it went all a bit pear-shaped, I think. Anyway, long tragic story cut short.

Here is one yeast-based loaf of bread and the other is the failed sour dough.One good thing - I have now quite a bit of dried ferment and can use that to make another starter, if need be.


biobabbler said...

It still looks very tasty! =)

Chris said...

I seem to have the opposite problem. I make a wicked sourdough and fail miserably with the dried yeast. All my attempts with dried yeast always sink after baking.

Traditionally, winter is a time sourdough won't multiply as quickly, so it can take longer to make a loaf. I use a few small cheats when I bake my winter sourdoughs.

I tend to feed my sourdough the night before, so the batter has time to grow. Then I add the flour first thing in the morning, to make the dough, knead for 10 minutes then let it rise for approx 2 hours. I use a warmed wheatpack underneath the glass bowl I put the dough in to rise - with a lid on top. Without this trick, it would take 4 hours to have it double in size. In summer I don't need the wheatpack and it grows naturally in the alloted 2 hours, just sitting on the bench.

After I punch it down and knead again, it's ready to rise for the second proove, which takes another 2 hours. This is when I use the oven. I preheat the oven (during winter time only) for 15 minutes at 50 degrees celcius. Then I switch off the oven and place the sourdough (in its loaf pan or tray) in the middle shelf. I also place a wide ceramic dish with boiling water from the kettle, at the very bottom of the oven. This stops the dough drying out.

When it comes to actually baking the loaf, I just remove the sourdough and preheat the oven to the 200 degrees before returning it to bake. I top up the water dish and leave it in while baking too.

Done right, I have a loaf cooked and cooling by lunch time. The process definitely takes longer than instant dried yeast, but I've never failed with sourdough so I prefer this method.

I've been reading a really good book on natural leavens. It's called "The Bread Builders", authors, Wing and Scott. I borrowed it from our local library. It did a great job of describing the way natural leavens work as opposed to the processed yeast.

The beauty of sourdough comes from the longer time it takes to make a loaf. If you have the time, stop by my blog and select the "Baking Days" label, from the left hand side menu. One of my posts on Sourdough has some links that really helped me tackle sourdough.

One of the things which could be happening with your sourdough, is you're not giving the dried ferment long enough to hydrate and activate. Or being winter, the lower temperatures aren't making a really active leaven. That's just a guess. You can cheat by mixing your starter in a glass container (jar or bowl) and place a warmed wheatpack inside an esky. Be careful however, as you don't want to cook the active yeasts - a slightly warmer environment is all you'll need.

I do love the golden crust you've managed on your loaves however. Did you like the flavour? I prefer sourdough to how yeast bread tastes now, but then I've never truly succeeded with dried yeast. I think I may have fluked one good loaf, but the rest were flops!

It's good to see you giving sourdough a try though. In my mind, it beats packaged yeast hands down. :)

Anonymous said...

Try to have it perfected by September please, then you can show me, as mine is always a flop.

Pip at Rest is not idleness said...

This post makes me think I should have another go at making sourdough. When I was making sourdough a couple of years ago, I found that it took ages at this time of the year, once the temps became warmer it really took off. The place I use to rise my bread is next to or on the computer hard-drive, seems to work quite well.

Veggie Gnome said...

Thanks for all the comments! Yes, it's definitely worthwhile experimenting with sour dough. The flavour is great!

Chris, a special thank you to you for your explanations. That is very helpful and I appreciate you taking the time to write it all down for me. I am doing another loaf as I type. :)