Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More on Sourdough

I've been in the kitchen lately, tinkering around with Sourdough and was planning to post about it when I found, just this morning, some comments and questions over at my original Sourdough post. I've copied that conversation here, with additional comments. In answer to The Condrays regarding a recipe they have which requires one to make bread every week: the requiring part is in keeping the thing fed and alive. Just remove what the recipe assumes you will use, to do the so-called required baking, and pitch it, or give it to someone if you don't feel like baking bread that week. If you are especially frugal, freeze this extra until you can use it. This isn't a life sentence...this isn't Miss Bucky from 1970 something's Home Ec. class standing over us with clipboard and ruler. The required part would be in making sure the starter is replenished - fed, or the yeast will die. Remember, this thing is alive, therefore, it must eat. Hmmm, just like my kitchen wolves.
the condrays said...

Hey DH! I found your post during a search for a recipe similar to this one. I was wondering if you could help me out in my search. It's for a sour dough starter that uses potato water, but my understanding of the recipe is that it was very structured and required you to make bread once a week. Also, it only made 2 loaves a time. Can you help?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this recipe. I just made the bread and it turned out very well. It wasn't as sour as I wanted it so I was wondering how long do you usually let your starter sit before you use it?
Leigh Ann

Decadent Housewife said...

Hi Condrays and Leigh Ann,

Sorry, I just found your comments this a.m. I've been fooling around with the Sourdough lately and agree it needs more tang. So, what I've been doing of late is using ALL my leftover potato cooking water. It will vary but has been usually around 5 cups. If you are shy of that amount, top it up with water. Also I tried using ALL of the starter that resulted from that one batch of potato water. I still added the same amount of molasses, or sugar and salt and added 1 - 2 cups of flour. The more potato water I had the more flour I added. Under 5 cups of potato water I stayed with only 1 cup of flour. The tangy sourdough flavour became noticeably pronounced doing this.

Place potato water into a non-aluminum pot or bowl, preferably glass or pottery. Add a tsp. of molasses or sugar, a tsp of salt, add 1 - 2 cups of flour. I increased the flour when I had more than 5 cups of potato water. Stir that and let it sit covered with a clean tea towel over two days/48 hours or 72 hours/3 days. Throughout this time period I'll stir it every so often. The second day, you'll notice foam on the top. That is natural yeast. Stir it back in. You can bake with it after a full 48 hours or wait until tomorrow. I let it go three days once, stirring in an extra bit of molasses the third day. The flavour was not appreciably more tangy.

If you want more loaves increase the liquid part of your bread recipe. This can be done without anything else changed in the recipe for about up to 9 cups of liquid. After that you may wish to add more sugar and salt. You will just mix in more flour to still arrive at a nice soft dough with which to knead. The last batch we made produced seven loaves each weighing two pounds a piece.

Some of us here thought the original was a little too salty. I reduced the salt so that a single batch has no more than 1 heaping Tbsp. salt in total. Some batches had brown sugar and some used molasses. Only the colour differed and of course the liquid was increased a little by using the molasses so the bread dough took up more flour in the mixing and kneading. Carry on the same with the rest of the directions. I also used 2 cups of whole wheat for part of the flour. The two photos in this post are the sourdough with wholewheat - very nice. We also larded the pans and dusted cornmeal onto that. The loaves slid right off.

The loaves are more rustic, chewier, a little more dense, more moist and have a definite sour tang flavour. Everyone here agrees that adding caraway to these loaves would fool you to think they were rye bread. Rye flour is tricky to work with, so this could be a plus.

I don't think making two loaves per batch is necessarily a negative, in that, these rise free-form. If they get ahead of you, rising too fast in the second-rising stage they will begin to spread out on the pan and not hold their form very well. Smaller batches and keeping risen loaves, waiting their turn to bake, away from the hot oven area can help prevent this, but not always. I don't raise my breads in baskets like professionals do to aid in keeping the bread from spreading out.

I have propped up the sides of the flexible foil pans to cradle the rising dough and put some into the refrigerator to keep the dreaded spread from happening and that works. To bake more than one free-form loaf at a time in a home oven, in an attempt to beat the spread, interferes with the oven's air-circulation resulting in burned bottoms. I try to keep batches of bread, that I know I will be baking free-form, small. A really good book on helping with Sourdough is "Breads from the La Brea Bakery". It is a fascinating read if you are really interested in Sourdoughs. It may be available in libraries. Hope this helps and keep me posted with your results. :)

I'll add that according to the "Breads from the La Brea Bakery" (a book I recently purchased) starting the sourdough starter is quite involved. Not difficult, just involved. They make the point that time is what produces the wonderful flavour associated with these breads. Once the starter is completed, one is supposed to keep it going. I've not done what they do. Yet. I've not taken two weeks to fool around with grapes and cheesecloth and timed stirrings. No doubt it would/will be worth it. I have resisted keeping a jug of starter fed in my refrigerator. I've been distracted feeding wolves, not microscopic plants. OH MY GOODNESS! I can feel the pull right now......help!......Decadent will likely do it! After all, she makes yogurt.


Jeanne said...

Thanks for all the lovely recipes
and your visits and kind words.
Do you live in Northern Ontario
or Southern.
We are southern?
Love Jeanne

Decadent Housewife said...

We are in southern Ontario too. I've been enjoying your blog, especially the poetry. The photo today of your Grandmother was just wonderful. Her bouquet was gorgeous. Loved it. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my question. I will try it with more potato water. I left the starter a long time (a couple of weeks-blush,blush) and it was very tangy (lots of hooch). Anyway, I will be making this often. The family loves it very much.
Leigh Ann

Decadent Housewife said...

Hi Leigh Ann,
I'm so glad you are experimenting with this. My sourdough is just a take-off of my Multi-Purpose White Bread which is an adaptation of my mother's old recipe. I just substituted the liquid part with the soured potato water and left out the fat. Leaving out the fat produces a chewy crust.

I love that you left it a few weeks. That must have been powerful stuff!