Chasing Sourdough, Part 1

This week, it took me almost an hour one morning to feed all my sourdough starters.  When I was done, all I could think was, “I can’t keep this up.” and “What a shame to throw all this excess away.”  Clearly, I need to come up with some solution to this problem.

As I showed you last week, I have 4 starters going:

From left to right they are:

1. A stiff starter from Daniel Leader’s book, Local Breads.

2. An even stiffer starter from Maggie Glezer’s book, Artisan Baking.

3. A really runny liquid starter from the same Daniel Leader book.

I also have the mother starter from King Arthur in the fridge as backup.

Yesterday, I made some bread using starters 1 and 3.

walnut miche using DL's stiff starter

I pretty much followed this recipe exactly as it is written in the book, except I did not have as many walnuts as I should have.  It rose beautifully and was a very nice dough to work with.

fig anise using DL's stiff starter

This recipe is from Artisan Baking, but I used 45g of Leader’s starter instead of the 10g of her extra stiff starter.  This was a really slow rise, but the dough was also nice to handle.

buckwheat baguettes made with DL's liquid levain

This recipe from Leader’s book gave me quite a bit of trouble.  The chart with all the ingredients and measurements did not match up with the instructions.  I consulted other recipes using the same starter from the book and finally managed to put something together, but I don’t think it was what it was supposed to be.  But, I went ahead with it because I knew after the first stage that the starter was active.  As long as the dough rises, it can be baked, right?

Well, here are the results:

1. The baguettes were a strange color (from the buckwheat), but tasted yummy.  I was hoping for bigger holes, but I think that might have had something to do with how I had to fudge the recipe.  I think it was supposed to be a much wetter dough.

2. Something is off about the flavor of the miche.  It could be from not having enough walnuts, but I think the more likely culprit was my whole wheat flour.  I used white whole wheat, which doesn’t taste as hearty to me and therefore, the bread has a kind of bland flavor and Yes-I did put the salt in the dough!  (This is the first question the husband asked me.  I must admit, I do have a problem remembering to put the salt in, but I do remember doing it here.)  I must go get some other whole wheat flour and try this one again.

3. I like the fig bread more than I thought I would.  The anise scent was really overpowering when it was in the oven, but in the bread, it mellows and lends a nice texture.  Originally, I made this bread for the husband because he loves anise, but this one might be my favorite of the bunch.  It’s got a great chewy texture and getting a bit of sweet fig every once in awhile feels like a bonus.

So, here are the lessons learned:

1. Flour matters–especially the whole grain ones.  If you want good wheaty flavor, get a good, wheaty flour.

2. Leader’s stiff starter is more active and easier to use.  I might be saying goodbye to starter #2 from Glezer if it doesn’t start acting up.

3. Buckwheat is yummy, but gives a weird gray color.  I might try baking this at a higher temperature to see if I can get some more browning action going.

4.  When the air is dry, add more water.  Each of these doughs were stiffer than the recipes lent me to believe they should be.  This could account for the smallish holes an denser textures.  I think  little more water would have helped, maybe.  I’ll have to let you know for sure next time.

5.  As long as the bread rises, it is probably edible.

6.  If I had to do this for a living, it would not be fun, so I will not be opening a bakery any time soon, but thanks for asking!


Posted on January 6, 2012, in Baking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Too bad you won’t be opening a bakery. They look beautiful!

  2. My grandmother baked sourdough rye bread every couple of weeks for probably 50 years. Your loaves look wonderful. Good on you for keeping these traditional techniques alive.

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