Hits and Misses - a sourdough journey
I recently posted a picture of my active sourdough starter on Facebook and Instagram. The reaction from friends was surprising. EVERYONE is into sourdough these days and many were seeking my advice!
I am certainly not an expert based on the number of hits and misses I've had. However, I do know that getting the starter going is more simple than you’d think.
Last year I learned that rye makes a particularly good starter because there are more natural yeasts hanging onto the rye flour. I recently read an article about the over-processing of food including wheat flour. Though I don’t know, I suspect rye flour doesn’t go through the same heating and separating processes that wheat flour goes through. Frankly, I’ve had very good luck with wheat flour in the past, but thought I’d try out some rye.
Here’s what you need to get started: flour, water, time -- and eventually you'll need salt -- and more time. That’s all!
Day 1, I started with ¼ cup rye flour and ¼
On day 2, I added two TBS whole wheat flour and two TBS water.
On day 3, I removed some to my discard container and repeated with 2 TBS rye and water. It’s important to discard some each day (there are many uses for it), but if you don’t discard some, then the newly introduced flour is diluted by what’s already in your starter.
On day 4, I discarded again and added wheat again.
A good way to tell if your starter is activating is to place a rubber band on the outside of your container, marking the top of your starter. If your starter is active, later in the day or the next morning you will see that the top of your starter has risen significantly and there are visible bubbles on the sides and from the top.
Until I started writing this memoir of my sourdough experience, I had forgotten how many times I have made it. I’ve had quite a few hits and misses. But even the misses are delicious soup breads. They generally have a crispy crust and a chewy center. Very French bread-like. And not as sour as some of the yeast augmented "sourdoughs" that I’ve bought in a grocery store.
My most recent success was from a recipe by www.breadbossescourse.com . I bought my bannetons and lame from them and have been very satisfied with my purchases – and I get nothing for having shared that information with you -- I just like making links. Check them out! The recipe they demonstrate is somewhat tedious with a fold every hour for 5 hours. But if you’re at home under lockdown, you have the time. And assuming you have a timer, each fold only takes a moment. That bread came out the lightest of all sourdoughs I have ever made.
I have not invested in a dutch oven. I have enough kitchen gadgets and don't have space for more. My heated pizza stone (a kitchen gadget I already had) in the oven works well and I trap the steam by placing my turkey roaster top as a cover for 15 minutes. Works like a charm!
Things I’ve learned during this process are:
Patience, patience, patience. Good things are worth waiting for!
Always check the oven before turning it on to be sure you don’t have some dough rising inside it.
Beeswax cloth, once melted onto a bowl at high temperature because you didn’t check the oven, is a bear to remove!
If at first you don't succeed, try it a different way! In every "failure" there is a learning experience.
Man does not live on bread alone, but it sure would be nice if we could.
Be kind to yourself!