Monday, July 24, 2017

San Francisco Sourdough Starter Culture

I received my San Francisco sourdough culture from "Cultures for Health" through Amazon on Thursday and promptly began the process of getting the culture to grow at 4:30pm.  Apparently, they've had to update their instructions as the one included with the packaging differs from that on their website.

New Methodology 
  1. Add packet of starter to 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon water in a quart-size glass jar and stir thoroughly. Cover the jar with a coffee filter or breathable material secured with rubber band and culture in a warm place for 12-24 hours.
  2. After 12-24 hours, feed the starter with an additional 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons water. Stir vigorously. Your starter should have the consistency of pancake batter, and you may need to add more flour or water.
  3. After 12-24 hours, feed the starter with an additional ¼ cup of flour and ¼ cup water. Stir vigorously.
  4. After another 12-24 hours, feed the starter with an additional ½ cup of flour and ½ cup water. Stir vigorously
  5. Every 12-24 hours, discard down to ½ cup of starter and then feed the starter with ½ cup water and ½ cup flour. Continue this feeding schedule, and after 3 to 7 days, your starter will be bubbling regularly within a few hours of feeding.

Rather than go for every 24 hours (as I had been doing with my previous attempt), I decided to go with every 12 hours.  It was stored in the cabinet above my refrigerator (at a pretty constant 73.5 degrees).  

Believe it or not, I happened to wake up at exactly 4:30 am on Friday morning and did the first feeding.  There wasn't any action taking place that I could see and, after 12 hours, what I had was devoid of any bubbling and pretty bland tasting.  

At 4:30 pm on Friday, I can't say there was much difference.  By Saturday afternoon, it was smelling much better and there was definitely some sourness to the starter.  However, I still didn't see any bubbling and couldn't smell any yeast at all.  

Sunday morning at 9:30 am (still no bubbling, but it did have a layer of "hooch"), I went by day 5's instructions, discarded all but 1/2 cup of starter, and fed it the additional water and flour.  This time everything was done by weight in grams; I'll post these details later. (it's a 100% hydration). I put everything in my new jar and covered it with a coffee filter held on with a rubber band.  

UPDATE: See my "Sourdough Infographic" page; this is the process I'm now following.

I have the following (and a 33.75 oz by the same manufacturer); it's quite nice. 

Bormioli Rocco Fido Square Jar with Blue Lid, 50-3/4-Ounce

I checked it at around 2:30 pm Sunday afternoon and, much to my surprise, "Tony", is ALIVE!  Let me explain the name...  I've read that one MUST name their starter or "very bad things can happen" :)  I picked "Tony" as a name because, well, he left his heart in San Francisco :) (Sorry)


"TONY" AFTER:  As you can see, it clearly doubled in volume in about 4-5 hours after feeding.  (That's PERFECT).  It had a wonderful, yeasty aroma, and tasted a bit "tart".

Now, my previous starter, from my initial post (called "Winnie"), was not working at all.  On Thursday, I gave her a couple of grains of the SF starter culture and followed the same feeding instructions above.  As of Sunday morning, there still wasn't any change.

Sunday afternoon, I gave her one cup of "Tony" and the same amount of flour and water I'd been feeding him.  I made the decision to discard some of the total contents because I was afraid that, if it did double in volume like "Tony", it would overflow its smaller storage jar.  I checked it Sunday evening and it turned out that my decision was a good one:



At this time,  "Tony" and "Winnie II" do not taste exactly the same or have the exact same aroma.  Close though.

I will continue feeding equal amounts of flour and water (by weight) for another couple of days until I'm sure "Tony" and "Winnie II" are both viable and ready to be used.  Then we'll be onto the next phase of finally baking some sourdough bread. :)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sourdough Starter (Day 5)

This is my second attempt at producing a sourdough starter within the last couple of weeks and, unfortunately, it doesn't appear that I'm having much luck.  I have two separate "batches" working at the moment. If either of them work, I'll provide details on how I did them.  However, it's only been 5 days and I've read that it can take upwards to 16 days to fully activate a starter.  

What I have now definitely has a pleasantly sour taste (before feedings), so it certainly looks like Lactobacillus is growing.  I just don't see any definitive evidence of a wild yeast fermentation. Everything looks good / smells good / tastes good / temperatures are fine; I guess I'll just have to be patient. From all the reading I've done, I'm not the first person to have this issue.

However, just in case, I ordered a San Francisco sourdough culture today and I'll have it by Thursday :) 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sourdough Starter (Day 2)

Not much in the way of bubbling, but that's not unusual.  However, there does appear to be some added volume since yesterday.  There was a little bit of what's commonly called "hooch" or alcohol production at the top / sides (a by-product of yeast fermentation). The aroma is nutty and sweet and the starter also had a sweet taste .  Looks like it's working 
(I think :) ) 
  • Ambient Temperature: 73.2°
  • Starter Temperature: 73.2°

First Feeding:
  • Discard 1/2 of the starter (150g)
  • Add: 150g of WW and 150g of filtered water
  • Water Temperature: 72.8°

Mixed all the ingredients well in another container, washed the glass storage container and place the starter back inside.  This will be kept for another 24 hours in the same location.  I'll be stirring it occasionally during the day to add the oxygen needed to promote yeast growth.

Sourdough Starter (Day 1)

After attempting to get a starter to ripen over a 10 day period with no success (I won't get into it at this point, but I believe I know now why it didn't work), I decided to try another similar method... 

I recently found (and read) a rather small book called: Baking Real Sourdough Bread by a place called "The Artisan Bakery School" in the UK.  While I have many sources of information on this subject in books I own and on the internet, I chose this one (for no particular reason). The instructions are very similar to others I've seen (give or take some somewhat minor differences).

Day One:

  • 150 grams of whole wheat flour (whole wheat or rye flour contain more wild yeast than regular flour).  
  • 150 grams of filtered water

I purchased a 17oz glass storage container with a locking lid for the starter.  There's some conflicting information regarding whether the container should be sealed or not, but I chose to remove the silicone gasket and simply close the lid.

Room temperature (72-73 degrees) is optimum for the wild yeast (Saccharomyces Exiguus) to grow and allow for the beneficial bacteria (Lactobacillus) to grow as well.  Lactobacillus (which produces lactic acid) grows more slowly than yeast (depending on the ambient temperature) while Saccharomyces Exiguus grows more quickly at warmer temperatures. These two microorganisms, the sourdough's microflora, have a symbiotic relationship and both work together to produce the balance of flavor, "tang", and texture that is characteristic of a sourdough bread.  To control this balance, the yeast growth needs to be retarded just enough to allow time for the beneficial bacteria to do its thing. 

I checked the temperature of various areas, i.e., the counter, the cabinet above the refrigerator, the oven (light off/ light on), the microwave, and another storage cabinet in a corner of my kitchen.  The corner cabinet appears to be near the perfect temperature at 73.6 degrees.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Starting Over

I started this blog in 2011, and it quickly became (very) evident that I had neither the time nor the inclination to keep it up to date.  Instead, I turned to Facebook where I could easily post my bread and food porn pics at will :) However, now that I'm "retired", and have a renewed interest in bread baking, I've decided to start all over.  

Since my first blog, I've baked quite a bit, read a lot of books, done research on-line, watched countless bread related videos, and (hopefully) learned much.  Before I deleted all of my previous blogs (I actually saved them as drafts), I read through most of them.  I had to chuckle. While I did (luckily) manage to produce a good amount of quality breads, I had many that were mediocre at best (yet still edible), and more than my fair share of complete and utter failures. Inconsistency was a big issue for me.  I'm now ready to learn from my mistakes and give it another go.

My plan is to devote the time to developing (and documenting) a good sourdough starter, and try some new recipes from various bread baking books I've acquired.  I've amassed quite a nice collection on my iPad:
  • The Bread Baker's Apprentice (Reinhart)
  • Artisan's Bread Every Day (Reinhart)
  • Bread Revolution (Reinhart)
  • Whole Grain Breads (Reinhart)
  • Bread 2nd Edition (Hamelman)
  • Baking Sourdough Bread (Söderin, Strachal)
  • Classic Sourdoughs (Wood, Wood)
  • Flour Water Yeast Salt (Forkish)
  • Tartine Bread (Robertson)
  • The Art of Baking Bread (Pelligrini)
  • A Passion for Bread (Vatinet)
  • In Search of the Perfect Loaf (Fromartz)
  • Baking Artisan Bread (Hitz)
  • Bread Baking (DiMuzio)
My blog already contains some informative bread-related videos, but I'm sure I'll be adding even more from the extensive list of bookmarks I've collected over the years.

As of  today, I have a new sourdough starter in the works (I'm also thinking of purchasing an authentic San Francisco sourdough culture).  I'll be documenting everything to include:
  • Starter hydration
  • Flours used
  • Feedings
  • Times 
  • Ambient fermentation temperature / Starter temperature
  • Observations: Taste/ Aroma / Appearance
  • Mother starter information
  • Dough making (hydration, mixing, fermentation, times, temperatures, scaling, forming, proofing, scoring, baking, etc.)
  • Final crust and crumb observations: Taste, texture, aroma and appearance.
  • Comments from my volunteer panel of taste testers :)

All of this is a plate full for sure (no pun intended), but I'm willing to give it a shot :)

Till tomorrow...