My first sourdough bread and 4th bread ever

I'm posting here, although I am probably a more rank beginner at this bread baking stuff than really anyone. I started baking last week: made 3 loaves from commercial yeast and some random recipe I found on the internet that seemed to be more about propagate religion rather than breadmaking but broke down the steps pretty well.  I love to make things and to read about things, but have an aversion to instructions, which might not be the greatest way to start in making bread, but I'm all about trial and error!

The yeast breads have been kind of flat with no fluffly holes, which I now realize is due to the punching down the recipe suggested.  They were however, fairly delicious even they weren't going to win me any competitions.  But I really wanted to get started with my starter, so I did.

Following the simplest thing I could find on the interweb, i mixed flour and water in a jar (didn't sterlize the jar) and placed in on the radiator to make my starter.  I put it on the radiator because it's really cold in my house and nothing is going to grow if i put it on the table. After two days and one "feeding" (well, one dumping of some extra flour and water...) it started smelling vaugely cheese-like and bubbling.

My bread is made with a mix of all purpose flour, organic red-fife flour, some olive oil, a bit of organic sugar and a pinch of salt.  These ingredients were combined in some random numbers until the dough texture was just slightly too sticky to knead comfortably. (i don't like instructions, and I don't have any proper measuring stuff in the house right now anyway. nor do I have a proper baking pan, only a tin-foil cookie sheet).

I poured half my starter into the dough mix and mixed up all the powders, kneaded a bit and then let it rise overnight for about 6 hours (near, but not on the radiator.)  When I woke up it was a large ball, expanded probably 3 times.  Then I punched it down, which was probably a fatal error as i read later in the day that gets rid of big air holes that I want. (But it feels so squishy and delicious to punch it!)  Then I had to go to work, so I left it in the fridge until I got back 6 hours later. In the fridge it developed a skin and didn't rise much. so I put it out on the counter on a cutting board, shaping a loaf as best i could.  Where it rose a bit after i left it for an hour or two.  But then when I tried to transfer it to the cookie sheet it stuck to the board and deflated. So I put it on the radiator, wondering if I'd wrecked it. It rose a bit.  I tried to make slices in the top but I don't think I did it right.  Then I decided that I may as well put it in the oven as I was probably rising and deflating and overproccesing the dough to death.

I put it in the oven at 425.  I also put a bowl of water in the oven to..is that what i'm supposed to do?  I was happy to see that my bread seemed to be cooking and getting bigger and smelling delicious. I left it in the oven for some random amount of time until I tapped it with a spoon and decided it was done.  Then I took it out of the oven.

Then I tried to wait until my boyfriend got home, but I couldn't and cut it open to eat it. Success!  It tastes delicious, way better than my commercial yeast breads I had made more carefully according to instructions and measured the ingredients.  Also, it rose more and had a nicer and more open texture.  I was happy to see that my bread turned out despite my brand-new sourdough culture and my slackass ways, and lack of a recipe.  I guess I will continue to experiment and eat the evidence.*

(* I did save some for my boyfriend who said it was delicious. He was also pleased that I cleaned up all the flour and dishes I had created. Although not so pleased at the jar of weird stuff on the radiator)

 

11 comments

You don't need to put your starter on the radiator (although warmer temps = faster activation - and at very warm temps your starter will need more frequent feeding). I began mine in the middle of winter, and it was pretty nippy inside (12 - 18C). In retrospect, I'm actually glad I began mine in cold temps because it seems to be a very vigorous starter; my theory is that only the stronger wild yeastie thingos grow to maturity and survive when they're incubated in cold conditions, but this is purely guesswork with no scientific basis. Perhaps other forum members who are up with the science - such as KarnieCoops - would beg to disagree, in which case I bow in advance to their superior knowledge. Anyway...

Another reason I like to leave my starter at the natural temps is that I've noticed the flavour changes with the season. Now that it's summer here and inside temps are up to 30C or more inside, my starters are giving more of a sour tang to the breads. I like the flavour variations the seasons bring. Just a thought - and each to his/her own, of course.

You sure look like you enjoyed the eating part! Onya, and many good bakes to you in the future.

Cheers
Ross

PS: I'd seriously reconsider the no-weighing part. There are some wonderful home bakers on this and other forums who generously share their formulae, experience and knowledge, and unless you're prepared to weigh the ingredients, you'll miss out on the opportunity to learn from some very good artisan bakers - and to replicate some of their marvellous breads yourself. There's a tremendous store of knowledge and experience out there. Why not tap into it? I'm indebted to wonderful and helpful bakers like this site's TeckPoh, SourDom and Shiao-Ping (in order of 'discovery' - and these are only the folk who spring immediately to mind), and to some other fantastic artisan bakers on sites like WildYeast and The Fresh Loaf. Without my cheap but perfectly adequate Target digital scales, and the generous sharing of knowledge by these folk, my learning and bread repertoire would be less than 1/10th of what it is. Also, the more you learn and experience, the better your 'intuition' becomes.

I believe that a scale is a must if you are going to be baking bread. Many flours react differently to water some will take in the water quickly wile others take longer time to absorb the moisture and with out the scale you will be contently adjusting this each time you bake. My mother in law baked bread for good 20 years if not more but if you ask her for a recipe she will not be able to give you one, because she always works by her intuition. When you get a scale you will find many uses for it in your kitchen. When I just started my sourdough baking adventure first thing I got was a small digital scale. Now each time I get ready to bake I just weigh all my flour, water and starter, sometimes I experiment but that is the fun part of this, if it works out and the bread turns out great wallah I have a new recipe, if not I change something else in it next time, and with out the scale I would not be able to do that as accurately. So bottom line get a scale, you will see that there is lots of recipes out there and most of them in grams, it will be a pain to change them to volume.

 

http://www.ourwholesomehomes.com/2010/01/to-much-cooking-this-sunday_11....

 

Hello! Thanks for commenting all! I took the advice on the starter and moved it from off the radiator to on top of the fridge. I didn't think it was possible to have it work in a fairly freezing apartment. I didn't want to imply at all that I had a commitment to not weighing or measuring my ingredients. This was brought on by the fact that I move all the time and can never manage to collect proper kitchen equipment and don't currently own anything to measure with.

 

I was improvising with jars and stuff, but when I was making the other (non-sourdough) recepie it wasn't working at all. (In retrospect: I think this is probalby because I was using whole-wheat flour.) But basically I was making dough and the recepie called for like, 2 more cups of flour, and I look at the dough and am like "no way is that gonna take two more cups" and so sort of gave up. Also, my starter is brand new, and I'm not sure what it's supposed to look like with water content and stuff: it doesn't look much like the overflowing starters I saw somewhere on this site. It does have the ability to rise the bread though (this bread was a bit deflated: but I think that is due to poor handling rather than the starter which seemed to have rising power, at least if i left it for a few hours).

 

Also, i don't know if this is a regional difference or not, but I live in Ontario (Canada) and I've never seen anyone cook using scales. Cups seem pretty universal. I don't even think I've ever seen kitchen scales in someone's kitchen, or even at Wallmart (although I haven't looked). My grandmother bakes a fair amount for example, but she doesn't have scales. This is another reason I have trouble following recepies, they often have measurments I'm not familiar with (like mL or weights) or ingredients I don't use (like lard). I was a bit intimated by the large lists of equipment: I don't have a baking stone, or even a proper cooking sheet. Nor do i have mixers, or a bread machine or any of that. And it doesn't make sense to go buying a lot of stuff, as I'll be moving again in a few months. I will however, buy a set of measuring cups at the next opportunity. Also, I'm confused by the recepies- basically I was so intimated by conflicting instructions and recipes and equipment I don't have that if I tried to follow them I never would have started. Which is why I'm taking an eat-my-mistakes approach. I am reading more to learn about bread, and I willing to start looking at proper recipies as I start to take down the intimidation factor.

I think that if you have a store like the Bed, Bath, and Beyond up there in the Great White North, you'll find they have small digital kitchen scales for less than $35 CDN. If not, try Amazon.com or eBay. Baking bread doesn't have to mean great, expensive purchases. More than a few bakers have patrolled thrift shops and found equipment to make do while they learn. Used book shops will occsionally have bread books but most of us that buy them new are reluctant to let them go once they find a place in our kitchens.

Persistence and imagination will help move you along the learning curve in baking bread.

 Thanks for the more comments!

I've really never seen anyone use scales, ever. It's not that I probably couldn't get them, but everyone I know seems to use cups for measurement.  Also, I'm pretty nomadic and I really don't want to acquire much more stuff at this point in my incredibly tiny apartment. Hopefully I can continue making bread and learning through experience despite that.  I just want this to be simple and to make something edible at this point.

(some dough is rising right now- my starter seems to be happy- i hope it turns out)

 Megan don't worry about the scale or other tools that you don't have.  People have been making bread for a long time without them.  You will learn to notice things about the way your dough feels and this will guide you to how much water or flour to put into your bread.  Enjoy your learning experience and your bread.

 

Hey, I live in Ontario and I use a scale! Scales are helpful, but like what was said already they are not absolutely necessary. They just help remove some of the room for error.

 

Good luck and if you need any local help just shoot me a message.

 

Adam

 Thanks so much LeadDog for your comment. I just don't have the room or the space or a permanent kitchen right now for getting lots of stuff. i realize that probably most of the posters on this site have kitchens and families of their own and aren't living the nomadic and semi-impoverished life of a grad student. But I think (or hope at least) that making sourdough bread can be for everyone, and that hopefully I start off with a really low investment in stuff and work on developing my skills, which are something that I can take with me wherever I go.

I agree with Lead dog that scale's are not necessary but they do help especially when you just start out, and they don't take up much room. My grandma baked bread 50 years ago and they did not even have measuring cups like we do now all they used were drinking glasses and normal tablespoons, but from experience they knew what kind of adjustment needs to be done to the dough, fortunately for us we have scales, and measuring cups that we use but as new baker scales sure help me get amazing brea out of my oven. Here is a picture of a scale that I use it's less than 1 inch high and weighs 1/2 of any book that you use in college, just be on a look out for one you can find some used ones for great price. Just for fun I took my 1 cup measurement and weight equal amount of 3 different flours, here are the results all of them were 1 cup and made by Bob's Red Mill.

 

Ruy - 118g

Whole spelt - 144g

White - 133g

 

You can see that there is a difference from one flour to another. Just a fun fact. If you would like to see my last bake visit.


http://www.ourwholesomehomes.com/search/label/Bake-n-Blog

 

 Great job Megan! Even if it was a randomosity to get a great recipe! It worked, right? :-)

 

 

Good for you Megan!

 

Keep on baking that bread and experimenting - I don't know enough about sourdough yet to give you any advice, but if what you are doing without weighing or measuring is working, then keep on refining that, I doubt the first bread bakers had much in the way of equipment ;) hehehe