changing the starter - from dry to wet

Hi,

I've been making sourdough using a drier style starter and following Richard Bertinet's french style method, which involves creating a wet dough and kneading it BEFORE any proofing etc. This method works well but seems to me to be pretty labour intensive.

I am looking for advice on changing the starter from dry (it's like a stiff, honeycombed dough) to wet. Do I just add more water?! Could it really be that simple?

Then, if I can adapt my starter, I want to have a go at making sourdough bread (a basic brown loaf), using the wet starter to create a 'sponge' or wet dough, leaving this overnight etc, before adding more four and kneading etc. No doubt such a method is already detailed somewhere on this site - perhaps someone could point me in the right direction.

Cheers,

Ruth

12 comments

hi ruth!  have you checked out the beginners blog?  There's a link on the home page and heaps of info there about starters...


Hi Ruth, there are heaps af idiosyncratic sourdough techniques, and you are right,lots of it is just timewasting hype. You can make exceptional s/d bread making a straight dough from your ripe leaven.What lots of these bakers dont do,is objectively assess their breads from an organoleptic,rather than technical criteria....and other bakers dont eat your bread,customers or you do,so it doesnt matter if other bakers think its not architecturally perfect, what really matters is its edibility! Just add more water to your semi-solid starter,though it should be thicker than thinner, and when it is really active, use it at about 40% of the flour weight and make a straight dough with it,water and salt. Give it proof (which varies in length dep if its wholemeal or white) and then tin or basket it for a final proof.Its that simple really. Try it, and then you can refine that procedure to suit your circumstances or religion.Hope it helps.......John


 

[quote=JohnD]Hi Ruth, there are heaps af idiosyncratic sourdough techniques, and you are right,lots of it is just timewasting hype. You can make exceptional s/d bread making a straight dough from your ripe leaven.What lots of these bakers dont do,is objectively assess their breads from an organoleptic,rather than technical criteria....and other bakers dont eat your bread,customers or you do,so it doesnt matter if other bakers think its not architecturally perfect, what really matters is its edibility! [/quote]

John, great advice for Ruth; I couldn't agree more with your post!

The only exception is that although 'good food' should be as you say "edible", and we agree on that criteria, I also believe food should be visually pleasing, have an 'aesthetic' character. Of course, this criteria is subjective; in all societies aesthetic tastes develope, evolve, or morph into many variations in any decade influenced by the "zeitgeist". Although not strictly essential it is still important to us all.

Right on, well said Boris,i remember wanting to hurl loaves at the wall because they werent as i wanted,and being restrained from doing so,and hearing a customer say that she loved the appearance of the particular loaves as they were "so rustic",while i foamed at the mouth in the background. Im reacting to the fact that bread was never tasted as a criteria in Australian bread shows,until we pressured the Sydney easter show to do it in 96,and the judges were horrified how bad the perfect looking,technically excellent breads tasted.

Outside of the "Vienna slipper" there were almost no crusty breads ever made by Australian bakers,not even the English "Cottage",and "cobs" were baked on trays...no sole bread....which is really strange.


 

I do some judging for the Royal show in Sydney. The bread I have see at many bread shows even in the 'conventional' classes range from a few good quality loaves to ridiculously poor, and you're correct, many of the loaves that seem to have good general appearnce are nothing more than very ordinary even by 'conventional' criteria. Many contain very unpalatable emulsifers and crumb softeners that can be detected by taste but also by aroma. I have to admit to being astounded by some of the quality being submitted.    

I agree, in the trade as a whole the volume of sole baked bread is still marginal.

 




 
Emulsifiers and crumb softeners...right,and yes the aroma, every time i walk thorough the bread section in a supermarket i have to hold my breath because the smell is so unpleasant,and i wonder how they make such an appealing product as bread smell like that....could you enlarge upon these additives please mate?


 

of emulsifers that are not uncommon in the baking industry, but there are a few that crop up routinely in bread and cakes from industrial to small hot bread shops.

  • lecithin (found in soya flour which is commonly used in 'bread improvers') this is probably the most inoccous and used by almost all conventional bakeries, small and large.
  • Sodium stearoyl lactylate  (SSL) often used by industrial bakeries
  • Calcuim stearoyl lactylate (CSL) again often used by industrial bakeries
  • diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono-diglycerides (DATEM) industrial bakeries and some smaller bakeries use specialist ingredients such as shortenings and margarines which contain these compounds
  • Sorbitan industrial bakeries used in some cakes
There are a few more which I just can't rememeber without my reference books.

Some of these impart a very unpleasant aroma and flavour, but they have powerful anti-firming properties which interfere with moisture migration within the loaf crumb by reducing the propensity of the starch to retrograde after baking and during cooling. The realignment of the starch amylose chains causes firming. Emulsifers reduce this process. Enzymes also contribute to anti-firming by degrading the amylopectins which prevents retrgrading or realignment of the amylopectins in the starch chains. The holy grail of industrial baking is to prevent crumb firming with the use of additives. The really ridiculous thing is that well fermented (even yeasted conventional bread) has the ability to remain 'fresh' (lets not quibble about the term 'fresh' in this context) without these additives. But this requires long fermentations.
Chem knows more about these compounds than I do, perhaps he might chip in.


And i bet there isnt one bit of research examining the impact of these chems on human health....except that our senses warn us by the offensive odour and taste. Its mind boggling that people are conditioned to eat that stuff, or that they can be put in a "staple" food.

As ive said,the immigrants of the 50`s have told me over and over that they built ovens in their backyards because they simply couldnt eat the bread when they arrived here...yet Australians seem so docile!


 

[quote=JohnD]


And i bet there isnt one bit of research examining the impact of these chems on human health....except that our senses warn us by the offensive odour and taste. Its mind boggling that people are conditioned to eat that stuff, or that they can be put in a "staple" food.[/quote]

I'm not able to post any references to research on their impact without doing an extensive search of the relevant journals and university libraries. But I think it'd be reasonable to conclude that after the American FDA approval - ANZFA and PHAA usually follow suit - 'approved' food additives and drugs are not usually subject to intense research with emphasis on the safety. The prevailing attitude by Commercial interests is that the hurdle has been jumped and the green light is shining. The other element to consider is that commercial interests do have influence over the approval process. Post approval research is most often commercially driven and usually concerns itself with the application of these compounds in other food manufacturing processes rather than safety. But having said that, there are instances where approval has been withdrawn many years after the compound was in extensive use; but the number of those instances are very small indeed. 

 

[quote=JohnD]As ive said,the immigrants of the 50`s have told me over and over that they built ovens in their backyards because they simply couldnt eat the bread when they arrived here...yet Australians seem so docile![/quote]

From my childhood I have vivid memories of my parents, who arrived in the 50's, making a weekly pilgrimage to a then well known European deli in the heart of Sydney to buy bread.  

 

Interesting,thanks. you are very polite,theres a lot less polite fingers being pointed at the grand arbiter, the FDA,for being up to its neck in dubious relations with as you put it "commercial interests",and it is claimed there are quite a few dubious chemicals which are used as, or are in food additives. Withdrawal from refined foods is more often being reported as a curative agent, and its not really rocket science. trans fats is a classic,being closely followed by the artificial sweeteners, some of which have already been withdrawn...cyclamates?...erucic acid from the rape oil used to oil bread tins,now banned, is thought to have caused widespread and varying pathologies.....and think about how we know these chems are harmful? Out of all the symptoms a patient may present at a GP,how in hell would the GP know if for example one was from eating any of the crumb softeners you mentioned, for example? Many suspect that Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is so common,is exacerbated by  raw gluten (as an unfermented addition in large amounts in premix flours and other bakery goods) , and things like these "crumb softeners". I googled "eating bread" and there were quite a few people saying, as you hear commonly, that regular (factoryish)bread gives them "bloat/stomach cramps,etc...As you say its a strange paradigm. 


 

Thanks Danubian and JohnD - I really appreciate the advice. I'll give it a go and let you know what results I get.