Bethesdabakers Sourdough Method

bethesdabakers's picture
bethesdabakers

With Graham's permission I'm putting together a mini-series about how I make sourdough. Notice I say,how I make sourdough' and not,how to make sourdough' or even,how you should make sourdough'. That's because I don't think I have particularly special skills and I certainly don't have the technical knowledge to dictate to you, but I have been making sourdough successfully for a number of years, I totally agree with Graham's statement,making sourdough is easy' and I would like to contribute to demystifying the process.



There are numerous methods for making sourdough and when you are starting out the quickest way to be successful is to follow one method until you get it right and not to take a bit from one person and a bit from another and flit from one recipe to another. I'm afraid it comes down to routine. But, if that sounds dull, the excitement comes when the dough hits the heat of the oven and in the sights and smells of that transformation from a moist, grey blob of flour and water to a golden, crackling, steaming loaf that has the neighbourhood drooling.



And, don't forget, you people have got it lucky, you can't move for internet advice. When I started bread making in 1992 (yawn) all knowledge came from books (remember them') and, from my perspective in the UK, serious books about bread, and there weren't many of them, came from the USA. Hard to get hold of and expensive plus measurements in cups!



The first book with proper sourdough recipes in, i.e. ones that didn't include additional yeast, was Joe Ortiz' Village Baker and, try as I might, I could not get them right. When recipes don't work out it is easy to blame everything but your own incompetence. I concluded that the climate in Wales was not warm enough for natural yeast development. We have a cast iron stove in our living room in a big inglenook. I had my biggest Le Creuset casserole rigged up on top of a stool in the back of the inglenook with a double decker arrangement inside so it would hold two bannetons of dough to rise overnight. Can you imagine what it put the dough through, burning temperature with the fire at its height crashing down to near freezing in the early hours. Come morning it didn't need an oven to produce a crust. I admit it, I gave up on sourdough.



Then, towards the end of 1999, I made a new starter to be ready for the millennium and tried again. This is the bullshit factor. I know I said I wanted to demystify the sourdough process but it doesn't hurt to have a little bull up your sleeve. So if I ever get to be professional I have my Millennium Starter, made new for the incoming century and it will allow me to produce Snowdonia Sourdough (for this is where I live) harnessing the unique, natural yeasts from the pure Welsh mountain air. Just don't ever forget it is bullshit.



Anyway, that's the self indulgent bit. I'm not going to do a section on how to make a starter, there's loads of that information on the forum + to be honest, I've only ever made two starters in my life and, apart from the fact that I only used plain, organic flour and water, I can't remember how I did it.



Next I'll do a section on equipment and then, how I maintain my starter.



Comments/questions welcomed and please ask if there's a problem with Brit terminology, e.g. by plain flour I mean white bread flour.



Mick

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Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2006 April 27

Mick,
Here is my question, where have you been? The bakery up yet? and why didn't you answer my e-mail from Dan's site!

Otherwise, keep on keepin on!
Jeremy

Graham's picture
Graham 2006 April 27

[quote]
I?m not going to do a section on how to make a starter ? there?s loads of that information on the forum + to be honest, I?ve only ever made two starters in my life and, apart from the fact that I only used plain, organic flour and water, I can?t remember how I did it.
[/quote]

Mick, I came accross the same issue while getting a starter going recently. Bakers that bake regularly are not experienced starter-makers. They have a 'perpetual leaven' brewing on a daily cycle, or have been carrying around starter for years.

[i]Starters[/i] is one area where home bakers have more experience than professional bakers. Funny that .
For the [url=http://www.sourdough.com.au/beginners]beginners page[/url], we will source a lot of our starter info from non-commercial forum users. So including it in your mini-series is not essential. I thought you were going to call it "Days of Our Leavens"... ..Hopeless, I know.

Graham

TeckPoh's picture
TeckPoh 2006 April 27

[quote="bethesdabakers"]
With Graham?s permission I?m putting together a mini-series about how I make sourdough. ...[snip]... Brit terminology, e.g. by plain flour I mean white bread flour.

Mick
[/quote]

Thanks, mate, er..I mean, Mick. Your mini-series would be much appreciated.

Gosh, I never knew plain flour = white bread flour in UK. Always thought it was all-purpose flour with a gluten range of 9 - 12%. So, what do you call plain flour with that description?

Jeremy's picture
Jeremy 2006 April 27

Hey Mick,
I also have been toying with the idea that some like Dan have noted that either lighter flours give nicer flavor or that hard (bread flour ) is sort of a crutch for control of the final dough? Not so well put, I think you'll get my gist though? I actually have been mixing a percentage of All purpose with bread flour to see the difference, haven't had time to come to a conclusion! Too dammned busy with my real job!

Jeremy

P.S. Graham the culture cam is not working and I am a Macoholic as well I have the latest update on java, what's up?

Graham's picture
Graham 2006 April 27

[quote]
Gosh, I never knew plain flour = white bread flour in UK. Always thought it was all-purpose flour with a gluten range of 9 - 12%. So, what do you call plain flour with that description?
[/quote]
My understanding of plain flour is that it is "plain" because it does not have any added raising agents, such as baking powder. I also did not know that plain flour meant white bread flour in the UK . Plus is that [i]white[/i] bread flour or [i]white bread[/i] flour, if you get my jist?

"Plain" is such rediculous term for flour. It suggests that the flour that is not plain is "eloborate". In that sense which interpretation is more appropriate? The UK version that (I assume) says that a more complete flour is elaborate, or the Aus version that a flour with chemical raising agents is elaborate?

Graham

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 April 27

Hi Mick,

I have already admitted my own incompetencies! Although I'm sure I could add a few more if need be. But I'm sure it's the phases of the moon that stuffs my bread up!!

Thanks for offering to share your info with the forum community as well, the more info we beginners get, the better. That's why I like the 'gallery' so much ... because you get to SEE what people are talking about.

Please feel free to add photographs of the different stages of your breadmaking ... it would be helpful and encouraging.

I recently printed out a 'schedule' - roughly hour-by-hour - that Dan Lepard prepared for a demonstration on another forum and I find it very helpful as it is simple yet definite - it clearly displays what's going on and when.

I don't aspire to be a sourdough boffin or anything more than making tasty, nutritious bread for my family. That said, I suspect my 3-year old son would eat poo-on-a-stick were it offered to him. I actually asked him that last week, he assured me he wouldn't, but I'm not convinced.

Carol

SourDom 2006 April 27

Carol
I don't know about your three year old, but mine is inclined to like or dislike foods based upon mysterious whims that baffle me.

I have a favourite quote (from Geoff Slattery I think), which (paraphrased) goes - if you feed the same food to your kids four nights in a row...
Monday night 1/2 of them will like it
Tuesday night the other 1/2 of them will like it
Wednesday night none of them will like it
Thursday night they will all chorus 'why can't we have this more often'

my three year doesn't seem to mind the sourdough, though the soft white vienna that I make is more popular. Can't convince him to eat the crusts though (I don't mind I eat his sourdough crusts, as I think they are the best bit!!)

cheers
Dom

bethesdabakers's picture
bethesdabakers 2006 April 27

Wow - I'm intimidated by all this enthusiasm.

Just to clarify my clarification. When [i]I[/i] say plain flour I mean strong white bread flour. Flour labeling in the UK can be quite vague but generally white flours come in two types bread flour at about 11% protein and pastry flour at about 9%.

I just pulled out three flours from my little store, two Tescos and one Doves Farm. One Tesco describes itself as Organic Strong White Flour at 11.8%, the other as Organic Plain Flour at 9.5%. The Doves Farm describes itself as Organic White Bread Flour and weighs in at 11.5%.

In any of my recipes, Plain Flour means white flour at around 11% protein, i.e. I might be using the term incorrectly.

I don't know enough to answer Jeremy's question about the use of weaker flours except to say I am aware that some artisan bakers do use them in favour of stronger flours - French bakers use T55 and T65 flours extensively - and, yes, Dan Lepard does have a thing about local bakers learning how to work with local flours.

Mick

SourYumMum's picture
SourYumMum 2006 April 27

Hi Dom,

I have tried really, really hard to get my boys (3 & 4) to eat well because;

a. I don't want them to end up with weight issues,
b. I want them to appreciate good food and be discerning (which is
becoming expensive because they like mangoes, smoked salmon
.... sourdough!)
c. My 3yo was born with a nasty heart problem requiring fairly inventive
're-plumbing' of his heart/arteries - so I want to keep them clean!
(Yes, he is doing very well, thank you ... you would never know to look at him!)

Murphy's law applies: the tall, lean 4yo son without a heart problem leans towards healthy food, doesn't like lollies, etc .... the 3yo we really need to eat well prefers 100% hog fat!

That said, all of your comments apply. I think only toddlers can happily exist on party frankfurts for a week solid!

At the moment, Mr 3yo reckons he likes potato ... but not mashed. So I've cooked potato three different ways this week ... he wouldn't eat any of them. But tonight he ate his own dinner and his brother's ... and a bowl of ice-cream, and a bottle of milk ... and at bedtime storytime said, "I'm starving!"

And to get back to bread ... I have one starter which is now getting bubbly, and one that looks like wallpaper glue!

Carol

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