June 8, 2008

Sourdough is forgiving

Filed under: food — origamifreak @ 2:16 pm

Last weekend, while on the phone with Lisa, I lost track of what I was doing, and instead of just folding in enough flour to the sponge to make it kneadable, I ended up folding so much in that it was not even sticky anymore.

So, having read things about no-knead bread, and having other things to do, I just stuck the ball of “dough” in the fridge to sour for a couple of days and wait until I had time to bake it.

On Friday I whacked off a chunk of dough and brought it in a bag with me to Ithaca, for baking on Saturday.

Kathie put it in a cake pan (she’s already packed her other pans for her imminent move to DC), and after rising, it had basically spread out without increasing in volume. It wasn’t smooth on top as usual, but rough and there were visible fissures down into the “loaf.” We reshaped it and let it “rise” some more, then came back to see it looked just the same as before (spread out, but not increased in volume, and funny fissures and holes).

So we just baked it as it was, and it came out like biscotti, and the texture was very strange, more like a wet quick bread than a yeasted bread, with irregular holes, and extremely dense. The taste was good and sour, but that’s about all I can say about it that is nice. It was not a successful loaf.

I guess that’s what happens when you don’t knead. The gluten is not structured in such a way that it can hold in bubbles. Just like all the baking books say. Go figure!

This morning, back at my house, I pulled the remaining “dough” out of the fridge and started kneading it. It behaved oddly, tearing instead of stretching, with no elasticity. I just kept at it, and eventually it started behaving more like “normal” dough. It was almost viscous by the time I put it in the pans to rise.

After 6 hours rising, it had just tripled in volume, and I baked it.

Now it looks like the sourdough I have come to know and love. Spongy texture, crunchy crust, and really, really sour. In fact, it might almost be too sour, even to my Bay Area tastes. I guess a week is the extreme of how long I want to let my dough ferment in the fridge.

It’s nice to know that you can rearrange the steps and knead at the 11th hour, and still get decent bread, though.


May 6, 2008

Hello, sour!

Filed under: food — origamifreak @ 12:01 am

Oh YES.  That is the stuff.

I made a sponge on Saturday, dough out of it Saturday night, and it’s been in the fridge proofing and getting punched down ever since.

Today when I got home from work I chopped off a hunk of dough, formed a loaf, and let it rise for about 6 hours.  It wasn’t done, but I was (it was midnight) so I baked it anyway.

MMMMM.  Yes, that is the flavor I’ve been missing.  And I love that spongy texture.


April 26, 2008

Tiny Bubbles

Filed under: food — origamifreak @ 11:02 am
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Well, I tried again. This time the rise was 5 hours, and I measured the salt so there was more, which slowed things down considerably.

There’s more sour than before, but next time I think I want to try an 8-12 hour rise – that might even fit better with a weekday schedule, anyway:

  • Evening: Mix up starter, leave overnight
  • Morning: Knead and shape into loaves, rise all day
  • Evening: Bake, leave on cooling racks
  • Morning: Put loaves away

And talking about convenience, check out these suggestions

I forgot to save back some starter before adding the oil and salt and so have been nursing a tiny bit back with gradually increasing amounts of flour and water (and at the beginning, a tiny bit of sugar). Looks like he’s recovered, though – there are lots of little bubbles.

Also, Lisa sent me a copy of her current favorite baking book, Dough. It comes with a DVD so you can watch how he kneads and handles the dough. He spends his effort on incorporating lots of air into it. I bet those loaves would rise in the oven, even without yeast, they’re so bubbly. Lisa says she isn’t going to try that experiment, but I think I might, just to see.

April 20, 2008

Not Sour Enough

Filed under: food — origamifreak @ 3:48 pm

Well, the loaves I baked today rose just fine,

I also had fun with seeds and slashes,

and the crumb is good.

But the flavor just isn’t tangy enough. In fact, it’s hardly sour at all! Next time I’m going to let it sit in the fridge overnight before raising. Or just punch-down and re-raise, as my mom used to do.

BTW, the second picture is especially for Lisa, and she knows why. Hehe.

April 19, 2008

Controlled Rotting

Filed under: food — origamifreak @ 9:11 am

It’s interesting how foods that rot on their own seem disgusting, but the ones which result from humain-aided fermentation are often delicacies: wine, cheese, bread.

Having grown up in the SF Bay Area, I suppose it was inevitable that I would develop a taste for sourdough bread. It helped that my mom made it weekly, baking it in round coffee cans, the tops rising up and over like enormous mushroom caps. Later, when the public were informed that the soldered lead seams on the cans could be toxic, she unfortunately switched to standard bread pans. I still have them.

In college one summer I lived in a co-op house where there were seven of us, mostly graduate students. Six nights a week one person would plan and cook dinner. The seventh person was in charge of baking bread for the house. I was this person.

My favorite and familiar source is the Tassajara Bread Book, written in the early 1970s, cataloging the breads made at the oldest Zen monastery in the US.

A few weeks ago a colleague brought in a loaf of “Amish friendship bread,” which very much resembled a quick bread. He is also from California, and the conversation turned to sourdough, which also typically involves shared leavening culture. This made me start craving sourdough again, so I sent off for some free starter, and it arrived this week.

Following the instructions for how to wake it up, I have been nurturing what started as a teaspoon of the dried culture. The rest of the dried culture is living in two ziploc bags in the freezer, in case I need to restart it. You begin with very small amounts of flour and water. It took about a day for the yeasties to start growing and making bubbles. Gradually I added in more flour and water. This morning I was able to add a whole cup of each, and I anticipate by this evening that there will be enough to start a batch for baking.

If you want to try this too, I highly recommend the book. If you just want the basic sourdough recipe, there’s a version here.

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