Pandemic sourdough: the first loaf with my new starter

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/03/23/pandemic-sourdough-the-first.html

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These are two I made today…apartment/rental ovens are not terribly reliable. Too close to the broiler element (the baking element is terrible…) so we live and learn. I was impatient to see some browning/Maillard reaction…

Sourdough started from a preserved starter that dates back some time.

Simply dry a good starter (in a dehydrator, the sun or a cold oven with the light turned) by spreading it on wax/parchment paper and then grinding the results to a powder. Add a teaspoon to a 2c flour/1c water mixture and stand back.

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Here are the sourdoughs I made last week

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I or @xeni will do a round-up soon!

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Are those…olives in your bread?! Those look fantastic!

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Yes! And thank you. Green and kalamata olives with rosemary on top. Part-baked so I can throw them in the freezer and bring one out, each time we’re running out, to bake the rest of the way for fresh bread!

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Nicely done.

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Need more details on how you do this!

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Roughly followed the recipe here: https://www.theperfectloaf.com/tartine-olive-sourdough/, but maintained a 74% hydration rate and used white flour exclusively. Right before placing them in the banneton and into the fridge for overnight proofing, I lightly sprayed the top of the loaf with water and placed the loaf top-side down onto a plate full of fresh, cut rosemary.

Baked 80% of the way (part-baked) and will bake the rest of the way when I bring one out of the freezer the night before for a fresh tasting loaf!

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Breadtopia changed their no-knead sourdough recipe in the last year. I find the one they have now that’s 50% whole wheat to be way too sticky. It’s delicious but it does come out really dense. On my last loaf I changed the recipe to 75% hydration and it turned out much better. Tonight, now that I got my wheat order from the flour mill, I’ll try it at 70% and see what happens.

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Fantastic. I’ve been wondering if you can parbake sourdough; thanks for doing the hard work on my behalf!

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The new timing on baking also does not work for me. I am going back to the old 30 at 500 closed and 20 at 450 in the open dutch oven. 500 for 17/17 was slightly raw.

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I’ve been making 24 hour no-knead bread. Not the same as sour dough but still pretty good and no maintenance. We’ve been making 1 a day and a 5lb bag of flour (if you can get it) makes about 6 loaves:

This is at 450F for 30’ lid on, 15 min lid off.

Here’s the instructions:

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Yeah, I’ve played around with the timing a bit, too. I might try a version with the old recipe and see how it turns out. I think I have enough flour now to experiment…

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One thing to note about the finish bake time. I noticed it’s not quite the remaining minutes needed to complete the bake, but a bit more. Say your loaf takes 40 minutes and you parbake for 30 minutes. It wouldn’t necessarily be 10 minutes, but possibly 15-20 minutes. Experimentation is needed for proper dial-in

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How have I gone all these years and never heard of a banneton?

When we’re out of lockdown, I’m going to see if Goodwill has any.

Meanwhile, I’ll make no knead loaves. So easy, so satisfying!

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Good for you for diving into making sourdough! It is a deceptively simple process with a lot of variables, so if I may, a few suggestions that I’ve learned through experience:

  • The two most important variables are temperature and time, in that order. Your starter has to be warm enough for the yeast and lactobacillus to do their things, and so does your dough as it proofs. From the looks of it, your starter might not have been active enough (I suggest a high quality rye flour for your starter, it has a lot of nutrition for the microbes, doesn’t go off as easily if left unfed, and doesn’t make everything taste like rye bread if you are worried about that), but my guess is that your dough was too cold. Find a warmer spot for it: in the oven with the light, on top of a water heater… I put my jar of starter in a warm water bath for 11 hours at 74 degrees. I stretch and fold, proof, and finally shape my dough at the end of 6 hours, leaving it in a bowl I rest on top of my instant pot with a little water in it set on “yogurt, low” for five of those hours. The warm water bath under the bowl keeps the dough between 72 - 78 for that time. The starter should deflate when you stir it, and the dough should almost feel like a water balloon when you shape it. Without those steps, the same recipe for the same amount of time at lower temps yields spectacularly different results.

  • Hydration is good! Taking water out to make your bread less dense will most likely have the opposite effect. Working with wet, sticky dough takes practice, but it’s worth it. I find around 72% hydration to be a good balance me (just don’t forget to include the starter in the calculation, I made that mistake for an embarrassingly long time).

  • Autolyze: simple and effective. Mix your flour and water at least an hour before adding the starter and salt (I do it when I fed the starter, 11 hours before). Good for gluten development, makes dough significantly stretchier, easier to work with.

  • Scoring: if you want this to work, do the above, plus retard your dough in the fridge after shaping and before scoring and baking. Doesn’t need to be covered, don’t have to worry about temp here, don’t have to warm it back up, can leave it in 8 - 18 hours depending on your baking schedule. It will be easier to score, brown more nicely, and hopefully have even better oven spring.

Good luck on your adventure!

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I thought I had some Pyrex I could use for this, but they’re 2-qt. casseroles and I assume way too small for the job. Whether one uses an enamel-coated, Pyrex, or cast iron* dutch oven, should I oil the inside of it so I can get the bread out later? (EDIT: missed the part about using parchment paper, but the question still stands…)

*In my scenario we’ll assume that any cast iron will be improperly seasoned, at least to the degree that it’s not close to being non-stick. (Also assume I won’t be using pre-WW1 cast iron seasoned with artisanally-rendered fat from hand-fed elk; etc. :wink:)

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This morning’s pandemic loaf. Didn’t think to count the starter in the total hydration (70% in this case), but at least now I could actually score the dough.

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