A n00b attempts Sourdough and Reports

January 18, 2010

Tacky is a good thing

Filed under: Baking — Tags: , , , — alie0bronwynn @ 1:21 am

Ever since I started this I’ve been reading “The dough should be tacky.”  And I was thinking “Why?”  It’s harder to knead when your hands keep sticking to it, not to mention the complexities of actually achieving this elusive “tacky loaf”.  So, I’ve kneaded with flour.  I’ve kneaded with olive oil.  I hadn’t achieved tacky at any point.

Then, one day I was lazy.  I mean, I have this whole thing down, knead, break, knead, break and suddenly the flour I’ve put away is needed.  The board is totally absent of flour and here I am with a glob of dough in my hands.  So then I just kneaded.  And suddenly I knew what they meant by “tacky”.  It’s this state where it is sticky but doesn’t fully STICK to the board.

Now – why tacky?  SEAMS.  My seams had been HORRIBLE.  The bread, during baking would always split at the seams, so I’d have my beautiful cuts on top and then these ugly seams underneath the bread.  It sucked.

But a tacky loaf?  Well, the bread is so sticky that during the shaping process it’ll stick to itself and there will be no visible seam!  *gasp*  It’s fabulous.

If only I hadn’t listened to my mother and realized earlier that Tacky is a good thing.  🙂

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January 14, 2010

Best crust so far

Filed under: Baking, sourdough — alie0bronwynn @ 5:12 pm

After much baking I’ve found the best crust is to mist the bread with olive oil throughout the rising process and then right after you put your dough in the oven you mist/spray it with water.

Oh – and this is “THE” best oven process I’ve found so far.

Heat the oven to 500 degrees with a shallow pan in the bottom and a baking stone above.

Prepare a cup of ice with cold water just before putting the bread in.  (there is some debate if the water should be hot or ice cold (with ice in it).  This is to add steam to your oven (professional bakers get equipment that will do this for them, bastards). So far I’ve found using cold water and ice that it keeps the oven steamy the entire cooking time which makes the crust better.

Put the bread in.  Using an oven glove (otherwise the steam will burn you) pour the water into the shallow pan and close the door ASAP!

A second later I take my spray bottle and mist the loaves for a bit (not soaking, just misting the loaves and the oven walls a bit).

Close the doors and TURN THE OVEN DOWN TO 450 degrees.  I’ve totally forgotten to do this numerous times and DAMMIT.  So DEFINITELY turn the oven down.

5 minutes later put in another batch of Ice Water.  Mist loaves again, close door.

10 minutes later turn the loaves around for even baking (if you have bread on two levels, switch levels).  Mist loaves again.

Then, bake your goods until they are golden brown and sound hollow when you tap them.   Mist the loaves again, close door for 1 minute, pull the loaves out.  Depending on how they look I might mist them again after they are out until they look “shiny”.  But that seems to be a looks thing more than changing the actual taste of the bread.

So, after lots of trial and error – that’s what I’ve personally found works best.

Good luck!!

January 4, 2010

The fluffiest and easiest kneading

Filed under: Uncategorized — alie0bronwynn @ 4:45 am

Ok, once upon a time I wanted to make bread and forgot to do the barm the previous night.  So, I looked up a bread recipe that didn’t require the barm for overnight – it was White Levin from The Handmade Loaf.  While it looked standard, it had a CRAZY kneading schedule.  I mean, up until now I did the 15 minutes of kneading and that’s it.  Here’s the schedule in my words.

Dough has been made – transfer to lightly floured cutting board.  Knead for 15 seconds (yeah, that’s right).  Let sit for 10 minutes.

In the meantime clean out your bowl, and put a fine mist of oil in it.

Knead dough for 15 (I know, I know – awesome, right?).  Put it into the bowl, let rest for 10 minutes. (I like to cover it in a mist of oil and then plastic).

Pull dough out, knead for 15 seconds.  Put back into bowl, mist with oil, cover with plastic, let rest for 30 minutes.

Pull dough out, knead for 15 seconds.  Put back into bowl, mist with oil, cover with plastic, let rest for 1 hour.

Pull dough out, knead for 15 seconds.  Put back into bowl, mist with oil, cover with plastic, let rest for 2 hours.

After this, your dough should have doubled since the initial batch and is ready for shaping and it’s second rise.

Now – this is time heavy in terms of keeping track, but I love not wearing my arms out with kneading AND the extra bonus is with this method my dough has been it’s MOST fluffy and well risen.  So, proof is in the pudding.  Or the dough in this case.

January 2, 2010

It’s all about the starter

Filed under: Consistancy, sourdough, Starter — alie0bronwynn @ 5:16 am

One thing I’ve learned, for sure, is that it’s all about the starter.  I tried one with store bought yeast, one with only flour and water (supposedly the “best” sourdough method) twice and my latest (which is still at least 6-7 months old now) which is constructed with pineapple juice as the fermenter.  I’ve heard you can also do this with grapes – any sugar will help instigate the fermentation process.

The pineapple juice starter has DEFINITELY been the best so far.  It consistently replenishes, the dough rises nicely (not fabulous, but good).  The first few batches made from the starter were not very sour, but now the flavor is great!

So – what’s the best method?  I have no clue, I think it depends on where you live, the kind of environment you have in your household and the position of the stars – but you should definitely play around and find the best starter for YOU.

January 1, 2010

Ok, I finally get the fridge

Filed under: Uncategorized — alie0bronwynn @ 1:18 am

It’s taken me until today to realize how the refrigerator can play into your baking and how.  Last Christmas I made rolls for my in-laws and my family.  I made the dough at the same time, but cooked the rolls for my in-laws Christmas Eve and then the rolls for my family Christmas Day.  I stored my family’s rolls in the fridge, very nervously might I add.

But here is the key, that is simple but no one ACTUALLY states out load and lists the implications.  Your refrigerator slows the fermentation/rising process.

Here is how you use the refrigerator in your baking.

Starter goes in the fridge – because it slows the process it keeps your starter “fresher” than if it was out.  If it’s out all the time, you need to replenish/freshen your starter every day, if it’s in the fridge the process is slower so it can wait a week.

Rising your bread overnight – you can do this in the fridge because it doesn’t STOP the process, only slows it.  This way you can do the second rise the next day because as the bread warms the process speeds up again.

Barm goes in the fridge overnight – If your recipe calls for making barm it generally goes in the fridge overnight because, let’s be honest, no one would bake if it was a 12 hour process.  So, the barm rises for a few hours and hits the cooler to slow down before you add more flour & water to give it more to feed on.

So – I’ve spelled it out.  The fridge slows the process down.  So if you want to put a halt on your baking at some point and restart – you use your fridge.

P.S.  I’ve also heard that leaving the dough in the fridge overnight can increase the sour taste – I haven’t done a comparison yet.

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