A n00b attempts Sourdough and Reports

March 22, 2010

It’s like candy and no one told me?!

Filed under: Baking, Recipe, Rising, sourdough, Starter — alie0bronwynn @ 3:57 am

Ok, news flash.  Organic Rye Flour is “like candy” to yeast.  And no one told me.  Suddenly my new favorite, uber fluffy, sourdough recipe makes sense – it has more rye flour than I’ve used before.  Suddenly the starter I found that was successful makes sense – I added more rye flour.

Thus – this blog.  Rye.  It’s like candy to yeast.  Use it and win.


Best Sourdough so far

Filed under: Baking, Recipe, sourdough — alie0bronwynn @ 3:55 am

Hi Everyone!

Ok – I haven’t said it before, but I have a new favorite site for all things Sourdough.  All level of people post here, answer questions and so on.  Home bakers to Bakery Owners.  Yeah, capital B capital O.  Because those people who do this for a living and make money deserve the props.

http://www.sourdough.com/   – I love viewing the forum, asking questions, going after the latest and most recommended recipes and procedures.

Someone there recommended this recipe.  It made what is now THE BEST SOURDOUGH I’ve made so far.  Take a look at those air bubbles!

I let it sit in the fridge overnight (about 16-17 hours).  It was sour, great crust, fluffy and great air bubbles.  I can’t wait to use this recipe and try rosemary bread, chocolate rolls, walnut bread and bread bowls.

Here is a link to the recipe – http://www.wildyeastblog.com/2007/07/08/my-new-favorite-sourdough/

Go. Bake. ENJOY!

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.  🙂

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 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.

July 23, 2009

Starter – from scratch – update

Filed under: Rising, sourdough, Starter, Time — Tags: , , , , — alie0bronwynn @ 3:59 am

Ok, so – my new starter is already kicking ass and taking names.  Some “facts” though.

Starter recipe from scratch note: Within 24 hours your starter should have doubled and should have a nice froth on the top.

Starter1 has NEVER doubled in 24 hours except maybe the first time I ever made bread with it.  Period.

Starter 2 has been doubling (no froth) for the last 6 days or so.  Whohoo!  Obviously this bodes well for when I actually make bread with it.

The blue rubber band represents not only Starter 2 – but where it was this morning when I dumped most of it and added 100g of flour and 100g of water.  So just 12 hours later – OVER doubled.  YAHOO!


The other big note is that you can REALLY see the difference.  The new starter is full of big air bubbles.  I know eventually that translate into some kick butt bread that’ll be nice and fluffy.  Take a look at the other starter – hardly any air bubbles!

The only thing with starter 2 right now is no froth.  Here’s a side by side comparison with Starter 1.  Starter one DOES tend to froth more than Starter 2.

Starter 1

Starter 1

Starter 2

Starter 2

So we’ll see how that goes in the next few days.  Starter 2 is SUPPOSED to be done in a day or two…

July 15, 2009

Recipe attempt…

Filed under: Baking, Recipe, sourdough — Tags: , , , , — alie0bronwynn @ 3:46 am

Ok, so I’ve so far been going off of this recipe for my sourdough bread.


I’ve liked it, but so far my bed doesn’t rise UP very well, but only out.  I am thinking this could be from my starter not being  “alive” as well as it should be.  Not to mention the fact that I was working from a starter made from yeast.

But anyway, recently I decided to try another recipe.


First off – it made two HUGE loaves of bread.  Too much for just me and my Fiancee to eat before it went bad.

It rose pretty well, but the main reason I won’t be using this recipe in the future is because it didn’t taste great.  The sourdough flavor was only an aftertaste and not the real taste – very different from my other recipe.

allrecipes.com - Sourdough Bread I

allrecipes.com - Sourdough Bread I

The crust was better on this batch than previous batches, but I think that’s because I finally learned – SPRAY the crust with water.  I have also read that you can use an egg wash on your crust – that will be the next test, along with my new starter.

Anyway – there’s my info.

Oh, I should probably also let you know. it raised overnight, and then again all day long.  Long rise.  I might blame my starter, though.

July 14, 2009

Holy Crap – 14 days?!!

Filed under: Recipe, Starter, Time — Tags: , , , , , , — alie0bronwynn @ 3:26 pm

First off, I’d like to address something about baking sourdough bread that EVERYONE seems to think when you first start.  It takes TIME and that BLOWS.

Yes, we are usually talking at LEAST a full 8 hour day for a loaf of bread.  But let me tell you something.  Most of my cookie recipes take me at least an hour of solid work to get a batch of cookies.  mixing, preheating, putting the dough on the sheets, 8-10 minutes in the oven, transfer to cooling rack, next batch in…etc, etc.  The amount of ACTUAL time it takes me for a loaf of sourdough bread.  Time of ACTUAL working on it?  About 25 minutes.  Yeah.  That 25 minutes is spread out over hours and hours as my bread rises, but seriously.  That’s it.   So yeah, the work takes place over days sometimes, but it’s not hard work.

Ok, so far this is the BEST Blog I found for starting a STARTER.


It’s the old timey method, just flour and water – but it takes 14 days of oversight.  I’d average my “daily work” at about 3-5 minutes. Tough, right.  Poor thing.
This particular recipe uses Rye Flour and White Flour.  AND recommends Organic for both and fancy water.

I am using Organic Rye Flour I found at the supermarket and regular old Unbleached Bread Flour I also found at the supermarket.  I’m also using regular old tap water.  I’m not as hard core as this guy apparently.

One thing I am doing is using boiling water to clean of all my equipment before using it on the starter.  Apparently a new starter is VERY sensitive and easy to kill, so I’m playing it safe.

I’m currently just past Day 4 – and I had some yeast growing!!!  I’m SO excited.  The first 3 days were just flour and water, flour and water – and it just looked like goop.  This was the first day of small bubbles forming which means the yeast is growing.

It's ALIVE!!!

It's ALIVE!!!

One thing I’ve learned from all of this.  Yeast is HUNGRY.

Your STARTER is like a pet.  You have to constantly feed it to keep it alive.  The creation of your STARTER is the exact same thing.  You start off encouraging the yeast to grow and feeding it ALL the time.  At least every day for 14 days.

You will also be tossing a LOT of your flour and water.  I wish I had compost for this part.  It feels like a shame, but I know that if I can create better bread in the end, it’ll be worth it.

NOTE:  Another difference I’m doing is in the blog they cover theirs with plastic wrap.  I’ve read that yeast needs air, so I’m covering mine with a  paper towel to make sure it gets air.  Part of what makes the yeast grow IS the air – which is just one reason San Francisco Sourdough is known throughout the world.  There is just SOMETHING about the air here.  I love that I live here and get to “use” it in my bread.

Ok… what the hell is a starter?

Filed under: Rising, sourdough, Starter — Tags: , , , — alie0bronwynn @ 3:09 pm

Alright.  Sourdough basic – the STARTER.

You know how when you bake bread SOMETHING makes it rise?  Well, there are breads, like bananna breads, that rise in the oven like a cake does – usually I think the rising ingredient is baking soda.  I think.  It might be baking powder.  Honestly, I never really researched it.

In other breads – it’s yeast.  With yeast breads they rise OUTSIDE of the oven.  Because temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will kill yeast.  Which I’ve learned the hard way.  Which is also one of the reasons you wait for your bread to fully rise BEFORE sending it to the oven.  Otherwise you get this ridiculously dense loaf of bread which feels like it weighs a ton of bricks.  Though, honestly, when thinly sliced makes a good sort of cracker for cheese.  I digress.

STARTER:  A STARTER is a natural form of yeast that sourdough bakers use to MAKE sourdough bread.  In the past, because a STARTER is something you keep alive and growing it allowed people to always have yeast on hand for bread before we had the handy little yeast packets.  Now, the reason you make sourdough with a STARTER instead of a yeast packet is because a STARTER being alive and growing is what gives the bread that sourdough taste.  If you smell an active STARTER it smells sour… yum.

Most basic books I found told me to create my STARTER using a packet of yeast.  This was easy.  My STARTER was mixing flour, water and yeast together and letting it sit out for a days.  This allowed the yeast to get active and gobble up all the yummy flour and water.  THIS IS A MISTAKE!!

As I’ve learned later, one of the things that gives Sourdough that TRULY unique sour taste is by creating the yeast BY JUST having flour and water.  This is a MUCH longer process (one I’m going through right now).  Apparently that’s why “REAL” sourdough bakers insist you never use yeast to start your STARTER.  Not because you are being a lazy bastard, but because it will detract from the real sourdough taste.  And that’s what we are after.

So that’s what a STARTER is.   Lesson over.

Starter 1 - made from flour, water and yeast packet

Starter 1 - made from flour, water and yeast packet

Welcome to my n00bish attempts

Filed under: Hooch, sourdough, Starter — Tags: , , , , — alie0bronwynn @ 2:49 pm

Ok, so yesterday I started telling a friend… or teaching her, everything I’ve learned about trying to make sourdough bread. She says to me, “OMG, you should totally write a blog about this!!” I laugh, “Me? There are so many more better blogs than I could write!” But this morning, it hits me. Every other blog I’ve read people KNOW things. This blog will pretty much be all my mistakes.

And there have been a LOT of mistakes.

I’ve killed my starter (did you know you need to feed it regularly for it to live?!)

I’ve killed my starter again (a warm oven will help get it going, but did you know temperatures over 100 degrees will kill it?!)

I’ve almost killed my starter (while you can feed it on a regular basis, you actually need to feed it depending on if it’s hungry, which apparently you can tell by the hooch).

I’ve learned what a hooch is (it’s the layer of liquid that forms on the top of the start when it’s hungry).

And so on and so on. I’m CONSTANTLY learning new things. SO – I’ve decided to start this blog to chronicle my adventures AND jot down what I’ve learned so far.

I’m BY NO MEANS an expert. I wouldn’t actually say I’ve had a sourdough loaf I’d consider good yet. BUT – I’m learning. And that’s a frustrating but fun process.

My hope is that someday my bread will be so good – I won’t want to buy it in the store.

Wish me luck!

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