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.  🙂


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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