For some time, I've had the desire to rise to the challenge of sourdough bread. I don't particularly care for sourdough but the
obsession challenge of making my own starter, maintaining it and then baking with it has filled my mind the last few months. And my hands, too, as I've read through at least 8 different books my library could supply me with that discussed sourdough.
There are many, many MANY methods of starting and maintaining a sourdough starter. At first I was too overwhelmed to pick one and give it a try but then I finally was able to choose. I knew I wanted to be 100% authentic and not use one single granule of commercial yeast to start it. (Some people seem to think it's okay to start a starter this way because eventually the wild yeasts will take over the commercial yeast but that route wasn't for me.) That was easy; most of the numerous methods are for starting the starter without use of commercial yeast. I also didn't want a starter that sat in my refrigerator and required be warmed up before I wanted to use it <---that is assuming it didn't get pushed to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten altogether!
The method I chose used bread flour, water and clean organic grapes contained in a bit of cheesecloth to start it. Other ways included using honey, sugar, or pineapple juice to name a few.
Not much to see here. After a couple hours there seemed to be a few air bubbles but I couldn't tell if it was from the air that got incorporated as I mixed the ingredients together or if something was already going on.
A few hours later, there seemed to be some separation of the water and floury part. I let it alone, but couldn't resist giving my 'starter-who-hasn't-quite-started' a name. I christened him Chuck, wrapped him in a blanket to keep him warm when the thermostat when down and went to bed.
On Day 2, the liquid moved to the bottom of the container.
The bag of grapes was well buried but the top seemed to have a few bubbles.
But something is going on, so I'm not too concerned at Chuck's lack of fashion sense.
This sort of thing went on for another 7 days, with me occasionally reaching in to swish around the bag of grapes that was ever expanding with gases and turning more disgusting to touch. On Day four, I added a bit more flour an water to give some Chuck some refreshment and continued watching and swishing.
On Day 10, that gross bag of grapes was removed. Notice I'm sparing you the pictures because 1) It was pretty nasty looking and 2) I'm not so sure anyone is interested in this level of detail but me.
For the next four days, Chuck was put on a regular feeding schedule. The first day of his regular feeding, I divided him up. Some of him went back into his container, some down the drain and some to make him a doppelganger in case I killed him. Then, I fed him and his twin some flour and water 3 times a day for 4 days.
Here is Chuck with his twin in case you were wanting to see. This is right after I fed both of them. They don't do much; just sit there and amuse bread obsessed nutballs like myself.
A few hours later Chuck produces this weird liquid just like he has the past few days. It's different than the liquid stripe he liked to sport in his early days. That was was a different color and smell and nearly clear. Time to do some research.
I spend a few
hours minutes reading online about sourdough and find to my frustration that some people stir this stuff back in and some people pour this stuff off. What is this stuff? They call it hooch and by the smell it's not far off! I don't know what I should do so I stir it back in. Later I will pour it off and also adjust the water I add to Chuck's feedings but that is only after some trial and error I don't want to bore you with.
On Day 16 with much trepidation I attempt my first bread with Chuck. I follow the recipe exactly until the part about where the bread is supposed to complete its first rise in 3-4 hours. In four hours, nothing seems to have happened. Well, some rising has happened but it's slight. I reference the book I'm using and see that there is a statement that says it may take longer. So I let Chuck take longer.
And eventually, after the book's overnight refrigeration period of retarding and more counter top rising I get this. The bread rose alright if you take into consideration a good deal of it was sideways and little of it upwards. I am also dismayed at my lack of properly wielding my lame.
Also, this bread is so sour that I might as well name it Lemonhead Bread and be done with it. I feed it to my two backyard squirrels. I'm afraid to say that I haven't seen them since but let's worry about that another day.
Try, try again is what I say. Now that I've gotten the first awful flop out of the way I'm not so afraid of sourdough anymore and I decide to adjust Chuck according to how I think he should be. (Don't worry, I'm still sparing you those details!)
On Baking Sourdough Attempt 2, Dough 2 I make 2 small rolls and Rick, Adam and I gobble them down. Not too bad. Still too sour for my taste.
Sourdough Attempt 3--dough 2 gets me this.
The crust is a little too browned (thanks cracked oven glass!) but the inside taste is good. I still would like a bit less of the 'sour.' Friends think the level of sourness is okay.
But what the hell is this tumor thing on the side of it? UGH! Lamentable use of lame. Must, must, must MUST get better at using the damned thing. Books really need to cover that particular topic in more length.
I'm even more brave now and I switch to another recipe but use some of my own techniques I've developed and/or learned.
Sourdough Attempt 4, Dough 3 brings me this:
Great taste, good color and improved use of lame.
I shall continue attempting to improve on all three. If you are still with me after this long post, thank you for taking the time to read this! It's been 2.5 weeks in the making!