Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sourdough starter experiment - first try.

I am really terrible at anything requiring any type of precision.  Science and math was my most hated school subject as I never understood where in my adult life will I ever need to apply the knowledge.  How did I know that baking bread the old-fashioned way would require this much precision and calculation?  I wanted to try out natural starters for a long time now.  Baking bread with commercial instant yeast yields ok results.  The bread looks right, the texture is right but the taste is just not there.  For the real bread taste you need to cultivate your own starter and feed it, nurture it, grow it until you get the taste just right.  All serious professional bread bakers have their own starters.   I just never counted on the fact that nurturing their starters is their job, as for me it is only a little hobby.  Something I do in between my real job, kids, dogs and other real important things.
But back to math and science.  I got a little help from the professionals; I got a dehydrated starter, which is just some dough that has been made with decades (or centuries) old starter, that has been dried.  All you really need to do is re-hydrate it, feed it and there you go… Yeah, right!  The thing came with 40 pages worth of instructions.  After quickly scanning them (who really has time to read the instructions?) I felt totally intimidated, I was sure that my poor little fungi were doomed from my sheer incompetence.  So I went to the blogs…there must be other nuts out there that are playing around with these things and blogging about the experience.  After reading pages, upon pages of by volume measurements for feeding and sifting through numerous spreadsheets that supposed to calculate the exact flour to water ratios… I almost gave up.  Only the thought that people baked bread this way for centuries, long before literacy, blogs and spreadsheets kept me going.  Come on, if every un-educated housewife in the middle ages knew how to sustain a starter, how hard can it be? 
After feeding twice a day for a week, by site, not by volume measurement calculations I got the bubbling and the rise that looked like it could lift some dough.  So I decided to bake the first batch.  Big mistake,  the starters were too young, I screwed up the proportion of flour and although the bread rose nicely, it was a bit dense, but most importantly the flavor was there.  So my experiments were not entirely wasted.  I just need to continue cultivating the starters, measure a little more and learn a little patience… the virtue I am not know for….

Let it bask in the sunshine

After 3 days

First bake.

Not publishing any recipes now, I still need to play a bit more.  I have to get this right, I promised to make sourdough pretzels next week.

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