The mysterious world of sourdough!

High protein bread flower is your friend

Time is your friend

Temperature is your friend

Patience is your best friend

After messing about with sourdough for a year or so, I’ve come to some conclusions.

1)  There is a lot of misinformation out there on the web!  This isn’t that hard people!

2) If you try to cut corners, it won’t turn out the way you wanted it to.

3) Timing is flexible - to a point.

4) Temperature is flexible - to a point.

5) Put the commercial yeast away.  Not needed.  I don’t care what they say at KAF.

6) And yes, I’ve become a purist.  Starter, Flour, Water, and a bit of Salt.  That’s all you need.

What are the easiest thing to get wrong?

1) Starter isn’t active.  This can be either from not warming/feeding it enough and giving it enough time for the yeasty-beasties to eat and have a party.  Or, you gave them too much time and they are all exhausted and have a hangover.  In either case the remedy is simple,  Add more flour and water and let them get into the swing of it again.  Watch the time closer this time.  Typically 4 to 8 hours is usually enough to wake them up, a little more if you haven’t feed your starter in a while and it is coming out of the refrigerator.  a little less if you’ve been feeding it right along and your kitchen is warm.

2) Your sponge isn’t active enough.  Some call it a sponge, others a culture proof.  It’s the next step after activating your starter.  This is where you give your yeasts and bacteria a real kick in the pants.  the mixture is similar to starter but has a high flour content.  Read that lots of yummy food for your microbes!  I do my sponge with a cup of bread flour, half a cup of starter and half a cup of warm water.  I like warm water to give the yeast a little head start.  Keep it warm but not hot - 70 to 85 will do.  the warmer it is, the faster your sponge will blow up.  You are looking for expanding to at least three times the size.  It should look like the incredible blob that will crawl out of your bowl and take over your kitchen, house and the world if given the chance.  anything less and it’s not active enough.  Give it more time.  I usually try for over night or all day.  12 hours or so.  If you’ve left it too long, don’t be tempted to go on.  STOP, do over, turn it back into starter by adding a little water, feeding it some flour and start again.

3) You didn’t use bread flour.  If you use AP flour, your bread will be flat.  That’s all there is to it.

4) You forgot to let your dough ball rest.  Resting is important!  VERY important.  And no it can’t rest in the pan.  I don’t really kneed the dough.  I just mix it together squishing it and kneading it enough to get it all together into a ball 5 - 10 minutes is all.  Then I stop and let it rest.  Let it rest for 30 minute to an hour but no more than an hour!  After 30 minutes flatten the ball and stretch and fold it a couple of times.  Let it rest another 30 minutes and then stretch and folder a few more times only this time shaping it into your final form.  If you left it for an hour, only do one stretch and fold session.  What happens if you let it rest too long?  It will have started to rise already and you won’t get all the rise out of your final oaf that you could have.  What happens if you don’t let it rest?  Your bread will be flat.  The stretching and folding turns the dough into lovely sheets of glutenous protein molecules that are awesome at retaining the CO2 gasses your yeast gives off when it is eating.  Without those smooth elastic layers, the gases escape and your bread doesn’t rise.

5) Forgetting about your dough and letting it rise too much.  Sourdough is very forgiving on your timing - to a point.  If your dough over rises, it will get loose and spill all over the place.  Go ahead and bake it up.  It will be flat but will still taste awesome.  Beside there isn’t much else you can do with it, except pull it out of the pan, flour it, and roll it out super thin to make awesome crackers!  Rise time depends on temperature - 75 - 85 degrees will give you about 8 - 10 hours to full rise.

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