Sunday, December 13, 2009

Baking Bread - Sourdough #1

My husband and I love sourdough bread. In my quest to learn how to bake bread, of course, this was one we both wanted. It is much more involved than other breads. I won't say difficult, but, involved is accurate. Not one I would recommend for a first loaf ever baked. So, naturally, it was my second loaf ever.

This was the result of my first attempt to bake sourdough bread.

The inside was rubbery. It did not rise at all. I could still see the layers from the kneading and the rounding. It was not pretty! And, I would say, not edible! (Sorry the picture is not great, it was taken at around 11pm with the camera on my phone. I was sending it as a picture message to my husband, who wrote back to say, "It looks like the loaf exploded!")

I can understand why baking bread is intimidating or time-consuming. I was just way too impatient. I never thought I would learn patience from baking. But, it is a necessary skill, trait, virtue. . . whatever you want to call it, you need it, especially for baking sourdough.

So, I learned that real San Francisco sourdough is made from a particular type of wild yeast and lactobacillus that are naturally found in the San Francisco area. If the sourdough is not made with this combination, it is not San Francisco sourdough. I purchased my San Francisco sourdough starter from Linda at She has a very reasonable and competitive price, and offers free technical support, which has been awesome for me.

The starter was easy to activate. Feeding it flour and water for 3 days and watching it grow and bubble was cool, like a science experiment! But, I had trouble getting the active sponge right for my first loaf - obviously. I thought it was supposed to ferment overnight and be very active (bubbly) in the morning. It wasn't very bubbly in the morning, but I used it anyway. (Impatience!)

I was bummed with the result, but I felt like I knew what I did wrong - not using an active sponge and being very, very impatient. After watching the starter for 3 days, I had a vague idea of when it was active. So, I thought I would skip the fermenting overnight part and just use the starter when it was very active.

I put my plan into action, and the second loaves were much more successful. (Sorry, no pictures! We ate them too fast!) I still wasn't real happy with them. I thought they were kind of doughy and too dense. But, we gobbled them up so they must not have been that bad.

One thing about baking sourdough with this starter is in order to keep the starter from getting huge and possibly taking over your kitchen, it is recommended to pour all but 1/4 cup down the drain before feeding with the 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water.

It got to me after a while, just throwing this stuff down the drain. So, I poured the excess off into another bowl and thought I would figure out what to do with it later. I continued working with the 1/4 cup in the main bowl. When my husband saw the extra, he decided to make sourdough pancakes with it.

They were really fluffy! I guess the yeast made them rise a little when cooking. They were yummy, too. He made a bunch and we froze what we didn't eat that day. So, I think that's what we'll do when we bake sourdough bread now - make pancakes with the pour-off!

Sourdough #2 coming later . . .

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