Playing with Sourdoughs

Playing with Sourdoughs

sourdough I’ve been making no-knead bread for a couple of years now using the following formula:

  • 3 cups flour (1 c. all-purpose, 1 c. bread, 1 c. whole-wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
  • 1 cup water

This makes a nice loaf of bread, but I only bake about once a week, and I was getting tired of wasting so much flour to re-animate my sourdough starter every time. I’ve been intrigued for a while with the idea of sourdough starters that aren’t a slurry, but rather are dough. Martha Stewart had a guy on at Christmas making a panettone that relied on a dough starter (his was 30 years old) and then I heard the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking on The Splendid Table. Hmm. That sounded interesting. I made a lot of flatbreads last summer, and really liked them, and pizza is one of those really easy dinners to whip up if you already have the dough.

So I took a flyer at their method and made a batch of dough. I doubled my usual formula,  omitted the whole wheat flour, and I added a couple of big soupspoons of my own homemade yogurt to the dough. One of the flatbread recipes I used a lot last summer had some yogurt in it, and I liked the texture. I let it rise overnight in my chilly kitchen (I’m cheap with the heat this year) and by morning it had filled my biggest mixing bowl and was very bubbly and fermented. I dumped the dough out, used half to shape my normal no-knead round loaf, and put the other half in a bowl covered with plastic wrap in the back of the fridge.

round loaf This was a great loaf of bread! It rose really high, and the holes were nicely spaced throughout the loaf. And the texture is perfect — chewy and springy with a nice shattery crust. I loved this loaf of bread. It’s been making me very happy.

I also made several little flatbreads in my fabulous skillet — it’s sort of fun just pulling a hunk of dough off the mass and making something up fresh. So the end of this week I decided to try using the hunk of leftover dough as a starter to see if it would work.

I added a couple of cups of flour, some salt, another couple of soup spoons of yogurt and about a cup of warm water — basically I was working off the no-knead proportions, about 3/4s as much water as dry ingredients. But I didn’t add any commercial yeast at all, nor did I fire up the dormant liquid starter in my fridge. I just used the existing hunk of dough. When it was all mixed I had a very wet dough which I covered with cling film and left overnight. The photo at the top of the post is what it looked like this morning.

Since I still had nearly half a loaf of round bread, I decided to try a baguette. I’ve had trouble with baguettes in the past. They’ve always gone flat on me. I found this handy video on YouTube about shaping a baguette which helped a lot. I had to add a lot of bench flour, since this is a very wet dough, but by the time I shaped it, the loaf felt like it had some structure. I used my fish poacher in place of my Le Creuset and wound up with a pretty good baguette. Here’s a picture: baguette It’s still kind of lumpy, and got a little flatter in the middle than I would have liked, but it held it’s shape better than any previous baguette I’ve made. It also came out of the oven making that tiny singing sound that the crust makes on a really great loaf of bread. I haven’t cut it open yet, but I’m quite looking forward to having bread ready to go whether it’s a baguette, a flatbread, a round loaf, or even just a nice little roll to make a sandwich on. And we’ll see how long I can just keep using the last hunk to start the next batch — but right now it feels like magic! It’s alive! It’s growing all by itself!

3 thoughts on “Playing with Sourdoughs

  1. I’ll be watching your progress with bated breath. Or baited breath? Or A-bated breath?

    I’ll hold my breath waiting for some recipes and results and pictures. Whew!

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