No pictures today, but I do have a recipe. Here’s the modified sourdough multi-grain bread that I’ve been baking the past couple of weeks. The original recipe is here. See my version after the jump.
I proudly present . . .
The sourdough bagels from Baker’s Notes. And it only took me four weeks. What a journey. First I had to start a sourdough starter, then I had to learn how not to kill it and finally, I had to learn how to bake with it. Today, I am the proud parent of three (yes, you heard that right), three sourdough starters. I have my white one, my whole wheat one and my rye one. I haven’t baked with the rye starter, yet. Mostly, that guy has been hanging out in the fridge as a sort of backup starter (in case I killed the other two). The white and whole wheat starters are nicely sour and starting to be hefty enough to leaven bread. Like these bagels! Which were, by the way, totally worth the wait. They had a chewy crust and a dense, holey interior, perfect for catching melted butter or cream cheese.
I also found a new favorite bread:
The bread on the left is a multi-grain bread made with my whole wheat starter. I got the recipe here. I made a few changes, such as leaving out the potato flour and making my own mixture of seeds (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds and fax seeds) and using honey instead of sugar. I’ll be playing with the recipe again next weekend, and if I’m satisfied with it, I’ll post my version.
The bread on the left is another go at the English muffin bread that I made last week. Every time I make this bread, it comes out better than the time before.
And finally, I made these:
The best waffles I have ever had, sourdough or not. Here’s the recipe I used. The waffles were crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside. Best of all, they stayed slightly crispy even as they soaked up maple syrup. I ate way too many of them.
For now, I’ve put the starters in the fridge to wait for the weekend. I’m sorta carbed out and craving meat. Or ice cream, which is fortunate, because I’ve got a new ice cream recipe from Jeni’s Splended Ice Creams at Home currently churning away in the kitchen.
Thanks for sticking with me on this sourdough detour.
I think my starters are getting closer to leavening bread on their own, but for this bread, I took a little help from some commercial yeast. I didn’t want to waste the flour and other ingredients and end up with another brick. I love this bread, especially toasted. I definitely get sour. It has a great chew and a nice crunchy crust. I think I’m getting closer to trying those sourdough bagels.
Well maybe not miserably, but pretty bad. First, here’s the good news. We are into week three of my sourdough experiment, and as you can see from the picture to the left, the starters are doing great. They are more than doubling every six to eight hours, and they are full of bubbles. They smell wheaty and sour, but not very yeasty.
Is there such a thing as a sourdough starter bug? I might have caught it. Besides the whole wheat and the white starters that you see, I also have a rye sourdough starter that I’m keeping in the fridge and feeding every few days. It is so cool to see these things, made out of flour and water, grow. They truly are alive.
(Which kind of fills me with foreboding since I’m pretty bad at keeping things alive after the initial excitement wears off. Just ask the flowers that I plant every year. About halfway through the summer, I start forgetting to water them.)
Early last week, I started using some of my discarded starter (from both starters) to make waffles. Pretty good waffles, if I do say so myself. I use the pancake recipe out of Michael Ruhlmans Ratio book and just add some starter. I haven’t been measuring how much, but it is probably about a 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup. Like most people who keep sourdough starters, I’m finding that I hate discarding any starter.
As the weekend approached, I decided to build up the starters so I could try some serious baking. I didn’t realize how quickly you can build up the amount of starter you have, especially when you are feeding it three times a day. By Saturday, I had several cups of each of the whole wheat and white starters. I decided to start off my baking with a recipe for sourdough English muffin bread from my friend Laura.
Laura warned me that the dough for this bread is very, very sticky and wet, but even then, I was a little surprised at just how batter-y the dough was. It was full of gluten (seriously, it looked like stringy snot), but boy was it wet. However it smelled good, just a little bit sour, and I was full of hope. That hope lasted about 5 hours when I realized that my dough was not rising. Not even a centimeter. It was full of bubbles, but there was no rising to be seen. Anywhere. I put it in a warm oven, talked sweet to it and even offered it bribes, but no dice. It seemed perfectly happy to stay where it was. So I went ahead and poured the dough into bread pans, let it sit for another couple of hours to see if it was going to change its mind and rise (it didn’t) and finally baked it.
Yeah, I got cement bread. For those people out there who think I never bake up failures (you know who you are) here’s a picture of the baked bread:
Funny thing, though, the bread tasted pretty good, like a real English muffin. It was just wet and heavy and didn’t want to brown at all. My legs, which haven’t seen shorts all year, are tanner than this bread.
After doing a little internet legwork, I think I just don’t have enough yeast in my starters yet. I’ll keep babying them along for another couple of weeks, seeing if I can build up the yeast population, then give this bread another try. In the meantime, I’ll just add some commercial yeast to my breads to see if that makes up for the lack of wild yeast.
After the bread recipe, I still had a lot of starter leftover, so I decided to try sourdough pretzels from the King Arthur Flour website. Using this recipe, I made a batch of white pretzels and a batch using my whole wheat starter and white bread flour. The pretzel doughs were easy to make. The only problem I had was actually forming the pretzels. The dough wanted to stick to my hands more than anything else. The pretzels were really good, especially just out of the oven. They didn’t hold up so well, getting a little chewy and dry the longer they sat. Fortunately, toasting them in a toaster oven brings them back to life. I didn’t take pictures of the white starter pretzels, but I did of the whole wheat ones.
Because this recipe uses some commercial yeast, I had no problems with wet heavy dough. As you can see, the pretzels didn’t brown much in the oven, so I’ll have to look into why that is happening. In the meantime, I’ll keep feeding my starters and gearing up for another baking spree next weekend. Stay tuned.
I’ve been neglecting the starter saga as of late. After the last update, around day 5, I changed the ratio of what I’ve been feeding them to 1:1:1, and was feeding them about every 12 hours. As an experiment, I stopped throwing away any starter to see how quickly I could increase the amount I had. Quickly, is what I found out. After a few feedings, I stopped doing that and scaled it back to around 6 ounces. Using some of the extra whole wheat starter, I made waffles (they were good, but I couldn’t really taste the starter) and I attempted a whole wheat bread (it was literally heavier than a brick and very sour).
At this point my whole wheat starter is looking good. It has started doubling about every 12 hours and smells yeasty. It is going like a champ. In another week or so, I’ll make another attempt at bread. The all-purpose flour starter, however, is not doing so well. Although it does get bubbly, it has stopped doubling, it smells like nail polish remover and has a texture like soup. Very appetizing. I did a little research and it looks like there is proteolytic enzyme that is responsible. Most of the information I found said to step up the feeding schedule and the problem should clear up eventually. So that’s what I’m going to do. Look for more updates later in the week.
In the morning when I checked on the starters, this is what I saw . . .
Both of them doubled overnight, and the all-purpose flour starter fell. And look at those bubbles! My kids are geniuses. So, it looks like I’m going to need to start feeding these guys more often than once every 24 hours. I followed the same ratio as yesterday’s feeding, 2:1:1. This time, though, I used three ounces of starter to 1.5 ounces of flour and water. I want to start building up the amount of starter I have. I also switched from all-purpose flour to bread flour. That mixture was looking quite loose, almost like soup. I don’t know if the bread flour will make a difference, but it can’t hurt. One more thing of note, when I opened the jars this morning, I got a definite yeasty smell. I can still smell pineapple, but less so than yesterday.
This is the point where I’m not sure when I should be feeding these guys. From what I can gather in my reading, you want to feed the starters when they do whatever rising their gonna do (it should be about double at this point, I think) and then fall. That’s when they’ve run out of food. Based on this last day, these guys should have doubled in size and fallen in about 12 hours. A couple more days of this, and I should be ready to attempt bagels.
Day four started out by throwing part of the “kids” down the drain. It’s time they learned what a cruel world it is out there. I held back two ounces of each starter. In one jar, I mixed an ounce of water and an ounce of whole wheat flour into the starter. In the other jar, I mixed an ounce of water and an ounce of all-purpose flour into the starter. Twins! The starters smell like pineapple that is just on the verge of going bad. It isn’t a horrible smell, but it is strong. I’m starting to see more bubbles but still very little rising action.
But then . . .
This is what I came home to. Both starters are showing some definite signs of life. For the next feeding, I repeated the same procedure. I added one ounce each of water and flour (whole wheat and all-purpose) to two ounces of starter. I washed out the jars and then carefully poured the mixture back in, taking care not to splash anything on the sides. I marked the levels with rubber bands and put them away for the evening.
Well, day three of the great sourdough starter experiment was pretty much just like day two. I added two more tablespoons of rye flour and two more tablespoons of water to each of the starters. I started noticing some small bubbles, and the starters grew a tiny bit. We tend to keep our house on the cool side, and I think that is affecting the starters. I’ve moved the starters to a warmer spot, so we’ll see if that gets the activity going.
On the plus side, Bryan has started referring to the starters as our kids.
The second day of starting my starter involved me mixing two more tablespoons of pineapple juice and two more tablespoons of rye flour into my starters. No bubbles nor burps. Really, no signs of life. On the plus side, they don’t smell like puke.
A few days ago, I ran across this and immediately became captivated by the bagels on the cover. I wanted them now. Not tonight, not tomorrow, but now. Unfortunately, Scratch Baking Co. is in Maine, and I am in Idaho. So I did the next best thing and ordered the publication and teased Bryan about the delicious bagels I was going to make and not share with him.
He didn’t think that was nearly as funny as I did.
When I received the publication and read the actual bagel recipe, I realized that it calls for a sourdough starter which I do not have, nor could I find one nearby that somebody would sell me. I thought about putting up a Craigslist posting, but can you imagine the kind of responses I’d get?
Over the past few years, I’ve thought about starting my own sourdough starter, but it just seemed like so much work. You had to mix flour and water together and then let it sit, then add more flour and water and let it sit some more. Geez, that makes me tired just thinking about it. And then there were all the things I would make with my super duper sourdough starter. I certainly didn’t want to eat all those breads and pancakes and things, and it is so much work giving them to other people to eat. I haven’t even turned on my oven and I’m already exhausted.
Well, to make a long story short, I’ve started my own starter. Twice, actually. After doing some reading and internet research, I settled on Peter Reinhart’s seed starter from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I mixed rye flour with water, blessed it, left it on the counter covered with plastic wrap and went to bed.
Then next morning, I decided to do a little more research and came across a two-year-old posting talking about all the problems people have had with this seed starter. It gets a little technical, but I think it boils down to the fact that the rye/water mixture is not acidic enough for the good kind of yeast, so not-so-good bacteria take over and make it smell like puke for a few days. In the end, the yeast will triumph and all will be well. The solution, according to this thread, is to use pineapple juice instead of water. Because the pineapple juice is acidic, it creates a better environment for the yeasty guys than for the bacteria.
Not really having a clue as to what I’m doing but knowing I don’t like the smell of puke, I decided to throw out my first starter and start again. This time, I made two starters by mixing two tablespoons of rye flour with two tablespoons of unsweetened pineapple juice for each starter. My plan is to make a whole wheat starter and a white flour starter. What can I say? I go both ways.
In addition to using that posting as a guide, I’m also using this post. Between the two, I think I can get this figured out. And hopefully, in a few weeks, I’ll finally be able to satisfy my bagel cravings. Thanks a lot Scratch Baking Co. I hope you are happy!