Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sourdough - Part 1

Recently I had decided that I really wanted to try and make some authentic sourdough bread.  What follows is how my experiment is proceeding, and what will come next.  The recipe itself is quite simple, but takes place over quite a bit of time.  Here is the base recipe that is in the book:

Basic Sourdough Bread

Firm Starter

2/3 cup Barm
1 cup Unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1/8 to 1/4 cup warm water

Step 1: Take the barm out of the refrigerator 1 hour before you are going to make this so you can take the chill out.

Step 2: Mix everything together, adding just enough water so that you can knead the bread into a small ball.

Step 3: Allow it to ferment at room temperature for about 4 hours or until it has doubled in size.  It may take more than 4 hours, which is apparently okay, so just let it go until it does double in size and check on it every hour.

Here's the problem.  Mine NEVER doubled in size.  I left that baby out OVER NIGHT and it still didn't double.  I though perhaps my Barm was too old.  I tried again with a 2 day old barm and it was a little better, but still not doubled.  Nonetheless, I kept going.  The next step was to put it in the fridge overnight in order to retard the fermenting process (although I felt confident the process was retarded enough without refrigeration).


Take the dough out of the fridge an hour before using.  Cut it into 10 small pieces, cover with spray oil and allow them to warm up.  Once an hour has passed, combine the following:

Final Dough

4 1/2 cups unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
firm starter

Mix everything together until it comes together as a firm french bread dough.  No prob! I can do that.

The next step is to allow it to ferment at room temperature for 3-4 hours or until it has doubled.  I went out for 6 hours, came back, and wasn't really sure if it rose or if it just relaxed and spread out like a pancake. 

Still dedicated to this experiment, I cut the dough in half, careful not to degas it and let it rise for 2-3 hours.  Did it rise? Well, I'd say it was more of a relaxed spread out...  Ahh well, I've come this far, lets bake this bad boy.  Let me show you what I got in return...

Not exactly horrible, but the bread is really only 1.5" thick.  You can also see that the interior is far too dense and the air pockets are much smaller than they should be. Now I'm not exactly sure what is up with this recipe.  Maybe it's my barm, but the dang thing just does not move!! A little bit irked, I decided to look at online recipes to see what other people are doing.  Evidently the process others use is fairly similar if simplified.  The recipe is also very similar aside from one crucial difference.  People add/spike the recipe with a little bit of commercial bakers yeast.  The purist may say that this is cheating, sort of like adding gelatin to your mousse to stabilize it.  I call it smart.  I have followed the directions to a t while making the barm and the sourdough.  It just does not work.  I will update this soon with my next attempt.  We'll see if the yeast makes a difference.

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