Today's project was trying out the sour dough starter that I've been cultivating for a week. Each morning over the past week, I've been mixing 1/3 c. of water, 1/3 c. flour blend (rye and all purpose white), and 1/3 c. of the slurry from the day before. That slurry has become increasingly bubbly with yeast and increasingly tangy smelling. Today, day seven, the slurry was super bubbly and thickened, so I used the cast off from my early morning replenishing of the starter mix to do a 'float test'. A teaspoonful of the starter dropped into a glass of water stayed formed and floated atop the water with no sinking whatsoever. Ah ha !
Okay ! Time to do a test boule. So, I halved a recipe I found on-line. And voila ! A beautifully round loaf of bread. Baked in a super hot oven (425 degrees F) with a steamy water bath below it for the first 20 minutes. Then, another 25 minutes to brown up and reach an interior temp of 195 degrees F.
Cooled on a rack.
Okay. This bread tastes like a plain artisan loaf with just the barest hint of sour dough tang. It has a gorgeous crunchy crispy crust that has great chew. The inner body of the loaf is spongy and slightly stretchy with a nice consistency and soft flavor. It's like a typical artisan loaf ... the top of the loaf has a brush of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. It's good bread, but I was hoping for a lot more tang.
Okay. This leads me to a question. Does sour dough starter continue to get tangier and tangier, as it ages ? Can I expect future loaves to develop more tang, if I can keep the mother culture alive ? Someone? Anyone ? I have no experience making sour dough bread, so this is a huge learning experience for me. I winged it, big time.
Sour Dough Starter
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. rye flour
Mix the flours in a jar that can be covered and set aside. You will have to replenish this blend throughout the week, but here's your beginning blend.
Sour Dough Starter:
Think about your schedule. You must tend the slurry once a day for the first few days. Then, on the fourth day, you will have to tend the slurry twice a day 12 hours apart.
Using a clean glass or plastic container that has a cover, mix together:
1/3 c. flour blend
1/3 c. warm water (103 degrees F)
Use a silicon or plastic spatula to mix. Avoid using metal of any sort. Mix the slurry until there are no dry lumps. Push any slurry down the edges of the container. Cover and leave for 24 hours in a spot that is protected from being jostled around or knocked into. Preferably a warm place in your kitchen.
Pour 1/3 c. of the slurry into a clean container. Add 1/3 c. flour blend and 1/3 c. warm water. Stir to combine until no dry lumps are evident. Cover and set aside.
Decision time. You can measure another 1/3 c. of the slurry and begin a second sour dough slurry if you want to gift some starter to a friend. OR you can simply compost the left over slurry from Day 1.
You should begin to see some bubbling atop your slurry. If you sniff it, there is the beginning of a 'tang'. Repeat the procedure from Day 2. Set aside the newly mixed starter, flour blend, water mixture. Discard any extra slurry.
There should be noticeable bubbling going on by Day 4. The slurry may begin expanding with a foamy top. You can judge the amount of action by placing a rubber band around the container and taking a look the next morning. At any rate, repeat the same slurry, flour blend, water procedure as the previous three days.
If at the end of 12 hours, you are seeing considerable foaming, it is time to feed the yeast. Add 1 tbsp warm water and 1 tbsp. flour blend and stir in well. Cover and leave overnight.
Day 5 - Day 7
Repeat the morning and evening procedures.
This should be test float day. Your morning slurry should be thick and almost gooey when you stir it.
Take a glass of cool water. Gently drop a teaspoonful of the starter slurry into the water. Does it ball up and float ? If so, the starter is ready to use. If it strings down to the bottom of the glass, it needs more time to develop a higher yeast density. Keep doing the flour blend, water, slurry and 12 hour 'feeding' for another day or two and try the float test again.
If the starter passes the float test, find a sour dough recipe you want to try and go for it. Continue to feed your sour dough mother and divide it out with flour blend to keep the yeast nourished. You can store the starter in the fridge and feed it a couple times a week, as the cold will slow the yeast's division down. This is where I get 'iffy' ... the ongoing care is murky to me.
NOTES: If your starter gets mold spots after a couple days, throw it out, clean everything really well with hot soapy water, and try again. Keep the container well-covered to avoid contamination with airborne beasties.
Taste the starter too to make sure the tang is developing. Use a clean spoon to dip the tip in the starter and taste it. It should have a smooth consistency and a sour tangy taste.
Sour Dough Artisan Loaf
1/2 c. sour dough starter
3/4 c. warm water (103 degrees F)
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1. Place the dry ingredients in a deep mixing bowl and whisk them together.
2. Make a well and add the water and starter. Mix to make a scraggly dough.
3. Turn the dough out onto a clean kneading surface and knead for 5 - 8 minutes, until the dough forms a smooth round ball of moist, sticky dough. Use small pinches of flour to keep the dough moving well on the kneading surface and not sticking to much to your hands. When the dough is smooth and shaped, cover it and let it rest.
4. Clean out and lightly oil the mixing bowl. Then place the dough in the bowl, cover it with a damp towel and let it rise until doubled (a little over an hour).
5. After the first rise, gently deflate the dough, form it into a boule. If you wish to put anything into the bread, now is the time. You can press in chopped walnuts, chopped black olives, chopped roasted garlic, raisins or cranberries, whatever. To do this, flatten the dough into a rectangle when you deflate it. Push the additions into the dough and then begin to gather one corner up and press it to the center, turn, bring up the next corner and press it into the center, etc. Press the resulting ball of dough a bit to seal all those layers and place the boule creased side down on a parchment lined sheet or in a slightly greased casserole dish.
6. Cover and let the boule rise until almost doubled (about 1 hour). While the boule rises, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the rack in the center position. Place the lower rack as low in the oven as you can. On the lower rack place an oven proof pan.
7. When the boule is ready for the oven, place it on the top rack. Place one cup of boiling water into the pan on the lower rack. Be careful when you do this, as there will be an explosion of steam when the water hits the super hot pan. Work safely, but fast so you can keep the steam in the oven chamber.
8. Bake the bread for 20 minutes in the steamy environment. Then, remove the water pan and continue baking for another 15 minutes or so ... until the internal temp of the loaf is 195 degrees F.
9. If the bread browns too quickly and you want to protect it, place foil over it at the 20 minutes mark.
10. Cool the finished bread on a rack until completely cooled before cutting. You may brush the bread when it comes from the oven with olive oil and sprinkle with some sea salt, if you wish.
11. Slice and enjoy !