Sourdough Journal

A journal of my attempts to make a sourdough starter, make sourdough, other breads, etc.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sourdough is Back!

So I was starting to run low on the Anadama sandwich loaves and I needed a new loaf for my lunches. Flipping through Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads I was reminded that I wanted to try the method from said book for a sourdough starter. And since the majority of the breads in the book are adaptable to using a sourdough, even if the recipe calls for a biga, I went with the 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf. But the loaf will come a bit later, first the starter...

The recipe for the starter in Whole Grain Breads calls for whole wheat or rye flour and pineapple juice in the first two stages (diastatic malt in the first stage too, if you have it). The pineapple juice (or more generally, acidity) helps to prevent the colonization of the starter by leuconostoc bacteria. And I have to say, I think it worked, as this starter got going more quickly and reliably than any that I've done before.

Here is the Phase One starter, whole wheat flour (I freshly milled it from whole wheat berries), pineapple juice, and a bit of diastatic malt.

New Sourdough Starter

Phase One took about 48 hours sitting and waiting for the starter to come to life, the recipe also suggests stirring the starter 2-3 times a day. I only noticed a few bubbles here and there in the Phase One starter, but I couldn't be sure they weren't just leftover from the mixing. The next step is simply to add some more whole wheat flour and pineapple juice to the Phase One starter.

Here is the starter after being mixed into Phase Two with more pineapple juice and flour.

Phase 2 New Starter

During Phase Two of the starter I was definitely starting to see some activity! Not enough to raise a bread yet, but definitely much more than had happened during Phase One. There was also the slightest hint of a sourdough starter smell, previously the dominant smell had been the pineapple juice.

Here is the starter after it fermented overnight and before it was about to move to Phase Three.

Starter After Phase 2

The ingredients ready for Phase Three, whole wheat flour, water, and the Phase Two starter.

Ingredients for Stage 3

Mixed Phase Three Starter.

Mixed Stage 3 Starter

The starter was even more active during phase three, getting bubbly and doubling quite quickly. It also definitely had more of a sourdough smell now, but with very nice sweet wheat overtones. In about 12 hours it was already ready to move onto Phase Four.

Look at those bubbles!

Risen Phase 3 Starter

Ingredients for Phase Four Starter (only a portion of the starter from the previous phases is actually kept this time)

Phase 4 Ingredients

Phase Four Starter after mixing

Mixed Phase 4 Starter

The starter was even faster in Phase Four, it doubled in about 8 hours. Definitely smells like sourdough now, no pineapple smell anymore. It has been quite a while since I've smelled that familiar scent, it makes me anxious to make some bread with it!

Even more bubbles!

Risen Phase 4 Starter

And now finally we get to the mother starter. This is the final Phase, the version of the starter you will refresh every so often and use to make the wild yeast starters for each loaf.

Ingredients for the Mother Starter (again, only a portion of the starter from the previous phase is used, I reserved the other portion to make a sandwich loaf)

Ingredients for Mother Starter

Mixed Mother Starter

Mixed Mother Starter

I didn't get pictures of this, but after you mix the Mother, you let it rise until it is nearly doubled, punch it down, put it back in the container and then put the container in the fridge. The Mother actually about 65% filled the dough container. The instructions were the same for the wild yeast starter for the loaf, which tried to MORE than fill the container it was in.

The Mother and the starter for the loaf went into the fridge overnight after they were punched down, as did the soaker made for the sandwich loaf. Both starters rose slightly in the fridge, and the starter for the loaf a bit more after it was take out of the fridge.

The Soaker and the Wild Yeast Starter for the loaf 2 hours after they were taken out of the fridge, right before I started making the loaf.

Soaker and Starter Biga

I also neglected to take pictures of the loaf as it was rising, and after I shaped it. I did get one just after it went into the oven.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Loaf

And after it came out of the oven.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Loaf

The loaf came out a bit more dense than I was hoping, but nowhere near some of the bricks I've made before! The flavor, however, is outstanding it starts out with a strong and somewhat sweet wheat flavor and finishes with a very subtle sour, leaving your palate with a wonderful combination of the flavors.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I needed bread for my lunch sandwiches at work, so I decided to go with Anadama for my next bread. I did deviate from the recipe a little bit with a special ingredient, corn meal from my own home grown 'Bloody Butcher' heirloom dent corn. Of course this meant a bit more work, I needed to mill it into corn meal.

Grain Mill

I've used this mill a number of times before, but always making a fine flour, so I had to adjust the mill and my strategy a bit to get a coarse meal. A coarse milling also meant I had to do some sifting and winnowing. When I mill the corn to a fine flour, the bran and any chaff left get milled fine as well and are not really noticeable. However, a coarse milling left large pieces of bran and chaff. The bran I reserved and passed through the mill a second time on a finer setting.

Grain Mill

It took a while to mill and sift enough corn for the recipe, I was measuring by weight, which was a good thing, as I needed far more than a cup for the appropriate weight of corn meal.

Bloody Butcher Corn Meal

From there, it was a simple matter of mixing in a bit of water to make a soaker, covering the bowl, and leaving it til the next day.

Bloody Butcher Corn Meal Soaker

The next morning the soaker had definitely absorbed more of the water and had a wonderfully strong corn scent, similar to tortillas.

Bloody Butcher Corn Meal Soaker

I measured out the ingredients for the sponge preferment, mixed in the soaker, and left it to rise.

Dry Ingredients

Anadama Sponge

Risen Anadama Sponge

I forgot to take a picture of the rest of the ingredients added to the sponge, but you can probably imagine. The dough ended up nice and supple, although I had to be somewhat careful in the kneading because of the coarse corn meal, which could easily tear the dough.

Final Dough

I also forgot to get a picture of the risen final dough, but it did rise quite nicely although it took a bit longer than expected. I took the dough out, degassed it, and shaped it into two sandwich loaves, and put them in waiting greased loaf pans.

Shaped Loaves

I was slightly disappointed with the final rise of the dough, I was worried that they would end up as dense small loaves. The loaves weren't overly dense when I got them out of the oven though, so, I really think I should've used smaller loaf pans than what the recipe asked for. The bread is really tasty, the corn and molasses give it a wonderful flavor combination. The coarse corn meal also gives it a great, but subtle, crunch. And the flecks of red corn bran complete it giving a really interesting look to the crumb. Definitely a recipe I'd like to repeat!



Anadama Crumb

Artos and Christopsomos

The next bread on my list from Bread Baker's Apprentice was the Greek Celebration bread, or Artos. I actually made it twice, the first loaf as Christopsomos and the second as just a plain boule. The first loaf I cheated and made the poolish the same day, but it still had quite a few hours to generate some flavor.

It started off well and I measured out the dry ingredients, I didn't have either of the two special spices mentioned in the recipe so I just went with the standard, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg.

Artos Dry Ingredients

And the poolish was ready and waiting (although I didn't use all of it, the rest of the poolish was for a batch of ciabatta).


Then I measured out the dry ingredients, and although it isn't obvious here I made a critical error... I completely forgot the eggs! Thankfully I remembered while the dough was mixing, and with some patience, was able to get them incorporated.

Artos Wet Ingredients

Then came the next mistake I forgot to add the walnuts and dried fruit in until I already had the dough shaped and had it in the bowl. Obviously not a good day! I added them in at that point although I had trouble getting them well distributed without threatening to tear the dough.

Artos Dough

After a rise the dough was ready for shaping, I cut off about a third of the dough ball and put it in the fridge, shaped the larger piece as a boule and placed it on a prepared baking sheet.

Risen Artos Dough

Boule for Christopsomos

I had a lot of trouble shaping the two strands for the cross on top of the loaf, I got a little too much oil in the bag with the dough so it wouldn't stick to itself very well, and too many nuts and dried fruits in the strand pieces. The nuts and dried fruit made it really difficult to roll them pieces out to the appropriate length and get them nicely and evenly shaped. The extra oil on the dough also prevented the little curls at the ends of the strands of dough from holding. In hindsight I probably should've just added some flour to them.


The second loaf made as just an artos was much less eventful, I managed to remember to put the eggs in, and there were no fruits or nuts to deal with, and it just needed to be shaped as a boule. I did however add another decorative touch to it to keep with the theme.



Unfortunately I only remembered to take a picture of the second loaf, both loaves were really yummy though.


The glaze and dried fruits seemed to keep the Christopsomos somewhat more moist, and the moistness also seemed to bring out the flavor of the spices a bit more, although it vanished after about three days.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pane Siciliano

Kind of jumping around the book, partially due to requests for certain items, the next bread in my lineup is Pane Siciliano. This bread starts out with a pate fermente, a preferment that is pretty much regular bread dough (even including salt)

Here is the pate fermente after mixing and kneading.

Pate Fermente

The preferment was left to rise for an hour, punched down, and retarded in the fridge. Then when I got home from work I took it out of the fridge so it could start warming up. As it warmed up a bit before I cut it into pieces for the final dough it developed a huge bubble.

Overnight Proofed Pate Fermente

Then I cut the pate fermente up into about 10 small pieces, and measured out the wet and dry ingredients.

Liquid Ingredients

You can see the much more yellow color of the semolina flour here.

Dry Ingredients

Chopped Pate Fermente

Once the pate had warmed up, everything was mixed together yielding a large ball of dough, still somewhat splotchy in color here.

Just Mixed Final Dough

I let the dough rest for a few minutes to continue hydrating and loosen up some, then I began kneading it for around 10 minutes. You can see the color is much more even now, with the kneading mixing the semolina and bread flour.

Final Dough after kneading

Finally, after putting the dough in a ball rise and then turning it out, it was time for shaping! You can see I had a little trouble getting the dough divided evenly into 3 pieces.

Shaped Loaves

I don't have a picture of it, but they ended up melding together while being retarded in the fridge, apparently one sheet wasn't enough space. I manged to seperate them in the oven once they had baked for a little bit.

Pane Siciliano

Pane Siciliano

And the crumb:

Pane Siciliano

The spiral shape of the bread vanished a little bit during the retarding as well, I might try dusting it with a little bit more flour before shaping next time.

The loaves were yummy, the semolina really adding a little something extra to them. We made sandwiches and then toasted some and had it with olive oil, cracked pepper, and balsamic vinegar.

Been a while...

Haven't made any sourdough in quite sometime, nor baking as much as I'd like but I've decided to join in on the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. So far I've made Panmarino (Potato Rosemary bread) and cinnamon rolls (as well as cinnamon rolls from Peter Reinhart's other book, Whole Grain Breads).

The panmarino was meant to have a bit of an experiment in it, I wanted to mix one batch by hand and one with a mixer. That got sidetracked when I didn't have measuring spoons or a scale at my girlfriend's house and the salt/yeast quantities ended up different. I also baked some of them a bit too long, but now I know for next time.

I used a brotform for one of the loaves, it actually ended up being the tastiest/best texture!

Brotform shaped Panmarino

The rest of the loaves were just shaped as boules.

Panmarino Loaf

The cinnamon rolls turned out well, although I did have some issues with the amount of cinnamon sugar to put on the dough before rolling it up, I think I have it down for next time though.

The white flour cinnamon rolls definitely had more rise to them, and were softer.

Cinnamon Rolls

The whole wheat (made with white whole wheat, less scary to anti whole wheat people) turned out pretty well. I think they need more cinnamon sugar next time though, as the wheat flavor was kind of dominating the cinnamon sugar, rather than complementing each other.

Cinnamon Rolls

The next project is pane siciliano, I should have a post coming soon about it.

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