Thursday, July 12, 2018

Sourdough starter

It's 3:25 a.m. and I just had the most delightful surprise.

I had sourdough starter in my refrigerator languishing for months on end. I am not a very good sourdough keeper. It takes too much time, too much flour, and you have to keep making too much bread to keep it going properly at full blast. People keep it in a small container and feed it a few tablespoons of flour a few times each week when they're not actively baking, but I cannot even do that.

This culture is the awesome Denver culture collected a few years ago over a period of two weeks. That wasn't necessary. You can have a fine culture and ready to go in just a few days with nothing more than the flour from the store. Organisms, yeast and bacteria, adhere to the grain as it grows in the field. The grain does the collecting out there in the wind and the rain and the tornados. That is not cleaned up in processing. It's all still on the grain, still in the milled flour. You can bring that to life and to full cultivation in three days.

But I collected this culture over weeks because I wanted it to rain in it, and that's how long it took for a good rain. During that time the wind blew organisms directly into the small bowl of slurry, over and over, I kept having to add water everyday to keep it wet. It dried out a couple of times. I simply chipped the flakes into the fresh water.

But when it was cultivated, KABLAM-O it took off like wildfire.

The fastest, strongest, most potent sourdough culture I've ever worked with. It's fast. Twice faster than San Francisco sourdough. And it's strong.

And it smells very nice.

I had it in a bowl covered by a plate with Napa cabbage on top. Like five different Napa cabbages over time. And it's taking up too much valuable refrigerator real estate. It could be dead. It looked bad. Real bad. Real real bad. The sort of thing you throw out.

I scrapped off the top and threw it away. That left less than one half. I doubled the amount of liquid and mixed it in for a thin slurry and that was about double the amount I wanted to start rejuvenating so I dumped out half of that. Now there is about 1 cup, from one quart.

I added whole wheat flour that I milled myself, the stuff the starter is trained on.

After eight hours it didn't do anything. Just a couple of bubbles appeared on the top.

The next day, today, I dumped out half of that and approximated double the amount of water directly from the tap and added a few tablespoons more fresh flour. It's about 1 cup thick slurry. It bubbled more but only barely about 4x as many tiny bubbles on top. Promising. Because it's not dead. At early evening today I dumped out half of that and replaced with fresh water and more fresh flour doubling it again to one cup. I'm keeping it at one cup because I don't want to feed it too much of my precious whole wheat flour. It's like I have an attachment, a responsibility owed to every single kernel.

We baker types are weird sometimes.

In two days I have one cup of promising starter but I'm not expecting that much activity overnight. Once it foams up like regular yeast then I can use it to make bread. And boy, will this bread be good. OMG, there is nothing like it out there. This is unique.

And I mean it.

The thing is, bread made from only whole wheat lacks the gluten development. Microscopically, the husk particles slice the gluten strands as they form. So the dough feels like Play Doh, a bit like wet sand. It cannot form a skin. The loaf cannot be like a balloon. The dough cannot stretch. Bakers use 25% whole wheat. But with bread flour I can get that to 80% whole wheat, and the baked wheat itself has tremendous attractive flavor apart from sourdough culture. Whole wheat bread is ace, you should try it, but helped chemically as you do with banana nut bread, and it will have a similar crumb.

But with a little bit of bread flour (4% protein vs 3% protein of all purpose flour) then you can get the whole wheat to behave more like regular bread.

Then combine that with sourdough a-a-a-n-n-n-d-d-d additional 3-day fermentation, and you've got a kick ass award-winning caliber bread that simply cannot be topped. Full stop. Boom. I win.

You probably won't like it. There's always a fuss bucket. *little girl whiney voice* "It's too strong,  It's too acidic. It's all I can taste. The taste stays in my mouth. It covers my gums. I can't even taste the bologna. I have to brush my teeth now. I don't l-i-i-i-k-e it."

Oh man, I just now heard my old girlfriend. *shivers*

I put the one cup rejuvenating levain into plastic jar with its rubber top that comes with the emersion blender so that I can measure its activity. I'm expecting improvement but not much. The starter is coming back to life from near death. It has received no help, no heat lamp, no proofing box. Just room temperature. And BAM! It doubled in size within four hours. I put a rubber band around the jar to show the level it started so I could check in the morning. I checked four hours early.

It rose and fell back. That means it peaked within four hours. More than double the volume. I've never had a sourdough starter work fast as commercial yeast, but this does. I can use this to inoculate a full batch of dough. 

Then back to retirement. Back to neglect. Back to languishing in the refrigerator. Or dry it outright since this starts back up so quickly.

Know why commercial sourdough bread is always so disappointing? They use starter like this to flavor regular bread dough.

They treat this as flavoring. That's all. They don't use it as leaven. They don't ferment it properly. All that takes time, and time is money, and they don't have time for that. So we buy sourdough improperly done. But there are bakers who do this the right way. The old-world way.  They're the ones who write books. 

And blog posts. 


Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Denver Bacteria Bread.

deborah said...

How does it compare with the Hawaii starter? Which island?