All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Everyday Bread #30 - Making Bread with the Sourdough Discard

Making Bread with the Sourdough Discard

Since beginning to refresh my mother starter again, I've been faced with the familiar dilemma of what to do with the sourdough discard.  Must be the Scotch in me, but I really hate throwing this stuff out.  It seems like such a waste!  So I did a quick search of the bread blogs this morning to see what others are doing with their discard.  Seems like others are making pancakes with it.  But I want bread, dammit!

I did find one recipe for a 'Sourdough Discard Bread' (from the blogger of 'Bread and Whine').  I decided to try that.  It combines the spent sourdough with some commercial yeast, to make an 'acceptable' hybrid bread.  The recipe calls for all purpose flour.  I decided to make it the way the recipe is written before modifying it for whole grains, but that already has one strike against it in my book.

There is another idea that I like better on principle.  This is the 'No Discard Bread Recipe', which uses only 2 TBSP of the starter from the fridge -- a starter that gets refreshed once a week only, and used up via this 2 TBSP subtraction method.  This comes from the recipe section of the site, ''

1.  The Sourdough Discard Bread is the quicker of the two recipes.

Here is the recipe card I made up, from the Bread & Whine site:
unrefreshed sourdough starter    1 cup
rye flour 50 g ( 1/2 cup )
all purpose flour 450 g ( 4 cups )
instant yeast  1/2 tsp
lukewarm water 1 1/2 cups
fine sea salt  2 tsp

Add rye to starter and yeast, and mix
Add water and salt.
Add 3 cups of the AP flour.
Add more until the dough is moist and tacky but not sticky.
Knead 5-7 minutes. 
Set to rise until doubled (3-4 hours).
Loosely shape into batard shape.
Rest 15 min.
Perform final shaping.
Set on parchment gently.
Rise until proofed.
Bake 425 F on baking stone, 20-30 minutes with steam.

    Because of the commercial yeast, no doubt, the mixture rose to double just at the right time, at the 4 hour mark.  But it was then that I realized I had not yet kneaded the dough at all.  Too late?  I did try the spatula scoop, pull and fold method within the bowl, but the dough was really very wet. 

    I am thinking that my starter's hydration is not what the recipe calls for: I could have used much more flour.  I should have added some at this point.  But I did not.

    It did not rise after the 15 minute mark.  I thought perhaps it still would, so I set it to proof for an hour on some parchment paper, under the inverted bowl.  About 30 minutes later, I intended to preheat the oven and baking stone, and noticed that the dough was spilling out the sides.

    There was only one thing to do -- and it likely wouldn't save the bread.  I had to scrape it into a pan.
    I did so, but tossed it in the oven when it was preheated, without further proofing, thinking the bread was now hopeless to save anyway.

    After 30 minutes at 425 degrees F, I removed the pan.  The dough had risen in the oven, and it had ripped in several areas while doing it.  Once out of the pan, I set it back in the oven on the hot stone and cooling oven for 10 minutes.  This is a bread failure, of course.

The crumb looks like it wanted to develop; on the other hand, there is a soft gooey spot on the bottom edge of the loaf.  The bread smells a little sour, but it doesn't taste that way.  When you toast it, the crust is quite nice.  If it weren't for that one undercooked area, this bread might have turned out okay, despite all the other problems I had with it.

Notes to Myself:
  • Bake this one at a hotter oven temperature: e.g. 475 degrees F.
  • Knead it when it calls for it!
  • Try the same amount of flour, but use whole wheat, in the hopes that it will soak up some more of the dough moisture.

2. The No Discard Method of Bread Baking takes a lot longer

Here is the recipe card I made up, from information gleaned on the '' web site.

1. 2 TSP cold starter
   dissolve in 1/2 c water
   add 1/2 c flour
   cover 10-14 hrs.
2. Add 1 c water
   1 1/2 c flour
   cover 10-14 hrs
3. Whisk 2 1/2 c flour, 1 tsp salt
   Add to mixture, but don't knead.
   cover 10-14 hrs
4. Knead and form dough.
   Loosely cover, let rise, bake.

If you start on Day 1 in am, you will bake next evening.
If you start on Day 1 in pm, you bake in 2 days in morning.

I mixed up 2 TBSP of the spent Rye Starter, but I added some all purpose flour (to compare this loaf with the one I made yesterday with spent starter).

After 10 hours, this starter and flour and water mix actually separated; no rising had occurred. I mixed up the second part of the recipe.

After another 10 hours, this hadn't risen more than a millimeter or two.  But it did look a little foamy.  I mixed up the third part of the recipe.  This time, the resultant mixture was a lot firmer.

After 10 hours this time, I see some real rising of dough (although it still hasn't quite doubled).  It is of dough consistency now, though.  It seems a bit wet still to me, but I can knead it and shape it.  The heat of my hands was making it too tacky, though. 

I folded it quickly and put it in a pan.  I proofed it 45 minutes under a towel, then preheated the oven.  When the oven was heated, I stuck it in for 475 degrees F for 30 minutes, with a wet top but no steam.

I think it could have proofed a bit longer, but I had to get to sleep to get up for work the next day, I had to act or lose the loaf timing entirely. So there wasn't much oven spring, but it cracked open along my score line nicely. This loaf still has a faint sourdough scent to it, but not as much as the other loaf.

The crumb of this loaf is fairly dense.  There are strange pockets of space riddled through it, mostly toward the top where some rapid expansion took place.  I suspect that this is a symptom of uneven leavening, a telltale sign that my wild yeast needed more time to do its job.  I only let it work 10 hours each stage, which was the minimal amount of time.  I really ought to try this recipe again with more active wild yeast, from a more thriving yeast community in my original sourdough mother starter -- and with the longer fermentation stages.

I also think that this loaf could have benefited from a longer proofing.  And a lower temperature but longer baking time.  This recipe had no times or temperatures given, so I had to guess or use other recipes times and temperatures.  I just guessed, but now I would guess that sourdough will bake better on lower temperatures and longer times.  I need to research this idea.

Despite the way the interior of those expansion bubbles, this loaf appears completely baked, though, unlike the earlier 'discard bread'.  But I find the crust of this one more rubbery in texture, and I'm not keen on that. It might have benefited from steam in the oven, rather than just wetting the surface with water.  It also looks kind of blonde, with an amateurish sourdough bread colour and texture to the crust.  I have seen sourdough breads that do not have this amateurish look to them, and that would be my ideal that I would work toward.

Verdict: both of these loaves deserve another try, once I get organized with my sourdough starter.

Notes to Myself:
  • Look up how long, and at what temperature, sourdough loaves are thought best to bake.
  • Research crusts of sourdoughs, and how the pros get beyond their amateurish blondie colour and sourdough crust textures.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Everyday Bread #29 - Whole Wheat and Flaxssed from HBin5minday

100% Whole Wheat and Flaxseed Bread
from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

This counts as another bread fail.  I originally wanted to try out the barbecue, Dutch Oven method again.  The 5 min/day bread people (Jeff & Zoe) have a video out now on how to use the barbecue grill to bake bread in a cast iron Dutch oven.  This links to a video and some extensive forum commentary on bread on the barbecue.

In his comments, Jeff says that the first 2/3 of the baking should be done with the lid on the pot: so is you bake for 30 minutes, the first 20 are covered.  This presupposes that you can accurately gauge your barbecue's temperature (which so far, I have not yet been able to do).

I decided to try it. I mixed up the 100% Whole Wheat and Flaxseed Bread. I don't think I've ever made it before. The picture of the ingredients here is just prior to my grinding the flaxseeds and turning them into flour. I use my Country Living Grain Mill for the purpose of grinding the seeds. I think that this is the best way to enjoy the Omega-3's of the flax anyway; I could buy the meal, but the oil would likely be rancid.

This dough sat out until the cat woke me up at 0215.  I should have put it in the fridge at 2100, so it had already sat out about 5 hours too long. I am sure that this affected the later rise and shaping of the loaves.  Rather than rise, they just sagged and pulled their gluten apart.

The First Loaf:

The first loaf I shaped according to the 5min/day people's instructions, and it was a disaster on all levels: the barbecue wasn't hot enough, and the bread sagged in the pot even more than it did while proofing.  The crumb was wet on top, a sure sign that the barbecue wasn't hot enough, or the bake wasn't long enough.

I ate it anyway, since I needed bread this weekend while working.  It didn't taste too bad, but I had to throw away a lot of the soggy stuff.

The Second Loaf:

I baked the second loaf in the oven, in a casserole dish.  I flattened the dough and formed it according to Reinhart's methods, so I expected a tighter loaf.  It was, but after the 2 hour proofing, it also was sagging and pulling its gluten cloak apart.  I coated the top with water and put sesame seeds on it during the last 30 minutes of the rise while the casserole dish was preheating.

This loaf looks better, and the crumb is moist but baked.

Still, not a loaf I'd present before anyone except my immediate hungry household.  I find nothing special in the taste of this loaf.

Notes to Myself:
  • Turn a single barbecue burner on to MAX, and put the Dutch oven over it to preheat, but onto the other, unheated side, for the actual baking.  See if that provides the temperature you are looking for, the next time you bake bread on the barbecue.
  • Don't eat wet dough.  It doesn't sit well in the gut.  Cut it off and throw it away.
  • Don't leave your HBin5Min/Day bread dough out on the counter for longer than they say (2 hours, or until it doubles in size, flattens or falls on top).
  • Check the hydration of the HBin5Min/Day dough: perhaps you are continuously way too wet, and that is why your bread dough sags so much.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Restoring an old Sourdough Mother Starter

It has been far, far too long since I used my sourdough.  And it has been languishing, under a protective layer of hooch, for far too long.  I am not even certain that it can be revived.  But today I will follow the directions of Reinhart in Whole Grain Breads, to see if there are still viable yeasts in this starter.

I have a recipe card with instructions on it that I've written from what  I've gleaned from his book. 

Refresh Mother Starter                             RATIO
1. Discard all but 3.5 oz (100 g.) ~ 2/3 c.      33.3%
    - add 2 1/3 c wwflour (298 g)                    100%
    - add 1 c water ( 227 g)                              75%
    [do this every 2 weeks at least]
    Double it @ Room Temp 4-8 hrs.
    Degas it, Ball and put in Fridge
2. Discard all but 1 oz (28 g)
    - add 3 oz. wwflour or rye flour (85 g)
    - add 2.25 oz water (64 g) 1/3 c
    [do this first if mother starter is very old >2 weeks]
    After 4-8 hrs, refresh as #1 above

1. Whole Wheat Mother Starter
I had a look at my whole wheat mother starter first.
It had a thick layer of black hooch atop the moist grain.  When I took the lid off, the smell of acetone assailed my nostrils: yes, that was the smell of nail polish remover!  I poured off the hooch into a glass, not sure what I was going to do with it.  Can this be decanted?  Distilled?  Is it safe to use in any way?  Would I want to?  Is it legal?

I set the hooch aside and fished out 28 g of the deep whole wheat starter.  I added the new whole wheat and fresh water to it, and made a new batch of sourdough with it.  The rest of the old starter (except for the hooch), I tossed into the compost.

2. Rye Mother Starter
Now it was time to open my rye mother starter.  This container was opaque, so I couldn't see the layer of hooch through the side, although I suspected it was there.  I took off the lid and stood back a step, expecting to get the acetone smell again.  But although the hooch was there, the rye mother starter didn't have the nasty acrid smell.  It actually smelled quite pleasant -- strong, but pleasant.

I measured out the small amount needed to rebuild the mother starter; then I had a thought: I hadn't wanted to taste the wheat mother-starter (who would want to taste nail polish remover?) but why not have a little taste of this rye mother starter before tossing it out?  It smelled okay. Even the hooch had a pleasant aroma to it.  I poured it off to await an idea of what to do next with it.

So I stuck a spoon into the mix and pulled out a tiny amount.  I merely touched the tip of my tongue to it.  Imagine what a thousand sourballs might taste like if you could concentrate it: that is what this sourdough tasted like.  It didn't taste bad, per se.  Just incredibly, impossibly sour.

I mixed up the rebuild.

Then another thought occurred to me.  What if this mother-starter was still good?  What if it was not only rebuildable but refreshable?  I decided to try it. 

3. A Refreshing Experiment
Unfortunately, I got called away for a few minutes, and when I returned I made an error and mixed some whole wheat with this sour rye.  So I was mixing up a rebuilding of a whole wheat sourdough, and a rebuilding of a rye sourdough, but I was also refreshing a hybrid.  I had my doubts as to whether this would work. 

But I set all three containers aside to wait 8 hours.

The 8 hour mark will put me at 4 in the morning.  I'm unlikely to be awake then, so I'll have to just wait another couple of hours.  I'll come back to this blog entry when I'm next awake enough to continue.

DAY 2:

In the morning, at the 10 hour mark, the hybrid had done nothing.  I mean, it was moister, and it had a sour smell, with a faint hint of acetone, but it had not risen.  So I threw it out.  So much for the refreshing experiment.

1 The Whole Wheat Mother Starter in the Morning:

In the morning, too, the whole wheat starter has pretty much done nothing.  It has fermented a bit, it smelled a bit sour, but it doesn't seem to have risen at all.  I refreshed it anyway, according to the instructions.  I put this new mother starter in the same container that had housed the hybrid, which was now tossed away.  I was thinking that if this sucker doubled in size, after feeding it with almost 300 g of flour, plus some water, the yogurt container wouldn't be able to house it.

2. The Rye Mother Starter in the Morning:

The rye smells better: still fermented, but sweeter, sort of.  And it is much lighter in volume, like it would have risen, wanted to rise, but couldn't.  I refreshed it according to the instructions above.

I set both of these refreshed mother starters aside for 8 hours.

1. The Whole Wheat Mother Starter at the 8 hour point:

This starter hasn't done anything noticeable.  It smells quite sour, and I'm detecting that acetone whiff again.  Looks like the bacteria in this culture wins, and the yeast loses.

2. The Rye Mother Starter at the 8 hour point:
This culture is starting to expand.  There is viable yeast in this starter.  However, at the 8 hour mark, it still has not quite doubled.  I elect to leave it a bit longer.

And then I forgot about it for another 5 hours or so.  But when next I looked, it had indeed doubled in size.  After taking the requisite pictures, I followed the rest of the instructions: deflating it, rolling it into a ball (well this dough was really too wet to ball), and refrigerating it.

This wet dough was a minute ago risen to that top blue arrow, and now has been degassed to its original size.

I 'm planning refresh it again two or three times before I attempt to use it to bake bread.  By then, I hope it will be able to double in the requisite 4-8 hours.

The Whole Wheat starter had still done nothing appreciably when I put the rye away.  Looks like this Whole Wheat Starter died at the gates.  I will be tossing it out.  But I'm thinking that I really only need one anyway.  I won't have the space for two mother starters in the fridge along with all the other doughs I end up putting in there.

Day 3
1. Whole Wheat Starter
I forgot to throw this starter out before I went to bed, and when the cat got me up to let him out at 0215 I noticed that there was some other dough I had not put away.  That is when I noticed that the wheat starter had almost doubled.  So, there were viable yeasts in this culture after all.  But they were very slow to respond.  Imagine: this thing should have doubled in 4-8 hours.  This was closer to 20 hours.  But it has indeed pretty much doubled.

I decided to give it one more chance. Rather than toss it out, I would degass it and put it in a cool place, and I would refresh it a couple of times before trying to bake with it, like the rye starter.  If by then it is not performing well, I may indeed toss in the bin.  But it looks like this whole wheat starter has redeemed itself at the last moment.  I won't give up on it quite yet.

I went back to bed after the cat debacle, but when I awoke again a few hours later, I degassed this wheat mother starter and set it in the fridge.  Now it fits again in a yogurt container.

Notes to Myself:
  • The refrigeration stage of these sourdough starters is an inhibiting factor for me.  Especially now as we enter into summer, there is not enough room for 2 starters and the several doughs I might have in the fridge.  What did our ancestors do? 

    "My Grandmother didn't have a refrigerator for most of her life," my wife told me.  "She didn't get one until the late 1960's"

    "What did she do with her sourdough starter?" I wanted to know. 
    "She would have kept it in the cool cellar, along with her sauerkraut."
    That is why I am thinking that maybe these sourdough starters do not actually need to be refrigerated.  I probably will end up keeping them in the cool basement during the summer, and the cold garage during the winter.
  • Get into a routine with your starter: for example, feed it on the first day that you are not working (on a nurse's schedule, I work 3 days on, 2 days off, 2 days on, 2 days off, etc.)  That will more or less work out so that you refresh it about twice a week.  You don't make enough bread to refresh it every 8 hours like the big bakeries would; or once a day like the small bakeries do.  But find your rhythm with the yeast.
  • Get into a routine so that you are not discarding any starter: rather than toss some away during a rebuild, you take that starter and also build a dough for bread.  
  • You might want to do this after 2-3 discards prior to this one, however, so that your starter gets stronger.