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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sourdough Discard Pup Loaves in Reinhart Style

 Pup Loaves in Reinhart Style
Made with Sourdough Discard

This was a 'proof of concept' loaf.  I had an idea I wanted to test.

What idea?

First, some background, so you can know my train of thought.

I continue to experiment with my sourdough discards, trying to make something worthwhile out of them, rather than throwing them away. 

According to the Tartine Bread book, the mix of wild yeasts and lactobacilli is going to be quite different in a culture that is refreshed daily at room temperature, as opposed to that which is refreshed infrequently and kept in the refrigerator.  I have wanted to see this for myself, and after using the starters for the last couple of months, I tend to agree.  I have been refreshing my starters daily (oh, I might have missed a couple of days here and there), and comparing them to my refrigerated starters, and I like the one that never sees the cold.  But this means frequent refreshes and frequent discards.  So I have been experimenting with the discard.  Despite the number of experiments I try, I still end up throwing out some sourdough every 2-3 days.

I believe that this is a fairly common problem among home bread bakers like myself.  And it is frustrating that the authors who write these bread recipe books don't fully appreciate that fact.  Some of these authors have bakeries and refresh their sourdoughs daily or more frequently and use up all that they have because they are baking in high quantity; other authors perhaps use their cultures in an educational setting and also don't have the discard problem.  And it is frustrating when those who write cookbooks for home bakers don't get it: authors write instructions, home bakers follow them, but because home bakers only bake a loaf of bread every few days, they toss away some sourdough during the refreshing periods.  The ones who write the cookbooks don't seem to have the same problems.

For example, have a look at what Peter Reinhart said to baker Pamela, when she asked for some ideas on what to do with all her sourdough discards.  Arggh!  Clearly, he just doesn't get it!  Obviously, Reinhart does not fully appreciate that those who follow his tips and recipes faithfully end up with waste from refreshing their sourdough starters.  This means that he is not having these problems himself, or that he has miscommunicated something, or else the methodology is wrong to begin with.  Somewhere along the line, there is a problem.  And so far, the home baker is the one that is bearing the cost.

What I've been doing with my discards lately
I had been experimenting making overlarge muffins with discards, using some ovenproof soup bowls, but the results have been unsatisfactory.  One day at work, one of my co-workers saw me eating one of these bran muffins, and asked if it was a bread.  They thought that a small pumpernickel bread of that size might be perfect for eating with a spinach dip. 

And right about that time I was thinking to myself how much I like bread and yet I don't care for the taste of muffins.  Well, my muffins, at any rate.  I just don't like the chemical taste of baking powder.
muffin baked in ovenproof soup bowl

Since then, I've been experimenting with making tiny pup loaves: loaves, not muffins, that are small enough to be made in an ovenproof soup bowl.  That is bigger than a bun, but smaller than a loaf.  A 'brunch size' loaf, an in-between sized loaf.

Most breads with a too-heavy starter quantity will suffer from under-proofing
and give you this weird hamburger bun type separation effect.

Even rye breads will suffer this fate

Unfortunately, I haven't had all that much success with turning my sourdough discards into decent bread. A lot of trials, a lot of errors.

Then it occurred to me that I might be able to make a bread from Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads directly from my sourdough discards.  Only, I'd need to figure out the ratios of ingredients, to determine what quantities to use. 

One night I sat down with Reinhart's Master Recipe and crunched some numbers to reverse-engineer the ratios.

Reverse Engineering Reinhart's Master Recipe
In a nutshell:  I discovered Reinhart's bread is made of approximately 16 parts.  The Final Dough is made of 1 part (or optionally 1 1/2 parts, if you consider adding both some sweetener and some oil); the soaker is made up of 7 1/2 parts, and the starter is made up of 7 parts.  The percentages of each element can then be determined via the weights. 

What this means is, you can go from a weight of your discard -- whatever it might be -- and build a Reinhart style miniloaf, or pup loaf, around that given weight.

Now you know the idea, it is time for an example. 

Let us say you start with 70g of sourdough discard that you would have otherwise thrown away when you refresh your starter.

The Discard

Here I have a couple of starters I want to refresh

I scoop out my 'discards' and leave about 20% (this is Robertson's Tartine method, not Reinhart's method)

I refresh the starter with fresh water and flour and stir it with a finger

Some of the 'discard' I am going to weigh and elaborate into a starter for Reinhart's bread.  

Since the discard is equivalent to the 16% motherstarter in  your starter, and the starter is about 7/16 (44%) of the whole loaf, then you can easily calculate the full size of the loaf: Your discard weight is going to be 16% of 44% of the total bread weight, or 7%.  To find the total weight of the bread (not the baker's percentage of the flour), simply divide the discard weight by 0.07.  So:

70g / 0.07 = 1000g

(Please note that the 0.07 is a 'magic number' and it has nothing to do with the 70g we started with.  The number is 0.07 no matter what amount of sourdough discard you begin with.  So if you are throwing away 86g of starter, it would be 86g / 0.07 = 1229gThe pictures show me using 86g of sourdough to elaborate into starter.)

Now that we know the ultimate size of our pup bread (for our example, 1000g), the rest of the ingredients are simple percentages of it.

(Note that these are not baker's percentages.  We are still talking here of a percentage of the total weight of the finished bread, not a baker's percentage of the total flour.)

The Starter

To your discard, add 16% of the total bread in water, and 21% of the total bread in flour.  So

16% of 1000 = 160g water
21% of 1000 = 210g wwflour

For 86g of starter, add 197g of water...

...and 258g of flour, to build a starter
The starter sits out for 12-24 hours
You must now set this starter aside until the next day.

The Soaker

Now make the soaker.  It consists of 25% flour, 22% milk and 1/2% of salt:
25% of 1000 = 250g wwflour
22% of 1000 = 220g milk
0.5% of 1000 = 5g salt

Now build a soaker: milk, 270g

Salt, 6g.  That's 1/2% of the total bread weight.

The soaker.  I left this at room temp for 24 hours, but it should have been refrigerated.

If you are using water instead of milk, use the appropriate percentage for the water, as given in Reinhart's recipe.

This should be refrigerated for at least 12 hours, but bring it out 2 hours before you want to make the bread.  For this proof of concept loaf, I didn't refrigerate it but kept it at room temperature.  That works too, but my dough got a little stinky, and I think that is because I used milk.  The final bread was still okay, though.

Final dough

This is 6% flour, and optionally, 3% of sweetener plus oils (e.g. honey and butter):

6% of 1000 = 60g flour
1.5% of sweetener = 15g honey
1.5% of oil = 15g butter
You can measure the ingredients for the Final Dough too.  Here, I add only 74g of flour, no optional ingred.

Here I am, making the dough:

For these test loaves, I am not adding any extra yeast in the final dough.  You can, though, in small amounts, say, of less than 1% of the total weight of the bread.

Okay, I get it.  Just give me the Simplified Method.

  • On the first day, refresh your motherstarter, and measure your discard.  Dividing by the magic number, you get the weight of the total loaf.
  • With that discard, set aside a starter, adding the appropriate amount of flour and water (See below: alternatively you might want to use the discard straight away).
  • Beside it, make a soaker, with the appropriate amount of flour, milk, and salt.
  • Let the starter and soaker refrigerate or sit out for a day.
  • On the second day, mix the starter, soaker, and the final dough ingredients, and knead it all together.  Let it sit for 5 minutes and knead it again.  Then let it bulk rise a couple of hours.
  • Fold it and form it into a boule, and set it to rise in a buttered ovenproof soup bowl (or if it is larger, in a basket as you would make a bread).  Let it proof for an hour, then bake it at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  You might want a tent of aluminum for the first 20 minutes of the baking of the ovenproof loaf.

Voila!  You have a discard pup loaf based on Reinhart's enzymatic techniques, and you can play with this to your heart's content.

Show me again:

I tried this again with a smaller amount of discarded sourdough, but this time I used the entire discard as my 'starter'.   This time I had 57g of starter that was going to be tossed on the compost heap if I didn't use it.  This does NOT get divided by the magic number of 0.07 because it is already the full amount of starter for the bread, or 44% of the weight of the entire 'loaf'.

Make a soaker:

Final dough ingredients:

Mis en place:
starter, soaker and final dough for the tiny loaflet

My discard is wet, not 75% hydration; but Reinhart's starter gets 'divided into 12 pieces' and rolled in flour.  I just add flour.

Even when the pieces of soaker are rolled in flour and added with the final dough flour, it still is wet.

Such a tiny amount to work with!  Knead, rest, knead...

final knead before a bulk ferment...

...unfortunately I had to go out at this time, so I retarded it in the 'fridge.

Later, I removed it from the fridge and shaped it for the ovenproof bowl.

I butter the soup bowl and proof the dough.

Baked it.  This one I took out after 30 minutes or so, 'cause it was small.


The bread is just a Reinhart style bread, approximately equivalent to his Master Recipe.  It spread a bit, probably because at the moment I was going to bake it, I had to leave for a couple of hours and had to retard the dough, so it was a bit overproofed.  The one I baked in the soup bowl is much more sour (and I had some difficulties getting it out of the soup bowl).  I think that this is because it had more old sourdough in it to begin with.

The bread seems to taste a bit bitter, and I have suggested to my wife that this might be because I left the soaker, which contained milk, out for 24 hours.  I suspect that because of this, the bread will spoil rapidly.

This is one for the chickens.  But at least I have demonstrated to myself the proof of concept.

Notes to Myself

  • If your discard is already in the ratio of 75% hydration (the one I've been experimenting with these days isn't), you can use it directly instead of elaborating a new starter.  But in this case, you do not have to divide by the magic number 0.07.  Instead, the total weight of your discard is the entire starter, or 44%.  So to get the weight of the entire loaf, you divide by 0.44 -- once you have the weight of the final loaf, you can find the amounts for the soaker and final dough. Just remember that if you are doing this, your finished loaf is going to be a bit more sour.   In this case you may want to add the optional sweetener (honey, agave, etc.)
  • So what is the correct amount of sourdough discard that you use as starter in order to build a bread of a size that will bake in an ovenproof soup bowl?  I don't know yet.  57g is slightly too little, so perhaps about 65-70g might be ideal.
  • If you are refreshing every day, and you know how much of your starter is going to be discarded, you can make up a batch of soaker to be used over three days, and just keep it refrigerated to use as required.  But you really have to know how much you are discarding, or else you will end up discarding the soaker (which defeats the purpose of the enterprise...).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Irmie's Loaf Revisited

Irmie's Loaf

This is for my mother-in-law, who likes Nils Schöner's 60% Rye with Apple Juice Soaked Rye Berries bread.  I can't seem to wean her from this loaf.  She likes it far more than the last 17% Tartine Rye I gave her.

Here I wanted to see if the Sourdough Rye build would work using the Tartine Wheat starter.  But it turned out I made a blunder, so this is not a good test of it.

Here are a list of things I changed or did wrong, in departure from the recipe:

  • Used a wheat starter instead of a rye starter
  • Waited 18 hours for the sourdough rye build, and it probably required longer
  • Used homemade pear juice instead of apple juice, to soak the rye berries
  • Dumped the rye flour into the wheat flour before the wheat flour had a chance to form its gluten
  • Waited longer in the subsequent steps to get a rise from the dough.
Already a mistake: DON'T mix the rye flour and salt with the All Purpose flour!

The resultant dough won't feel right.

Cooked rye kernels before soaking in juice

soaking rye kernels

This should be AP dough.  The mistakenly added rye has slowed its progress.

Rye berries are sieved


After an hour, still very little action

2 1/2 times as long for proofing, it still isn't expanding

Baked 70 minutes instead of 90, already dark

So I am afraid that Irmgard won't like this loaf too much.  But it will have to do until I get back from our nation's capital and can make her another.


This bread wasn't as good as it could be, if I had made it properly.

Notes to Myself
  • Read the recipe before you begin, you had it written on the back of the card.  The all purpose flour gets elaborated with yeast before any rye is added.  That way, the loaf has some substantial gluten to begin with.
  • Irmie likes the rye berries soaked in apple cider best.
  • I made a soup with leftover grains and veggies -- including the pear juice and other soaker water.  The soup turned out not bad (once my wife had added some spices and salt to her taste).  I'm thinking that the leftover soup can now be made into a bread...

Reinhart's Multigrain Hearth Bread from WGB

Reinhart's Multigrain Hearth Bread from WGB

To judge by the front cover of his book "Whole Grain Breads," Reinhart was most proud of this loaf.  The cover picture appears again beside the introductory paragraphs to his Multigrain Hearth Bread, so I assume that this is the bread featured on the cover.

my loaf
But look at that picture closely.  This looks like a large loaf, but it it isn't.  This is the usual size loaf, rather smallish, and this photo is a closeup.  The ratio of height to width of the bread makes it appear to me to be quite flattened out: the scoring shows some oven spring, but it has caused the loaf to spread sideways.  You can, however, still see a slight rounding of the loaf around the bottom edges (at least on this side -- the far side is eclipsed in shadow).  So although it appears sagged to me, it is not oozing.

When I made this dough, I found the soaker far too wet to work with, and had to compensate by using a lot of extra whole wheat flour during the kneading stages.  Like up to a cup more.

Now, I suppose part of this was my fault, and part of it was the fault of the grains I chose for my multigrain hearth bread.  But I'm also beginning to question whether the ratios of the flour to water is correct in the recipe.  This recipe feels NOTHING like the other hearth breads (or sandwich breads) so far that I've made.  The soaker is impossibly wet and needs to be fixed.  I spent some time figuring out whether the grains that are added are done so in the correct ratios that Reinhart says they are -- and they are.  So the only thing I can come up with is that the hydration was scroogey for this loaf because of the grains I used.

Or -- another possibility -- I used the wrong liquid.  I had two different breads on the same table, and both were waiting to have water added.  Some of these bowls got moved when my wife sat down to read the paper over her breakfast.  Perhaps I later picked up the wrong container of water by mistake.  But why then was the weight correct, when I tested it?

Most of Reinhart's hearth loaves aim for a hydration of 75%.  For example, see the Whole Wheat Hearth bread that I've already made: here, the flour to water ratio for the soaker is 227g : 170g, or about 75% hydration. 

In this bread's soaker, the flour to water ratio is 56.5g : 170g or about 300% hydration.  "Oh," you say, "but you have to include the combination of cooked and uncooked grains in the flour amount,"  Okay, that seems to be true: 170g + 56.5g : 170g is indeed about 75% hydration. But don't forget that -- depending on the grain that you use and if it was boiled to pre-cook it -- you are also adding a bunch more liquid in that weight.  "But," you say, "shouldn't that water be locked into the plumped-up grain?"  Sure, sure, I reply: but don't you realize you are talking to yourself?  

Perhaps if I had used some grains that weren't so moist, the "golden mean" that Reinhart bases his recipe on (66% flour to 34% multigrain by weight) would have worked and the hydration would have been closer to what I assume Reinhart intended.

But for me, this soaker and dough was more like slop, and I had to correct it with flour to even begin to make it work.

It was so wet I didn't dare add more moisture in the form of butter and honey.  These breads have no optional ingredients.

The Grains I used

Couscous is sort of like a tiny noodle, rather than a grain, and so I wasn't quite sure about using it.   But it is listed in the marginal notes of suggested grains to use in this bread.  And despite what you might think from looking at its white starchiness, I learned that couscous is actually one of the healthiest ways to eat grain.  Couscous is made from ground durum wheat.  Salted water is sprinkled onto freshly ground durum, and simultaneously the flour is raked, so these starchy little pearls form.  Like tiny planets, the outer surface tends to form around a denser core -- thus the bran and the germ becomes the middle.  This saves the germ's oil from spoilage, yet retains all the goodness of the whole grain.  Israeli couscous is big and plump.

Kasha is also not a grain.  It is the seed of the buckwheat plant that has been roasted, and as everyone knows, buckwheat is not a grass but is related to the rhubarb plant.  I am taking a special interest in buckwheat this year, as I am growing a test plot of it in my garden.  I have heard that it makes for an excellent green manure.  The black, sproutable pyramidal seed gets reddened when roasted, and has a strong recognizable scent.  Buckwheat flour also has a recognizable taste -- think of buckwheat pancakes, I'm sure everyone has had those -- so you don't require a lot of it.  I used only 40g of cooked kasha, and the rest of the grains made up the difference for this loaf.

Wheat berries and Steel Cut Oats are very familiar to everyone.

Israeli Couscous

Whole Wheat Berries

Kasha: roasted buckwheat

Steel-cut Oats

Soaker Ingredients

What I did
I made two loaves here with the original thought to compare them: one with a biga, and one with a wild yeast starter.  But they can't be compared now because I 'fixed' the consistency of the dough separately.  One might have a different hydration than the other, and one might have more water than grain from the too-moist soaker.

For my soaker, I pre-cooked some whole wheat berries, some steel-cut oats, some Israeli couscous, and some kasha.  All of these grains/seeds were boiled, some in pots, and some in a pressure cooker, the afternoon before I put them into the soaker.  All of them were drained with a sieve and cooled before using.  All of them soaked up water like crazy.

I made a double batch of soaker and divided it up between my two breads when it came time to make the final dough.  Both loaves got exactly 401g of soaker. 

I even suspected that I had forgotten to double up on the amount of flour in the doubled soaker, and checked it by weight.  It turned out that I had, but it was STILL sloppy AFTER I added the correct amount.  Frustrating.

Gee, that looks pretty sloppy for a Reinhart 'soaker'

oh, I forgot to double up on the flour, that's got to be the problem

I'll just add it to the soaker now

Gee, that's STILL sloppy for a Reinhart soaker!

Most of Reinhart's soakers come off feeling very dry to me, but this was more like soup.  There was no way I could 'chop' the soaker 'pieces' into 12 smaller pieces.  I tried spooning some out and adding some flour to each spoonful, but then I realized that this was ridiculous, and just added more flour until I had what I felt was a better consistency.  It still felt nothing like these Reinhart loaves normally do, so I added even more flour during the kneading stage.

Mis en place: to the left, the sourdough version, to the right the biga version.  In the middle, the shared soupy soaker.

Gee, that is soupy.
Fixing the Hydration problem

chop this into 12 pieces... yeah, right.

roll each piece in extra flour... yeah, right
 I had to knead in a lot of extra flour just to get this to hold together.  This felt nothing like any other Reinhart bread I've made from this book (except the ones where I made mistakes, e.g. my blunder bread).  Obviously I've done something drastically wrong.

My new Dutch Oven Combo Cooker
I was literally going to the cupboard to get my pieces of broken baking stones to see which ones would hold together the best for these breads, when there was a knock on the door.  It was a delivery girl with my new dutch oven combo cooker.  That was fast service: this package arrived on the day that would have been promised with expedited delivery, but I hadn't even asked for that, since it was going to cost me an extra $40.  So I was expecting 6-10 days, but it was here in 2.  I was very impressed with the speed of this package's arrival.  And right in the midst of a Canada Post Strike.  I guess the real delivery trucks can move faster now that the national post service trucks are all off the road…

These loaves are the first loaves I've baked with my new dutch oven.

And like Reinhart's pictured loaf on the cover of his book, my loaves look like they've sagged a bit.  Mine is even worse, of course, perhaps due to the hydration problem I had.

This loaf tastes fine.  It doesn't need the extra oils and sweetener.  On the other hand, because I added so much flour during the kneading of it, this was flour that hadn't had time to soak or autolyse: so there isn't going to be as much flavour here, in theory, because the enzymes wouldn't have had a chance to work on the amylose.  So perhaps it is a little bland: but that might be a good thing.

I think that my wife will eat it.

The wheat is tall now in the fields near where I walk the dog, so I brought home a sprig of it today

The possible combinations of grains you can add to this recipe can't be infinite, but it is a rather high number.  Experimentation is key to find the choicest edibles.  For me, I simply used what I had on hand.

I think that some millet or quinoa would add a nice touch to this bread.

I'll have to make this recipe again to see where I went wrong.

Notes to Myself
  • When assembling your soaker, add the water last, and only add enough to bring it to the consistency you'd expect of a Reinhart soaker: i.e., fairly dry, not too liquid.
  • When doubling the recipe, write down the quantities you are going to be using, don't just double the amounts on the fly, or you might make a mistake (e.g. either forgetting to double one, or perhaps doubling it twice).
  • Kasha is a powerful scent, but adds very little to the flavour.  I can barely detect it in this loaf, and it is just 13% of the total grains, but I can still detect the scent because I know what I'm looking for.
  • Steel cut oats add a lot of moisture and not a lot of graininess.  I think that this was the main culprit behind the hydration problem.  Also, the mush that results when the oats are cooked is pretty bland, and it doesn't add a lot of flavour.  I wouldn't use this grain again in this bread.
  • The whole wheat berries add a nice crunchiness to the loaf, but very little taste.  At the same time that I made this bread, I was making Nils Schöner's bread for my mother-in-law again, the one with the applejuice-soaked rye kernels, and I was thinking that these wheat berries really needed to be soaked in juice before using them too.  That would require an extra day for the recipe, though.