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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...).

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