Dog Days of Summer
My doggie is laying on the cool floor panting. We've de-thatched her many times in recent days, brushing away great gobs of old fur from her coat, and every day's walk ends in a cooling swim in pond, river or creek. But still the heat is getting to her.
It occurs to me that perhaps I ought to be de-thatching my other 'pet' too.
Summer is upon us, and my sourdough peaks a lot faster than it does in autumn, winter and spring. The hot, humid days get my 100% wild starter -- which usually sits out on the counter at room temperature -- to double a lot quicker than I expect (and all too often before I myself am ready). An overnight rise of a refresher often has me disappointed as I wake up on my day off around 0500 to find that it has already passed its optimal time for leavening dough.
Curiously, I don't find the same "too-speedy peaking" happening when I experiment with a "stiff starter". Example: on the evening of first full day of summer 2012, third day of a heat-wave, I refreshed my sourdough with 1 TBSP of starter and 200g each of water and ww flour. At the same time, I used 200g of the same starter I had taken that 1 TBSP out of, and added no more water, only 100g more ww to make a "stiff starter". In the morning, that 100% starter was already past using -- but the stiff starter was optimal for making dough.
This is an interesting thought: perhaps the way to keep one's sourdough viable on the counter is to variously adjust the hydration for the sourdough's seasonal moodiness. Is this what our ancestors also discovered? Is this how they kept their sourdoughs going through the seasons, through the years, through the decades, through the centuries, through the millennia, before refrigeration was invented? I am not suggesting that any one bread-making wild leaven culture has been passed on this long. But certainly techniques were given to the next generation after generation, bread itself was passed through to whole new populations of people on the planet, and people with similar inclinations as me fermented their brayed grains just as I do, adjusting it to their needs. Perhaps I'm finally starting to live in concert with my own wild culture.
Perhaps it is the beginning of confidence that I am finally finding my Way.
Refrigerating the Sourdough
Before I went away this past week, I placed my sourdough in the fridge because I wasn't going to be around to tend it. Generally when I'm home the wild culture is sitting there on the counter, reminding me to use it or refresh it. I'm always sneaking a peak at it, and these days, waving away the fruit flies.
Putting it in the fridge was a natural step (many if not most people will keep their sourdough there and simply refresh it weekly), but it is a step that I don't want to repeat too often -- and not only because it changes the inhabitants of the wild culture, changing the taste, as I have previously said. Not, the big reason I want to avoid refrigeration of my sourdough is because of what happened when I returned. I took the wild yeast out of the fridge, refreshed it, and watched it closely. The cold fridge must have stunned it. It took three freshenings before it even began to regain its previous strength.
In the meantime, I made loaves with the wayward sourdough but I also used a bit of extra commercial yeast.
Here is the latest attempt at making a multigrain loaf. This time I added some ingredients to the mixture in the beginning (last time I made a multigrain loaf, I tried to get the gluten to form first, and added the other grains late in the stretching and folding). This time, I didn't add as much multigrain. I think that this is appropriate, for this bread.
- 100% ww flour
- 80% water
- 2% salt
- 20% sourdough starter
- 1/2 tsp yeast
- 26g homemade dried malt
- 30g sunflower seeds
- 36g roasted soybeans
The extra yeast was tossed in because this starter was stunned. I had just returned from a visit to Ottawa, and the starter was in the fridge for several days. I took it out and refreshed it, but it wasn't quite up to its bubbly efficiency. It will likely take a few more refreshes before it is able to raise loaves the way I want it to. So for now I'm just adding some yeast to the mixture.
This dough didn't see a lot of rise, until it hit the proofing baskets. Then, after about 2 hours, it was ready to be placed into the oven. I could have increased the hydration by 5 % easily. The dough wasn't all that stretchy while I was folding and teasing it into shape.
But I like the results. Tastes nice with cheese or with peanut butter. It is crunchy in places, but the amount of seeds and extra grains is just about right.
A darn good loaf.
A darn good loaf.
Notes to Myself
- Try keeping your wild starter on the counter at a much denser concentration than the usual 100%, for the summer months. My stiff starter is working fine at 50% hydration when it is this hot and humid. Less water means the yeast and the leavening bacteria work a bit slower.
- Alternatively, you could experiment with concentrations of >100% for the winter months. The forums of The Fresh Loaf contain lots of discussions from bread enthusiasts who have tried liquid yeast. I haven't got to that stage yet.
- You really don't need a lot of different grains in order to call a bread a 'multigrain loaf'. What is the optimal amount of other grains that can be added to bread dough?
- Your sourdough may have been stunned because of the refrigeration -- but there is also another possibility. Just before leaving, you put some wheat germ into the mixture, something you also never did before. That extra 5% may have changed the entire culture too.
- I have broken my second camera, and currently borrow my wife's. But I am warned not to "dough it all up". I don't understand the flash settings on her camera, and it always leaves a shadow.
Sigh. Bread blogging is hell on digital cameras.