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My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter. - Forno Bravo Forum: The Wood-Fired Oven Community


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My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

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  • My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

    It occurred to me that since I had never baked bread before and am within sight of having a WFO, I should probably try it in a regular oven first. So I did it for the first time about ten days ago using off the shelf fleishmans active yeast.

    To get the stone baked feel I cut six fire bricks into splits and lined my oven shelf. As per the recipe I also put a broiler pan below the shelf with the bread and poured a cup of hot water in the pre-heated pan immediately after putting the bread on the stones. I was happy with the way it turned out since it was the first thing I had ever baked (Not counting baked potatos and pillsbury biscuits from the roll.)

    I've baked three times since the first time but have been doing four loaves at a time in the oven now. Getting much better color now that I am doing four loaves at once.

    So a few nights ago I decided to try a sourdough starter. I didn't have any whole grain flour. All I had was the Conagra "Minnesota Girl" baker's flour I bought at Costco. So I put one cup of one hundred degree water and one cup of that bakers flour in a four cup mixing cup and stirred well. I'd read that some people use a grape to innoculate with yeast and some just rely on the yearts present on the whole grain.

    Since I didn't have whole grain I figured I should innoculate with something likely to have yeast on it. No grapes around so I used what I had in the refrigerator...blueberries and rasberries.

    I took three blueberries and one rasberry and dropped them in the flour/water mix. I gently stirred the mix twice over the next hour. After one hour, I gently stirred again and then fished the undamaged berries out of the mix and tossed them.

    I had also read that yeasts like a low ph and most bacteria doesn't. Since I was doing this whole thing in a somewhat odd manner I was afraid of "bad" bacteria being present in the bakers flour and taking over as the dominant speices of microrganism. So I decided to put a table spoon and a half of apple cider vinegar in the mix as well to bring the ph down a bit. I stirred again and lightly covered it.

    The following (day 2) morning it had very tiny bubbles all over the surface. I stirred, pulled out a half cup of the mix and tossed it, and fed the starter a half cup of flour and a half cup of warm water. I did that again twelve hours later and have continued doing so every twelve hours since.

    By that night (still day two) it was looking dead. No bubbles at all and a separated clear water layer on top. I fed it as before and went to bed. The next morning (day three) there were some bubbles again, not a lot, but the individual bubbles were bigger than they had been before. This morning (Day 4) I checked it and it looked better still, lots of big bubbles.

    Here is my starter this morning (Day Four.)

    It smells very nice and slightly yeasty. I think I'm on the right track in spite of doing everything a bit strangely???? Comments or concerns?

    Last edited by WJW; 04-26-2012, 12:13 PM.

  • #2
    Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

    You're looking good from my perspective. I found early on that if my starter was lightly covered it seemed to be happier. I don't have enough experience to say if it was related to the youth of my batch or if this is true of most all SD starters. I decided at the time that the CO2 accumulation over the starter was killing the desired beasties, but it could have been that I needed to feed more often at that stage.



    • #3
      Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

      Interesting. I had covered mine tightly on day 2 because I wanted to see if the C02 production would "balloon" or inflate the wrapper. That's the same day it seemed to have died off (or at the least, drastically reduced activity.)

      This morning (day 5) it looks fine, and actually smells a little like sour dough bread...not stinky...just kinda nice smelling. I just fed it a few minute ago and the surface had bubbles on it almost immediately after stirring it up again. By five minutes after feeding it has bubbles all over the top. This is what it looked like five minutes after feeding. What ever is going on in there, it's pretty darn active I think.

      How long would you guys keep letting it go on the counter top with twice a day feedings?

      Do you think it's too soon to try baking a batch of bread from it? Tomorrow will be day six...I was thinking maybe tomorrow night do a dough for baking on Sunday???



      • #4
        Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

        I don't remember when, how many days, I made my first loaves from my starter. I'd need to refer to some other expert.



        • #5
          Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

          Personally I would give it another week. If it doubles in size in 4 to 8 hours it's running healthy. But young starters are still working out chemical balances at the 6 day mark. You can always give it a try but just don't be overly disappointed if you don't get the expected results on the first run.


          • #6
            Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

            Thanks for the advice. I may give it a shot tomorrow just to see what happens.

            As far as it doubling in size...I haven't noticed that my starter is doubling (or even increasing much at all). I don't know if it's too liquidy or what, but the bubbles seem to pop right through the mix and up to the surface. Should the starter be thicker?

            I have a four cup measuring cup with just over two cups of starter in it. Every time I feed I remove a half a cup of starter. I then stir in one half cup of water and one half cup of flour. Intuitively, I would expect that the mixture would be getting wetter over time, but that does not seem to be happening. Evaporation? Cellular activity breaking down water into CO2? (I'm guessing the latter now that I think about it.)

            As i think about it...I'm guessing that one and a half cups of starter (That's what I begin with when I feed), needs more than a half cup of flour???

            Anyway, the mixture does not seem to be getting wetter and is not expanding significantly when I feed it. Just lots of bubbles.



            • #7
              Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

              Bubbles are just one indicator a doubling in size is also and help determine when to re-feed.
              Place a rubber band ( or use a marker pen)level with your starter after feeding when it double and before it collapses, you may discard some and re-feed. Give it a few more day to get stronger and more mature.


              • #8
                Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

                I feed mine 1:1:1 but that is by weight. 100% hydration
                Starter feed at a 1:1:1 is half water half flour.

                1 cup of flour on a dip and sweep is about 157 grams
                1 cup of water is 236 grams

                So you are actually feeding 78.5 grams flour and 118g grams water.

                So you are keeping a starter at more like 150% hydration.

                Liquid levains are typically kept at 100% to 125% hydration so you are running a bit wet.


                • #9
                  Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

                  I run my starter at 100g of water 100g of flour and about 35g of starter from the last batch. This gives me about 200g of starter to put toward bread and 35g to roll forward into the next batch.

                  Faith, how much starter do you feed? Is the 1:1:1 1 water:flour:starter?

                  Last edited by SCChris; 04-27-2012, 04:57 PM.


                  • #10
                    Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

                    Yes. I do things a bit different from others.

                    I take my 120g starter and feed it 120g water & 120g flour then let it rise to maximum then just to start to fall.

                    Then I take 40g of that and feed it 40g water & 40g flour. and put it back in the fridge.

                    The left over starter I put to various uses like bread or English muffins.


                    • #11
                      Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

                      I love this forum!

                      Whether it's oven building or bread baking, a total rookie like myself gets the benefit the years of experience from others.

                      I'll start paying more attention to my baker's percentage and give it a bit longer to mature before jumping into the sour dough.



                      • #12
                        Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

                        Its a slow but interesting road Ive been on and off for a few years and I still have so much to learn.
                        Its worth it though a great skill to have.


                        • #13
                          Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

                          Keep feeding the starter. It will get there, if it isn't already.

                          Based on your photos you need to add humidity to the oven. An easy way is to put a cast iron skillet with lava rocks in the bottom of the oven when you preheat. Then put about a cup of ice in a pie pan with holes in it and set that on top of the lava rocks a few minutes before you add the bread. Spraying a bit of water in is also good. Be careful of your oven glass. Hot glass and water = failure!

                          PS the reason you are getting better color with more loaves is the humidity from more dough! Also... don't let the crust dry out...

                          Good luck


                          • #14
                            Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

                            Thanks Jay.

                            My starter is looking good. When I feed it it doubles up in volume in a couple of hours or so with lots of big gas bubbles visible through the sides of the glass measuring cup.

                            The starter is now fifteen days old and seems ready to go. It smells like a cross between the back room of a winery and sour dough bread. It is extremely active and jumps into action when I feed it. I had planned on doing my first sourdough bake this weekend, but some other committments prevented that from happening.

                            I'd be grateful if you could point me toward a good recipe for a beginner looking to take his first attempt at sour dough from a homemade starter.



                            • #15
                              Re: My first attempt at bread and making sourdough starter.

                              Do you have a scale or do you use measuring cups? I'll give you one in cups.

                              take your starter and make sure you take out enough to keep feeding.

                              For the bread

                              1 cup bread flour
                              3/4 cup water
                              2 tablespoon starter

                              let set for 12 to 16 hours at 70degrees

                              5-1/2 cups bread flour
                              3/4 cup whole wheat flour
                              1-7/8 water
                              1 tablespoon salt
                              All of your starter build from above

                              mix everything together EXCEPT THE SALT just get it mixed to a shaggy mass. Cover and let set for 20 to 60 minutes. Then put in the salt DON'T FORGET THE SALT. Mix in the salt if using a mixer (second speed for 1 to 2 minutes)

                              Bulk ferment for 2-1/2 hours keep around 76 degrees

                              Fold twice at 50 minute intervals

                              divide the dough and shape

                              final ferment 2 to 2-1/2 hours at 76 degrees

                              In a regular oven bake with steam at 460 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

                              When I do this in my WFO I'm at about 500 to 550 degrees and I shape into a longer loaf then round (like french bread) I bake 15 to 20 minutes. I look for a dark crust but not burnt, and the bottom of the loaf makes thump sound when taped with your finger.

                              If you just do two loaves you might think about adding some steam to the oven like a pan with a small amount of boiling water in it. Some people add lave rocks to help in the steaming.

                              Let me know how this works for you.