Sourdough Baby!

Alright you all.  This post is decidedly anti “zone diet“.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore protein and delicious meat, but this post and page is all about the carbs.  Last month, I went back to the Bay for the holidays and came back to NYC bearing a very special gift.  The gift of sourdough starter bequeathed to me so generously from Matt aka Dumpling King (though now I would also dub him The Earl of Sourdough).  And since then, it’s fair to say I’ve been a little bit obsessed – obsessed with maintaining and tending the starter and baking the perfect sourdough loaf.  I’m happy to say the maintenance of the starter is going pretty well, because I’m a nurturing kind of guy.  The bread?  Well I’m still working on that.  Click on the image below for the full story behind the starter and my obsession with sourdough.

this is how much Matt loves his starter

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5 thoughts on “Sourdough Baby!

  1. I will attest to the fact that your bread is tasty with just the right texture on the outside crust and, softness and chewy texture on the inside! You have restored my faith in good bread in NYC.

  2. After using your starter, Matt, despite the fact that we’ve never met, you truly are one of the most important people in my life …

    So, last weekend, I went a little crazy and baked six loaves with the starter … each with different results. Here’s what I learned …

    Loaf #1: I followed Matt’s recipe to the word. Overall, everything came out pretty well. I took special care to handle the dough with kid gloves for each step of the process, and it ended up being light and airy in the end. This was the big victory for this loaf, since the only other loaf I’d ever baked was sort of a brick after I handled the dough like a bastard step-child. My only real complaint with this loaf was that it was a little too burnt on the bottom.

    Loaf #2: No oven bakes the same, so after conferring with my confidants, I made a few adjustments in the baking process to try and avoid the slightly-burnt bottom. First, I put a pizza stone on the floor of the oven to try and block some of the direct heat. Second, I reduced the overall baking time by about 4 minutes (2 minutes less with and without the lid on the dutch oven). The result: it was definitely the prettiest looking loaf I baked, and the bottom was char-free. The flavor was still really good, but some people (Benjie) said they actually missed the slightly burnt flavor that came with the char on the first loaf. Maybe split the difference on baking times?

    Loaves #3-6: For these, I thought I would try baking some baguettes rather than rounds. We have a double-sided baguette tray (is that dirty?), but since it just sits open in the oven, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get the same steaming effect that you get out of the dutch oven. This is what I came up with … I put the loaves on the top rack in the middle of the oven. I left the pizza stone on the oven floor, and I pre-heat a cast iron on the bottom rack just above the pizza stone. After I put the loaves in the oven, I poured a cup of water into the hot cast iron and then spritzed the inside of the oven and the tops of the loaves with some more H20. I baked the loaves for 20 minutes and then re-spritzed the inside of the oven and the loaves before baking for another 20 minutes. I have to say, the crust came out really nice on these loaves. My only complaint here, is that I split the dough ball in half to make two little baguettes rather than using an entire dough ball for each loaf. As a result, the crust to bread ratio was a little high for me. I think simply baking a larger loaf will improve the ratio. I’ll try that this weekend.

    So, how are all your loaves turning out? Let’s compare notes! Also, RIP Alan Scott. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/06/dining/06scott.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper

  3. bret,
    nice job. perhaps if this economic downturn gets worse – and it will – you can open a bakery out of your house. So how much flour have you gone through since you got the starter? You’ve given me some good ideas about doing the baguettes. I will try again using your cast iron water steam technique. Unfortunately I don’t possess a baguette tray. Some of us aren’t as rich as you. Oh, I also used special “bread flour. For my last couple loaves. Supposedly it has more protein for gluten formation and can take more water. The first loaf was awesom. The second? Well I think it was a little too wet (going for the bigger air holes) and again I let it proof too long so it stuck to my floured cloth surface and in the ensuing gloopy transition process to the dutch oven I lost all the air. I’m still working on the perfect ratio of water to dough. But the flavor is consistently delicious.

  4. What is the flour bought to personal weight gained ratio? Hopefully it’s not one to one, cuz I’ve gone through ten pounds of flour over the last week with this latest, doughy obsession.

    Anyway, here are the latest baguette results … I used one ball of dough for each baguette. I did the first rise in a bowl, and the second in an inter-locking towel configuration that I concocted for the baguette trays. (I’ll post some photos of the second rise next time). My theory was that by allowing the dough to rise in the baguette pans, it would naturally take baguette form without me having to manhandle it after the second rise. Overall it worked pretty well, although one of the dough balls lost a little structural integrity on the first rise. It got really hot in my apartment overnight, so the dough rose up to the plastic rap and punched itself down. It still turned out pretty well, though. A little dense, but not as dense as the first loaf I tried to bake.

    The other loaf, however, turned out pretty well. Take a look at the pics:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/35216874@N03/sets/72157613551257806/

    I used the spritzing method that I described above for these loaves, and it seems to work well for developing the crust.

    Finally, for the record, baguette pans run for less than $10 (http://www.bakedeco.com/detail.asp?id=9947&trng=fgle) although I prefer ones that have aeration holes on the bottom. I think they must help with the bottom crust:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/35216874@N03/3267081920/in/set-72157613551257806/

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