The past few weeks have been trying, to put it kindly. I’ve decided to stop complaining about the weather, as there’s nothing about it that can be done. So, fine. We’ll just do a little bit of indoor stuff, like MAKE THE MOST AWESOME FOODS.
I’ve been trying to perfect my sourdough. I’ve now baked two successful loaves in a row. There is still much work to be done, but so far I’m feeling pretty good about the experiment.
First, I made the starter on Jan 26. But like a fool, I didn’t measure anything, so I couldn’t tell how active it was getting, if it was getting active at all. With some help from fellow fermenting folk on Facebook, I had found the way to get starter really moving.
First, I measured how much starter I had in grams. Then I took out half, and set aside for some other function (mostly pancakes – more on that later!). Lastly, I divide the remaining number in grams in half, and weigh out equal parts flour and water. So for example, if I started out with 300g of starter, first I would remove 150g and set aside, which would leave me with 150g in the jar, Next, I would weigh out 75g flour and 75g water, and add that to the original 150g to make 300g again. Then I mark and date the jar with some tape. I did this every 10-14 hours for many days: how many, I’m not sure.
The transformation of the starter was nothing short of miraculous. The starter was puffy, light, bubbly, and smelled like a good, sour cheese.
So, I started baking with it.
I read an article that suggested a method called the 1-2-3. It goes like this:
- 1 part starter
- 2 parts water
- 3 parts flour
- 1.8-2% salt
So that really let me try a smaller loaf with my “discard,” as a way to test the starter and get a little bread out of the deal. So in the example I used above, if I had 150g of starter “discard” that I wanted to use to make a loaf of bread (because I was feeding so frequently, the discard is super active).
- 150g starter
- 300g water
- 450g flour
- appx 8g salt
Because I haven’t been very good at “backward planning” my loaves, I’ve been starting the loaves by mixing the starter, water & flour well, and allowing the saltless dough to bulk ferment overnight. In the morning, I knead in the salt and let it sit for another hour. Then I do the stretch and fold thing every hour or so until it “feels ready”. With the last two loaves (the best ones so far), I have laid a well-flowered cloth towel into a basket strainer. I let that proof until I’m ready to bake it, which is at least 2 hours, but could be more. Right now, because the temperature in my apartment is on the cool side, I understand it can be super flexible without too much worry of overproofing. Finally, I heat my big cast iron skillet and a cast iron wok in the oven at 500 for about 25-30 minutes. Once the oven & pans are sufficiently hot, I pull out the skillet, flip the dough onto the pan, score with a razor blade, replace into the oven and cover with the upside-down wok.
This one is the prettiest that I’ve made so far.
So my takeaway with all this so far is to remember to WEIGH EVERYTHING WITH A SCALE, not by cups. And that it pays to be methodical about this kind of thing, which is half why I’m writing this blog post (so that I can remember what I did for next time). Next goal is to streamline the from-mix-to-oven timeline.
Also, HAPPY PANCAKE WEEK! We’ve been using the discarded starter for pancakes, English muffins and (today) scallion pancakes. I’ll have a post on at least some of that in the coming days. So much good!!