Sourdough bread-making methods, The Sourdough Journals
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What went wrong with that first loaf?

The good news: The bread was tasty enough, and tender enough, to eat. We didn’t have to throw it out. We tore and ate it smeared with grass-fed butter. I toasted thin slices, with melted cheeses on top, and served them with a crunchy kale salad. The littlest grandchild and I had more thin-sliced toast with butter this morning with our breakfast. She asked for “More, YayYay,” until she had her fill. (All the grandkids call me YayYay, since this one’s older sister was learning to talk).

While the loaf was okay, it was nothing like the tasty, texture-rich, artisan bread I’m going for. That’s all right. I’m here to learn. But what went wrong?

Plenty. I neglected to make sure my knife was sharp before I scored the bread.

First loaf

First loaf

Secondly, taste matters, and my bread has a little too much bite. According to P.J. Hamel on Flourish, the King Arthur Flour blog, I may have too much acid in my starter. To avoid too much sour in our sourdough, she cautions us to use our starter before it falls and begins to “calm down.”

If your sourdough is too acidic, you may be letting the starter ripen too long before using it. Once your starter is bubbling and vigorous, it’s time to make bread, feed it again, or refrigerate until its next feeding. Don’t let it become bubbly, rise, and then fall and start to “calm down;” that’s adding acidity to its flavor. Reduce the duration of ripening as necessary.

Next time, I’ll watch the ripening carefully.

Thirdly, I did not get anything at all like the texture I’m looking for in a good sourdough bread: Crunchy outside, tender inside with lots of holes where gassy bubbles burst during baking.

Because I never got the window-pane film Mike says we need to achieve good texture and rise, I was never sure whether I had fully developed my dough. Conversely, because I kneaded it so long, trying to get that window-pane, I’m fairly certain I over-kneaded, by a long shot.

I’ve decided to try Mike’s recipe again. This time, I will watch my sourdough ripening more carefully, in hopes of improving the taste. Much as I enjoy kneading by hand, I will let my KitchenAid stand mixer do the kneading.

Before I try another loaf, though, I’ll see what America’s Test Kitchen has to say about whole wheat sourdough. That’s one site I haven’t checked.

We will not be without our sourdough tomorrow. As I type this, I have a sponge developing. We’re going to have more of those lovely whole wheat English muffins from An Oregon Cottage. That will use one-half cup of the excess starter still in my fridge.


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