There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
by Isabel Allende

Starting in November of 2009 Michelle at the Big Black Dog formed a group to bake its way through Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. I loved Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, so I signed up with the group. Michelle first had us do a couple of warm-up assignments, which were my first attempt at blogging. The first "Official" post was on January 15, 2010, and it was followed by 41 more, on the 1st and 15th of each month. When I signed on I said I would bake the whole book, and like Horton (the elephant) I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I finished baking the book on October 1, 2011. Having completed that challenge, now I am just going to do some stuff, and post about it. As part of that stuff Michelle is posing a new, and different, challenge for us each month.

I am still baking bread, mostly the Five Minutes a Day kind, and if you would like to try the Five Minutes a Day bread method there are some links, with recipes, in the right hand column to get you started. Please give it a try.

But first, a word from my sponsor . . .
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One person, Greg Craven, has suggested changing the question from "which side is right" to "what is the wisest thing to do given the uncertainties and the risks involved?" To me, this seems like a very productive way to refocus the conversation. So, if you are confused about, concerned by, or interested in the issue of global warming please take a few minutes to watch his VIDEO. If you find it interesting or helpful, please pass it on to others.

This day be bread and peace my lot.
Alexander Pope

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Julia Child

Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.
Yiddish proverb
(And some are only half baked.)

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw, via Sharon

Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.
George Herbert

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hunting Me Some Wild Sourdough

 A post on our Discussion Board (from Renee) prompted me to try to catch some wild sourdough.  I have a strain that supposedly went west on the Oregon trail, but we are supposed to eat more locally, and you don't get much more local than wild beasts captured in your own backyard.  (OK, I know yeasts are fungi, but I am using my poetic license.)  For my trap I mixed 1/2 cup of unbleached flour with 1/2 cup bottled water and 1/8 teaspoon of lemon juice in a non-metalic (I used plastic) bowl.  I set a coarse strainer on top to keep out big chunks and leaves and set it in the garden for about an hour or so--as long as it took to mow the lawn.   Then I brought it inside, set a plate on top as a cover, put it on the kitchen counter, and waited.

After about 24 hours I had some liquid on top, although maybe that was just the stuff settling, and perhaps some bubbles, so I fed it with 1/4 cup each of water and flour.  Once it is going you are supposed to feed it twice a day, and when I checked at 36 hours I had lots of bubbles. 
From there on I just kept the bowl on the counter, covered, and fed it some flour and water twice a day.  

In the past when I used sourdough I usually measured by volume.  Harder core bakers measure by weight, which is what I now do for AB/HB in 5 baking.   So although I began by feeding my starter equal parts of water and flour by volume, I switched and started feeding it by weight, which is not the same thing since equal volumes of flour and water have different weights.  For people who care about the hydration of their sourdough and their dough, weight is the way to go since that is how hydration is calculated.  For a discussion of hydration, or the Bakers' Percentage, you can go to Northwest Sourdough for a bunch of helpful info, including a hydration calculator.   Basically, the flour percentage is always 100%, and it is ignored.  The percentage of hydration then is in terms of the water, or other liquid, related to the flour.  Since in my starter the water is the same as the flour, the hydration is 100%. 

Each time you feed your starter you get more of it, since you are adding more flour and water.  Once it really gets going you remove what you added to use in whatever you are making.  But at this stage, I just kept feeding it, and getting more starter.  Usually, you discard some starter and add more flour and water.  These were my babies, however, so when my bowl got full I divided the starter and kept going.  An heir and a spare.

At about a week I had two bowls full, so instead of discarding some of the starter I used some to make a loaf of bread.  I got up early, since it was an all day project, and formed my dough using a recipe I got from one of my blogging buddies.  I then went to check my email. and right after starting my bread saw a post in our Discussion Board from Danielle stating that you should wait to use a new starter for a full 2 weeks.  OOOPS.  I am not sure if waiting is to get the starter going well or to develop the sour flavor.  Anyway, since I had the dough formed I went ahead.  I got bread, but is was a little heavy. 
It had lots of air pockets, so I think the starter did its job.  But the dough seemed dry to me as I formed it, thought I am used to AB/HB dough, and perhaps it may have been a hydration issue.

It did not take long for me to build up more starter, and this time instead of discarding any I used some to make waffles.  This is my go-to use for sourdough.
You can get my recipe in an earlier post. 

Next, I decided to give bread another try, this time using the Peasant Bread from AB in 5.   I chose this bread because it has some rye flour in it, and I had read that using rye can enhance the sour tang in the bread.  I did not use one of the breads with more whole grain since that seems to mute other flavors.    Jeff and Zoë add a little commercial yeast when they use sourdough, but here I did not, relying entirely on my yeast peeps.
They did a great job.

To limber up for Thanksgiving I had done a turkey in my Oil-less Turkey Fryer, and had leftovers.  So I decided to make some sourdough biscuits to go under some turkey and gravy.  I used the Sourdough Biscuits in a HURRY recipe from Discovering Sourdough, and they came out great.  

And finally, I used the rest of the Peasant Bread dough to make some oval loaves.   They, too, turned out well.

I am getting good bread, but not much sour tang.  From what I have read this seems to be a fairly common issue.  But now that I have my own yeast strain I plan to continue to bake more than waffles with my sourdough, and see what happens.


  1. Wow, it all looks great! I really want to try and capture some yeast myself. You're given me inspiration.

    Fun post to read!

  2. Great post! I've always wanted to do this but hubby is not a fan of sour dough anything. Since there are just the two of us at home now.. not happening at our house. Anyway, I will enjoy reading of your adventures with it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Love your breads, especially the baguettes. When I heard you were hunting wild yeast, I imagnined you out there with a butterfly net! :)