No Knead - bumbling my way to easy sourdough
I've been making no knead and it's been great. It is not a long lasting loaf but that is fine. The slightly stale bread is great toasted. Adding some whole wheat flour gives good flavor, adds shelf life, but does not equal the impressive texture of the all white, imo. My ppl love sourdough so I'd like to try. I can't keep up with the long discussions everywhere, so here is my attempt and help is welcome and needed at this point. I have no idea what I am doing.
First I did a no knead bread. I baked it off but I held back a small knob back to use as my 'cheater'
Next night, I took the small knob of no knead and used it with a 1/2 cup of flour and a 1/2 cup of water. I don't know why I used King Arthur Whole Wheat but I had it.
Since I did such a small amount of starter, I decided not to toss half. Instead I kept the initial batch and added one cup white and one cup water.
Next night it is smelling beery, I mixed and divided it. I kept the starter going by feeding a cup white flour and a cup water.
I took the extra cup and made it into the usual bread. I think it is rising too fast, after 6 hours, so I put it in the cold garage. I have no idea what percent to add. I just know that when and if I get a real starter I hope I know what I am doing.
Nomenclature is a problem. I usually use the word starter generically for a sourdough culture in all its stages, and I use the French word levain for the starter that goes into the dough. I guess you could call it a sponge. I find it helpful to make that levain at the same consistency as the dough for a loaf as I can easily figure ratio of levain to new dough, both by weight and volume. But it isn't critical. I settled on 1/4 cup of starter by comparing it with the reduction in the amount of yeast as compared to a standard direct method loaf. At any rate, 1/4 cup of levain or sponge seems to work. Maybe if you go for 12 hours, 1/3 cup would work. (There is a lot of fiddle factor here.) What you don't want to do is use so much culture at the beginning that the microbes exhaust their food supply before you are ready to bake.
Here's my procedure. I take a small piece (like a walnut) of my storage starter or chef, and mix it with 4 ounces of flour and 3 ounces of water. If I haven't used it in the last day or two, I may do this two or three times to make sure it is really young and vigorous. It should quadruple in volume in eight hours or less at room temperature. I measure 16 ounces of flour into a bowl and stir in 12 ounces of water. I let that sit for from 20 minutes to an hour to autolyse--the flour hydrates and the enzymes start turning starches into sugar and joining proteins into gluten. I then stir in fine sea salt or table salt. 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons according to taste. Then I Pam or lightly oil a 1/4 cup measuring cup (to prevent sticking) and scoop up the sponge and stir it into my dough. [I then usually take the rest of the sponge and knead into it a bit more flour and store it in the fridge.] I cover the dough with plastic wrap and leave it to ferment from 12 to 18 hours at room temperature. (In actual fact, I think it mostly works out to 16, but it could be longer or shorter depending on how warm the kitchen happens to be and how my schedule is going.) Once or twice during the bulk fermentation of the dough, I turn it out onto a floured surface and, using a dough scraper or wide spatula, I fold the dough. I handle it gently. The aim is not to flatten it but to strengthen the gluten web and degas it slightly. (But this extra folding is not critical. You could simply fold it once, as in the original Leahy recipe.) After the bulk fermentation, I fold the dough again and round it as best I can and put it onto a smooth towel onto which I have sprinkled a liberal coating of corn meal to prevent sticking. I put cornmeal on top of the dough and loosely fold the ends of the towel over and place the whole thing into a colander to rise. After about two hours I preheat my pot and lid to 450 degrees for about half an hour. (I use a 10 1/2 unglazed terra cotta "bulb pan" flower pot and saucer.) I plop the dough into the preheated pot, "seam" side up, cover it and bake it for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes I remove the cover and bake it until done--about another 20 minutes. I look for a dark reddish brown crust. If in doubt, I turn the loaf out and check for an internal temperature of about 210. The dough will be cooked at 200, but the center will probably be too moist if I don't let it bake to 210. I cool the bread on rack before slicing.
Dear Coconutz. I have several times made a no-knead sourdough. I find it best to make the starter with the same proportion of flour to water as in the dough. It makes things easier that way: you don't have to adjust. Since 75% as much water as flour by weight seems to work well for me, it works out to 3 ounces of water to 4 ounces of flour. I weigh it to be sure. I make sure the starter is young and vigorous--refresh it several times if you aren't baking often with it. I add 1/4 cup of starter to the Lahey bread dough in place of yeast. From that point, you can follow the Lahey recipe. I get best results if I give it a somewhat longer fermentation than 12 hours. And I fold the dough twice in the course of the fermentation. Say I mix it at nine at night. Next morning when I get up, I fold it--usually around 5:30. Then around noon, I fold it again prior to shaping the loaf. You can fold it three times if you like. It strengthens the gluten, but your crumb will perhaps not be as open.
I don't work for a real tangy flavor. I prefer a sourdough with a slightly cheesy flavor, although I am not sure that is the right word. It reminds me more of champagne. If you want a more sour flavor, after you shape the loaf, let it have its final rise in a somewhat warmer environment, but be careful you don't let it go too long. The warmer temperature favors the lactobacillus growth, so you get more tang. But the more tang to the bread, the weaker the gluten will be. So it is a trade off or a balancing act.
I bake mine in a 10 1/2 inch unglazed terra cotta flower pot--the stubby kind called a "bulb pan." I use a terra cotta saucer as a lid. I pretreat my pots with shortening the first time, but several others have written in to say it is not necessary.
Finally success. I think I started with about 3/4 - 1 cup starter, used 3 cups flour, scant 2 tsp kosher salt and 1-1/2 cups water.
Last night's loaf had good sour aroma, a mild tang, a moist pleasant texture. And the crust was nice and crackling, not the tough one I had before. I think I'll keep the starter. Anyone in the SLO area want some I am pouring it off almost every day.
The starter added a bit of tang, but not much. Probably too young. The disappointing thing is that the crust was tough and nearly inedible. This has never happened otherwise. So I'm reluctant to use it again. I've been feeding it so maybe one more try before dumping. I'm also really clueless about how much starter to use.
I just baked the first loaf with the starter in it. I don't really know what I'm doing. Wasn't sure to make a sponge first or not but I kept it simple. I used a cup of the starter to 3 cups flour, 1-1/2 cup water and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. I had to then add extra flour because it was too wet. Still turned out to be a very wet dough and I had to sprinkle it with a lot of flour. The loaf is beautiful. I won't be tasting it until tomorrow but the batter and the loaf smell pleasantly beery. I thought it would take a bit longer to get a sour taste but we will see.
I just dumped half the starter and fed the rest. Didn't want to make another loaf just yet. My starter is so active I am keeping it in the garage from now on to slow it down a bit. It threw a huge amount of liquid today before I stirred it down.
if your bread is rising, then it sounds like a good starter is underway. The more you cut and feed it, the more personality it will take on... particularly if you started it with a yeasted bread, the more feedings you give it, the more it will become more like a traditional sourdough. Very cool... congrats.
I've had a starter I started about 3 years ago. I love it. Great for pancakes, breads, waffles, crackers... everything!
For a good overview on sourdough that shouldn't be too overwhelming, try the King Arthur site... they have some good info to get you started: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/tips/t... (though it sounds like you are already off to a good start).