Sourdough Saga – The Final Chapter?

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, then you are familiar with my journey through the mysterious and magical land of sourdough bread-making. Just in case you haven’t though, and if you’re interested in learning a little more about making a sourdough starter from scratch here’s my previous entries:

Sourdough 1
Sourdough 2
Sourdough 3

Now that we’re up to date, here’s my most recent bread baking experience. My starter has really been doing pretty awesome for the last month. After I feed it, it more than doubles (nearly triples) in size within about 6 hours. Here’s a shot of the starter right after feeding. (and giving the jar a good washing – if you’ve been down this road, you know that the jar gets pretty messy pretty quickly)

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Here’s the starter a while later – It had already started ‘falling’ at this point, but you can still see the volume increase. I’ve also decided that after a little over a month of doing this that taking care of a sourdough starter is about as much work as caring for a pet. You have to feed it in the morning and the evening, and you have to make sure that it stays clean and safe. Then you eat it. (I guess that part is a little different than caring for most pets… unless you live on a farm, or maybe in a third world country somewhere)

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The two pictures that follow are the formed dough balls of the batch of bread. I’ve been playing with recipes and have almost come up with one that I am very proud of. I really enjoy a strong sourdough flavor, but my wife and daughter prefer a milder taste – when I have it completely figured out, I’ll share the recipe here. Until then, I’d visit the Sourdough Home website and start with his basic San Francisco sourdough recipe. It was by far the strongest flavor. I really liked it, especially toasted with butter and honey. It was toast heaven. In these pictures, I formed one into a loaf, and the other is in a bowl lined with a flour sack, and plastic wrap. I’m still trying to get the hang of free form loafs – previously I’ve made the dough to soft, and they end up resembling something more like a pan pizza without any toppings than a nice round loaf.

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After they were allowed to rise for about 12 hours, I baked the pan loaf. I tried to make the cosmetic slits in the top, but I made the cuts way too shallow. You’d probably make fun of me and write ‘kick me’ on my back if you knew how nervous that I get trying to make the cuts in the dough. I’ve had two times that I tried it and the dough ‘fell’ and I had to let it rise all over again.

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With the free form loaf, I punched it down and let it rise one more time. (about 8 hours) to see what kind of difference it would make in the flavor. It was less sweet than the pan loaf. I’m guessing that the yeast went on a 20 hour binge and ate up all of the honey and sugar that I added to the dough. They have no sense of moderation.  The cut was a little bit better on the free form loaf, but still not as attractive as I would have liked.  The size and shape did turn out well though.  For a Nashville Sourdough Bread, I’d say it was a pretty terrific success.

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At this point though, you may be wondering why, when things are obviously getting onto the fast track to golden brown sourdough tastiness, I’d title this post, “The Final Chapter.”

Here’s the problem.  This past week, I worked about 8 – 18 hour days.  I was incredibly busy, and I missed one of the feedings.  Shouldn’t be a problem to miss just one feeding right?  Maybe not.  That was three days ago, and I still haven’t been able to revive my starter.  I understand that if you miss feedings, other bacteria or critters can come in and take over.  They set up fortresses with electric fences, crocodile and dragon filled moats, surface to air missiles, and neon sites that say “No Yeast Allowed.”  They’re real jerks.  I’ve been trying to evict them, but I haven’t had any luck.  I’m worried that my little yeast friends have all gone on to the single celled organism in the sky.  I’m going to try for another day or two… we’ll just have to wait and see.  (in case you’re wondering, that’s Armondo.  He was one of the leaders in the yeast colony.  I got word that he was one of the last to go, but he died valiantly while trying to mount an attack on the bacteria fortress.  He was eaten by the dragon.  …after being burned by its fire breath.)

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About the Author

Jeremy BinnsWhen I'm not trying to save the world from the coming zombie invasion, I love my wife, hug my daughters, write, photograph, listen, observe, explore, and worship.View all posts by Jeremy Binns →

  • Jo

    Oh Jeremy, I came across your blog whilst cruising sourdough technique and was really excited, until the end. I urge you to begin again. I have been making my own sourdough for several years now and if I can offer one piece of advice, once your mother is strong you can feed her, let her rise for an hour and then pop her to bed in the fridge until you want to use her. Mothers will last for weeks this way. They are tough! REally tough, mine has travelled from Melbourne to Tokyo and Rome with various friends and relatives. When my daughter and I visit each other (she is in Japan and I am in Australia) we freeze some mother just in case then feed the rest and give it a holiday in the fridge. Sourdough can survive the busiest of lifestyles, your bread can go from feeding mother to finished loaf in 12 hours or, if you want, up to 48 hours by retarding the kneaded dough in the fridge (or as mine is at the moment, in the garden), it is winter here in Melbourne and the temperature is just right for a slow rise. I also undertand that it is possible to rescue or ‘wash’ a mother that has deteriorated. Google it, better luck next time.
    Here is a link to my mother’s life if you are interested:
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1195431769381.2030048.1336056976&l=f9923dcd12&type=1

    Jo

    • Jeremy

      Hello Jo – Thanks for reading my blog!

      I haven’t written about it yet, but I was able to resurrect the mother/starter. It took about 3-4 days for it to come back, but it finally did. I’m definitely going to take your advice though and start refrigerating it though. I may actually start tonight in fact. I’ve read on some sites where they recommend feeding it for a couple of days after taking it out of the refrigerator before using it. Do you do that? I also checked out your facebook page with all of the pictures. The loaves look really delicious. I love how they look with the oats on the outside. I would guess that adds a nice flavor and texture too. I think you’ve inspired me to try again. I’ll probably mention you when I write the next chapter in the sourdough saga if you don’t mind. :)

      On a side note, I’m working on dropping a couple of pounds right now, and it’s difficult for me to walk into the same room as homemade bread without stuffing my mouth so I’m going to have to pace myself for a while on the baking. :)

      Anyhow, greetings from Nashville, TN – USA. Have a great day!
      -Jeremy

      • Jo

        No Jeremy, once I take mother out of the fridge I let her return to room temperature, feed her, let her double then use half for the bread and feed the other half, give her an hour then back to the fridge. I too am trying to lose a few kilos, winter, long days at work and bread are not good for the waistline. I sometimes slice and freeze a loaf (especially the wholemeal) so there is nothing tempting when I get home from work. Good luck with your baking, from a cool Melbourne evening,

        Jo

        Feel free to mention me if you like, and share the FB album if you like. Just got some fig, prune, fresh rosemary loaves out of the oven, will put the pics up.

        • Jeremy

          LOL – yeah, but winter and baked bread just seem like they were made for each other. Thanks for the advice. My starter has been ‘revived’ for about a week now. I’m going to try to feed it for another week, and then put it into the refrigerator. Actually, I might double the quantity and then put half of that in the refrigerator now just to be on the safe side. I’m sure you can imagine how disheartening it was to feel like a month’s worth of feeding the little lady was all for naught.

          Thanks for permission to share your links. I definitely will. I’m hoping to get in a sourdough post this week sometime. I’ll let you know when I do.
          – btw – Rosemary bread is some of my favorite! :)

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"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot

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