Friday, December 2, 2011

My Adventures in Sour Dough Bread Making

They say it took Thomas Edison over a hundred tries to get the light bulb right. It might just take me that many to get down this sour dough bread.

I worked very hard, tending my sour dough starter for the seven required days. I fed it and stirred it, trying to keep it happy--from going rancid. It sat on my kitchen counter, as day-by-day I waited patiently for it to mature noting it's progress. It was my little kitchen science experiment. My pet.

I used MaryJane's Idea Book, Cookbook, Lifebook recipe for the starter. It uses 2 cups whole-wheat flour, and 1 1/2 cups water; minding it daily with a feed of 1/4 cup water, 1/3 cup whole wheat flour, and a good stir. On the seventh day, the magic should have happened resulting in bubbles and a pleasant, sour smell. I did everything as instructed to the best my ability. I got the nice, sour smell, and a few little bubbles, but it was a tad doughy. The picture in the book looked a bit more loose and watery. Did I do it wrong? Maybe I over fed it??

Then, I was also using the sour dough bread recipe from the same book:
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 3-4 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp milk

But on the seventh day, at 4 pm when I got around to looking at the recipe, I realized it takes the dough 4-6 hours to rise the first time, then an additional 1-2 hours for the second rise. There was NO WAY that was going to happen that night! Unsure of what to do with the starter (do I keep it on the counter or now that it's done, do I store it the refrigerator?), I searched it online. There are dozens of ways to start a sour dough starter and everyone had a different way of doing it and storing it and so on and so on--my head was spinning. To the experienced sour dough bread maker all the information probably made sense; to me, the green novice, it was all babble. I decided, what the heck, put it in the refrigerator.

Yesterday, I started early--9am--preparing my bread. Since I had it in the refrigerator overnight, was I now supposed to bring it back to room temperature?? I didn't know if that made a difference, so being my impatient self, I didn't wait. Mistake? Perhaps that's the reason that despite following the directions my bread was still sticky--even though I added the required 3-4 cups of flour and then some. Maybe that's why my dough didn't seem to be rising 5 1/2 hours later. It looked like a big blob at the bottom of my bowl, but wasn't rising as my other non-sour dough breads usually do. Or maybe my starter was wrong from the get go and I was doomed for failure before I even began! So many questions, so few answers.

To top it all off, I was supposed to use an egg yolk wash on the top of it before it went in the oven. I was preoccupied with the kids--multitasking--I picked up the wrong bowl and used the egg white instead. I didn't realize my mistake until after it was already in the oven. Ugg (**sigh**). All my hard work. All my slaving for over a week. For what!

A ray of hope was felt when the loaf seemed to be doing nicely in the oven. It was looking all big and pretty from the oven window. . .
I took it out and the darn thing was stuck to the tray! I lost the whole bottom to my bread.

A failure? Maybe. It was edible. It smelled sour dough-ish, but really didn't have a strong sour dough flavor. The family didn't mind eating it regardless of it's many flaws. And thus far, 24 hours later, it doesn't seem to have had any ill effects (I was a little leery about actually consuming my kitchen experiment, as that is exactly what it was being my first time. A little prayer went out that I wouldn't make anyone sick in my sour dough bread endeavors). For now, my sour dough starter sits in my refrigerator (I think that's where it's supposed to be). I will continue to care for it and tend to it, at least for another week. I will try again to make another loaf with it--hopefully with better results. Otherwise, it will be scrapped and I will start again at ground zero. Tenacity! I'll keep trying, like my pal Thomas Edison, until I have perfected the art of sour dough making!