Sourdough-No-Longer-Beginner’s-Tale: Where I am now on the journey....


May 21, 2019
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Yo, all!

It’s been five months (more or less) since I started on this sourdough journey, and yes, I’m still at it. I *think* I can say I’m no longer a beginner. Maybe a sophomore? It took me about 10 weeks of saucer-shaped breads—with a kinda-domed one here, and a puffed-up-only-under-the-crust one there—to finally get bread that wasn’t (and I mean, clearly and undeniably wasn’t) underproofed, or overproofed, or baked wrong. My first unqualified success was the one I posted about in August. There I outlined what I’d learned about autolyse-ing with the starter dissolved in the water, kneading in the salt, and the right bread baking temperature given my unique oven.

Since then, I’ve baked up about 5 loaves and all have come out good. They have oven spring, a good crumb, and good crust. And, yes, they’re delicious! I did have a couple of hiccups. One was where I tried a different recipe that involved “slap-and-folds.” That’s where you slap down the dough and fold it. Disaster! I clearly was doing it wrong as the dough fell apart and became such a mess that I knew there was no saving it. I tossed it. This method/recipe might work for others, but it’s not for me. Note that the usual “stretch and fold” never worked all that well for me either. Coil folds seem to be the ticket. I think because they force me to be gentle and not “de-gas” the dough ;)

The second hiccup was my starter stopped doing its thing. That was my bad. I tried feeding it different flours and it kinda shut down. So I lost a week or two of bread baking while I recreated it. Luckily, I had dehydrated some, so getting it back was super easy. Anyway, I thought I would sum up what I’ve learned from my latest batch of loaves, including the one I baked up this weekend (see glamour picture—shot on an iPhone :D below).

What I’ve learned (i.e. what works for me):
(1) “Goldilock” the recipe: I didn’t think the usual recipe of folds each 30 minutes + 90 minute bulk proofing would ever work for me—it certainly didn’t in the beginning when loaves came out underproofed all the time. Or in one case, over proofed. BUT I’ve learned that it *can* work if I go “Goldilocks” with the recipe. So, more folds, and more time, but not too much of either. For me that’s 5 folds which take 2.5 hours. Then I let it rest for 90 minutes, then a fold or two more (7 total). Just right.
(2) Bubbles in the dough are an excellent sign that things are going right.
(3) Final shaping must be tight. That was a real revelation. A well shaped loaf won’t spread and that’s another good indication that it will come out right. I was using the “envelope,“ fold seen in most videos. Then I saw this video:
Sarah Owens does a final loaf shaping which is a lot like lacing up a tennis shoe, followed by a tight roll-up. It works a treat!
(5) Lame razors...don’t skimp! I bought some French baking razors for my lame. It’s kinda silly to say they’re expensive—but compared to regular razors they are. Regular are like $5 for 100. These are $8 for 10. But when you’re a weekend baker like me, those 10 will last a long time. And boy, do they deliver! My scoring has been really good, and really easy, and yes, I do think it’s made a difference (every little bit helps).

Any-hoo, thanks for giving me a place to share all this, and, like a proud parent, show off my latest creation....


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