Thursday, January 29, 2009
Further experimentation with sourdough
Ever since my friend, Angie (farm mom), sent me some of her dried sourdough starter, there has been a lot of baking going on in my kitchen.
I feel like a scientist these days, testing new recipes, tweaking measurements and quantities, controlling temperature and humidity - all in my quest for that perfectly wonderful sourdough taste that my family adores. But guess what? This is harder than I thought it would be!
No matter what I've made, nothing has had anything more than an extremely subtle sourdough flavor. Some things had no sourdough taste whatsoever! This is even despite using starter that has had weeks now to grow and develop.
...multiple batches of sourdough pancakes:
Two batches of sourdough cinnamon rolls - using two different recipes:
This second batch was lovely fresh out of the oven, but they turned into fist-sized rocks by the next morning:
A sourdough pastry crust:
..for an amazing chocolate tart:
Sourdough carrot cake (yes, they are cooling outside on top of my barbecue):
Frosting queen is Marcee:
Beautiful, isn't it?:
This is probably the densest, moistest cake I have ever made. Truly delicious. Sadly, no one has been able to detect any kind of sourdough flavor:
Finally, last night, I had some success. I made sourdough french bread. Aren't these lovely? And they smelled so good!:
They are delicious, too. Three of us could definitely taste the sourdough flavor here, but my husband, the perfectionist, still demands STRONGER sourdough flavor:
Yet, despite my less than perfect results, rather than have this take the wind out of my sails, it has made me more curious and determined. I've done a bit of online research about sourdough and have found a few recommended tips to enhance and grow that sought-after sourdough flavor.
1) Keep the starter stiff (reduce the ratio of liquid to flour)
2) Spike your white starter with whole rye (Apparently, "rye is to sourdough microflora as spinach is to Popeye" - wow, sounds worth a try to me!)
3) Use starter that is well-fed (I've been doing this, so no change needed here)
4) Keep the dough cool (I've tried warm and cool and not noticed much of a difference)
5) Extend the rise by degassing (This just means folding over the dough after an initial rise and allowing a second rise)
6) Proof the shaped loaves overnight in the fridge (Supposedly, doing this, in addition to steps 1 through 5, might make the starter "too sour" for one's taste. Hard to imagine, but I'll definitely be trying this, too!!)
I've also learned that sourdough flavor can be regional, so, before my friend, Marcee (a.k.a. frugalmom) left to go home last Saturday, I packed up a small bit of the starter to go back to Illinois with her. I wrapped it up in multiple baggies and said a short prayer that it wouldn't "pop" mid-flight:
It will be interesting to see what kind of success she has with it.