Author Topic: Newbie Ischia Starter Questions  (Read 2267 times)

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Offline Pyeman

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Newbie Ischia Starter Questions
« on: July 04, 2011, 03:55:40 PM »
I am new to this forum.  I have experimented with various modified versions of Jeff Varasano's recipe that I made with baker's yeast and cooked on a Big Green Egg (with decent results).  A few weeks ago I ordered Ed Wood's Italian cultures and I have now entered the entirely new world of baking with sourdough cultures.  I ordered Ed Wood's book with my culture, but he told me that it is out of print and he will send the new edition when it becomes available in a few weeks.  Though it took several days, I had no problems creating a fully active culture.  After activating the Ischia Island culture, I attempted to make Jeff Varasano's recipe with my new sourdough starter.  I used a digital scale and followed the recipe to the letter (I did not add the optional baker's yeast).  My effort was pretty much a failure.  In my second attempt, I used Ed Wood's recipe that came with my starter and that was also pretty much a failure.  In both cases, the dough looked and felt nice after kneading, but after rising, it was too sticky and fell apart when I tried to shape it into a pie.  When I finally shaped the dough into a pie, it lost its spring and was tough.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Offline dellavecchia

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Re: Newbie Ischia Starter Questions
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2011, 06:44:26 PM »
It sounds as if your starter is too acidic. Can you post your feeding regimen? And what percentage of salt are you using?

John

Offline Pyeman

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Re: Newbie Ischia Starter Questions
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2011, 07:28:24 PM »
I received the inactive culture in the mail a few weeks ago.  The activation instructions said to feed 3/4 c. flour and enough warm water to make the consistency of pancake batter, then proof for 24 hours at close to 90 deg. F.  Then add 1 c. flour and enough water to maintain consistency and proof at 70 deg. F. This process was repeated every 12 hours (excess culture was discarded after each feeding) until the culture was "fully active," i.e., the culture increased in volume about 2-3 inches after the last feeding.  This process was performed according to instructions with no problems.  I then placed the jar of fully active culture in the refrigerator for about 10 days before attempting to use it.  The instructions advised that to reactivate, the jar should be filled with warm water and stirred.  the excess should be discarded and the remaining culture is fed 2/3 c. flour and enough water to restore consistency.  After a few hours at room temperature, the culture was again "fully active."  I used the fully active culture according to Varasano's recipe which is flour 100%, water 65.5%, sourdough culture 9% and salt 3.5%.  Varasano then allows for a "cold rise" in the fridge for 1-2 days.  The dough did not rise and was very tough.  Note:  The instructions advise that the "fully active culture" should be fed and proofed for an additional 8-12 hours before using.  I did not read this section and did not perform a "culture proof" the first time I used it.  The second try I reactivated the culture as before and did a "culture proof."  I then made one-half of Ed Wood's recipe using 500 g. flour, 295 g. water, 175 g. culture and 3/4 tsp salt.  The dough rose just fine, but was too wet and sticky to work with.

Offline barryvabeach

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Re: Newbie Ischia Starter Questions
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2011, 09:10:00 PM »
Pyeman, this is the blind leading the blind, but a couple of suggestions.  You said the dough falls apart when it comes time to make a pie.   I have had that quite a few times the last few weeks working with my sourdough starter, and it appears that mine is due to over fermentation - either kneading too long or allowing too long a fermentation process.  I have attached a photo of an attempt from last week - the holes appeared even though I had hardly tried to stretch it at all.  I made a few different balls of different kneading times, and this was the shortest kneading times - the longer ones were impossible to even get out of the container - it just came apart it my hands.  So one option is less kneading, or less starter.  The second, though possibly opposite issue is the cold fermentation - the problem there is what is the temp of your fridge?  If very cold, the sourdough will basically go to sleep. I would suggest you try a room temperature ferment ( I have read numerous others have had issues with attempting to ferment in the fridge ).  As a base point, I would start with a culture of 3 to 4 % , and if you can make 2 balls, knead one only until it gets smooth, knead the other one 5 to 10 minutes longer - then put it in the fridge for a few minutes to get its temperature back to the temp of the short kneaded test,  then let both rest out on the countertop overnight .  Then try them both and see which is better.   Let us know how you do.  I just activated the Ischia culture a few days ago, and the first pie is coming soon.  
« Last Edit: July 16, 2011, 09:13:06 PM by barryvabeach »

Offline Pyeman

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Re: Newbie Ischia Starter Questions
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2011, 03:35:06 PM »
Thanks.  I agree with both of your observations about over fermentation and refrigeration.  The first few times I tried making dough, I followed Jeff Varasano's recipe which calls for a cold rise in the refrigerator.  I note that Jeff's recipe adds IDY and I did not.  Without adding IDY, my dough would not rise in the refrigerator.  So I tried the warm rise and my schedule was such that I could not bake until the dough had risen too long (over fermentation).  Also, on my first few attempts, I probably over kneaded the dough in a KA mixer.  I have read that over kneading with a mixer or bread machine is possible, but it is difficult to knead too long when kneading by hand.  Since then, I have been more careful about kneading and rise time and I have had success.  I am sure I have much to learn, but my last attempt produced some very nice pies.  I used Ed Wood's pizza recipe which calls for about 500g flour, 175g culture from a "culture proof," 295g water, and 3/4 tsp salt (this will make about three 10-12 pies).  I made the culture proof by allowing a jar of active culture to sit overnight at room temp.  The next morning, I mixed the dough ingredients (except salt) and let it rest for 30 minutes at room temp (per the autolyse method).  I then added the salt and kneaded with a KA mixer for about 10 minutes first at 2, then at 4 speed, gradually adding sufficient flour to get the proper consistency (not too sticky, not too dry).  I then kneaded by hand until the dough passed the window pane test (another 10-15 minutes).  I read that if the dough will not pass the window pane test, more hand kneading is required.  After kneading, I let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in volume (about 3-4 hours).  I then punched the dough down and divided into three balls, hand kneading each ball slightly to achieve a smooth texture.  I then let the dough rise at room temp for another 3-4 hours.  I made pies and cooked on a preheated stone in a BGE at 750 deg. F for 2-3 minutes (cooking times vary and I checked the crust every minute or so until done).  The flavor was very mild, but the texture of the crust was good.  I need to experiment more, but I was pleased with this result.

Offline barryvabeach

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Re: Newbie Ischia Starter Questions
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2011, 08:26:13 PM »
Pye,  there are a number of people who believe that window pane is not a good test for pizza, you just knead it until the dough looks shiny.  I don't have enough experience one way or another, but since I have had more failures with over fermenting, I am now using shorter mixing times.  I made 3 pies with Ischia dough this weekend. I used Raquel's recipe for one, and 75%hydration ratio ( using home ground wheat ) and 3% starter for the other two.  All three were kneaded the day before by midday , and had a room temperature (74) rise for several hours. Two showed some substantial rise by evening, so they went into the fridge, the third showed no rise, so that stayed out till the next morning, by then it had doubled.  All three went into a cooler that was around 55 degrees, with a few cubes of ice at 7:30 in the morning, and were around 68 when I got home that night.  The one that had stayed out all night was the worse -  I couldn't shape it without adding some flour, which negatively affected the taste.  The other two were better, some tiny holes, but definitely something I could work with. The main problem was that even though the starter percentage was low, the hydration of the Ischia was much higher than my target ratio, so the doughs were very wet - I had to shake the peel every few seconds to keep them from sticking.  So still a work in progress. Good luck with your attempts, and keep us posted.