Author Topic: 100% Sourdough  (Read 472 times)

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Offline MikeSwifty

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100% Sourdough
« on: April 15, 2012, 11:34:28 AM »
I've been using a sourdough starter exclusively for baking for the last 3 or 4 years.  Before yeast was commercially available this was how everyone did it (using natural preferments).  I've found that it's possible to use a starter as the leavening for nearly any purpose with comparable (or superior) taste, quality, and texture that you would get using instant yeast.  From baguettes to panettone to chocolate cake and scones, sourdough isn't about a certain taste, like we know from San Francisco style sourdough bread.  Instead, it is a method used to provide leavening, and it has been used successfully in all the aforementioned baked goods.  I've also found that there are a lot of misconceptions about sourdough starters and their use.  Even well-known, well-respected, and quite accomplished individuals (bakers and chefs who enjoy some measure of notoriety--and deservedly so) pass on things that are based on what they've decided is true after sorting through all the conflicting information.  And I can tell you first-hand, this makes it very difficult for anyone interested in using 100% sourdough starter exclusively for baking!

My pizza-making history goes back a long way.  When I was growing up, my father decided that Mom should have Sunday's off from cooking.  He would make pancakes every Sunday morning and my older brother and I would usually make pizza for lunch.  Of course, back then it was Chef Boyardee out of the yellow box.  It came with a packet of flour and a can of pizza sauce.  You added water to the flour and spread it out on a pan then dumped on the sauce and added toppings.  It was very far from world-class pizza, but it was fun to be the chef, and it satisfied us, though I suspect that's mainly because none of us had ever had the chance to eat world-class pizza, and you can't miss what you've never had.

I mainly used the sourdough starter for scones, pancakes, and waffles when I first got it started.  Occasionally, I'd try my hand at a loaf of bread.  But I found I was the only one eating what I'd made.  It's just my daughter and I, and sometimes she would try the pancakes or some of the bread, but I could never count on it.  I decided that if I was going to have to eat all of what I made, I would prefer to learn to make world-class pizza--something I definitely don't get tired of eating!  Pizzamaking.com has been a great resource in this endeavor, and now that I've developed a certain measure of experience and skill, I find myself wanting to contribute a little to the forum myself.  It's my hope that people will come to realize the versatility of sourdough starters, and that those who are looking to learn will find information based on real-life experience, and well-conducted, well-documented tests.

Mikel   


Offline dellavecchia

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Re: 100% Sourdough
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2012, 09:06:07 PM »
Welcome Mikel. There are many of us using starters and levains for pizza and bread making. You should find equally excited people to talk sourdough with you.

John

Offline TXCraig1

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Re: 100% Sourdough
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2012, 12:26:52 AM »
I've been using a sourdough starter exclusively for baking for the last 3 or 4 years.  Before yeast was commercially available this was how everyone did it (using natural preferments).  I've found that it's possible to use a starter as the leavening for nearly any purpose with comparable (or superior) taste, quality, and texture that you would get using instant yeast... It's my hope that people will come to realize the versatility of sourdough starters, and that those who are looking to learn will find information based on real-life experience, and well-conducted, well-documented tests.

Cheers! You've come to the right place.

Craig
I love pigs. They convert vegetables into bacon.

Offline BigSausagePizza

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Re: 100% Sourdough
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2012, 11:29:11 AM »
Nice. I use a sourdough starter for my pizzas as well. I want that unique sour flavor in my dough. What are some of the misconceptions?

Offline Bill/SFNM

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Re: 100% Sourdough
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2012, 03:18:50 PM »
Welcome Mikel. Please start a thread in the "Starters" sub-forum if you wish to share your findings. Thanks.

Offline MikeSwifty

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Re: 100% Sourdough
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2012, 05:01:04 PM »
BigSausagePizza,

There's the misconception that if you're using a sourdough starter then your final product will have a(n) (un)desirable sour taste to it.  Actually, many people report difficulty with this.  When I check out the bread/baking forums there is nearly always someone who says that the bread they made doesn't taste like SF sourdough and asking what they can do to make it more sour.

Another misconception is that if you use more starter you will get a more sour taste.  In my experience, it is exactly the opposite.  One time I decided that I wanted to have a really sour loaf of sourdough bread.  At the time, I had the idea that "sour" = "flavorful".  The recipe called for a certain amount of starter with a note that if you wanted it more sour you should use half that amount.  I used 1/4 the amount.  I tried the bread after it cooled and it tasted like it had been soaked in vinegar.  Horrible stuff!

Then there's the idea that "you can't do that" with sourdough.  I mentioned panettone.  The general consensus is that with a sweet dough like this, there is no way you can get sufficient rise using only a starter.  There is so much sugar in the dough that it will inhibit the yeast resulting in failure to achieve the lofty height required for this type of bread.  The usual answer is to add commercial yeast.  But it's not the only answer.  If you add a little sugar when giving your starter it's regular feedings, slowly increasing the amount over the course of several days, your starter will become acclimated to a high-sugar environment, thus rendering it perfectly capable of raising the bread on it's own.  It's harder to do it that way, but just because something is hard to do it doesn't mean that it can't or shouldn't be done. 

Another thing that limits the use of sourdough starters is the "fear of the sour".  After my vinegar-bread, you can count me among the people suffering from this affliction.  My usual procedure for the last several months has been to make my pizza dough with 40% starter (of total flour weight) and use a 3-4 hour room temperature fermentation.  I came across someone on this forum who decided to try using 3-3.5% starter and a 24 hour room temperature fermentation.  I found myself yelling at the computer screen, "NO!  Don't do it!  It's going to be a disaster!!!"  However, as I read through their post it became clear that this was a viable method.  The pictures looked great and the person reported it as a favorite among friends and family.  Seeing (or tasting?) is believing, so I decided to try it for myself.  I'm happy to report that you can make great pizza using this method and I plan to make it a regular part of my repertoire, something I never could have achieved had I not overcome my "fear of the sour".
     


 

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