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Old 12-13-2011, 09:35 AM   #1
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Default Sourdough - Struggling Baker

I was born in SF and miss the bread (ok, so fresh dungeness crab would be nice too).

I've been working with a sourdough starter for about a year. My last one was inadvertently left behind in a hotel room refridgerator in the move. My current one is getting good now. The flavors are decent and the sourness is great.

One question: How do you make the crust decent? Every loaf I tried, the crust is white.

My recipe and set up (stolen from a website, not original):

-255 grams water
-90 grams starter
-440 grams white bread flour
-9 grams of salt

Let rise until doubled. Knead again and wait till it doubles again. I use a basket as a banneton with mixed results. I may need to make the dough thicker. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour on a baking stone.

I tried a pan of water at the bottom of the oven, although it might not have gotten hot enough. I kind of want to keep the ingredients simple, similar to a traditional SF french bread. Anyone else have a good recipe or technique?

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Old 12-13-2011, 09:51 AM   #2
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Sugar?

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Old 12-14-2011, 12:55 AM   #3
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Hear is my recipe i got from another site, that is absolutely fantastic. It's not based on weights measurements, so it may not be quite as precise as most bakers like.

1 Cup starter
3 cups water
6 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt

Combine starter, 2 cups of water, and salt into large bowl and stir to aerate. Add 3 cups of bread flour. Once flour has been stirred into mixture, add the remaining 1 cup of water and 3 cups of bread flour. Mix until there is no more noticeable dry flour.

Cover with loose towel and let rise approx 12 hours. (this depends on temp and starter strength, etc.)

Once sufficiently risen, flour your hands and beat down the starter (i usually just scrape the sides with a couple passes and that is sufficient). Cover with saran wrap and place in fridge overnight.

Next morning, remove from fridge, remove saran wrap an let rise another 8-10 hours while covered with a loose towel. Once sufficiently risen, its time to cook.

For cooking, it is best to use a large dutch oven or cast iron pot with a lid. If you don't have a dutch oven any large pot with a bake able lid will work.

Preheat oven with the dutch oven inside to 450. Once preheated, spring bottom of heated dutch oven with flour or cornmeal to prevent sticking. Poor dough into dutch oven and cover. Bake at 450 for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, remove lid and continue baking 10 minutes. Remove from oven and remove bread from the dutch oven.

Slice and enjoy!

This is a no knead recipe, and it uses the lid on the dutch oven to act as a steamed oven to create the nice crust. It could probably be done without the overnight rest, but that facilitates the sourness.

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Old 12-14-2011, 12:04 PM   #4
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More heat! Bread bakes better at 450 than 375. It also bakes faster and gets a better rise or oven-spring. You may also try something other than plain white bread flour. King Arthur makes a nice white whole wheat flour that's more tan than white and has a nice flavor.

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Old 12-14-2011, 12:31 PM   #5
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My grandpa was telling me that instead of using a tray of water he uses a spray bottle to get the oven really moist.

I use the no knead method (but without the dutch oven) for regular bread and get a decent dark crust by using the tray of water. You have to use something thin though like a cookie sheet and just 2 cups of hot water so that it starts to boil quickly and release steam quickly.

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Old 12-14-2011, 07:02 PM   #6
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Proper heat and humidity. Particularly humidity.

Depending on size of loaf, as Evets said, around 400 to 450.
The smaller the loaves, the higher the temp and shorter the cook time ... the larger the loaves, the lower the temp and longer the cook time. ... you'll know when the temp is too high for the size of the loaf as the outside will be too brown by the time the internal temp gets to the 200* target.

But the biggest thing is that you have to humidify the oven periodically.
Put a small, sided, oven pan into the oven for the water while you are preheating. Meantime boil a couple cups of water on the stove and leave it at a near-boil to keep it hot.

When you put the bread into the preheated oven, take about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the very hot water and toss it into the watering pan (*not* the bread pan) ... be careful as you can get steamblasted doing this. Close the oven door and do not open again for about 7 to 10 minutes. At that time open the door very quickly and toss in another dose of water ... water additions should be at the beginning, the 50% mark (of total baking time, approx) and the 75% done mark.
You may find that all you need is the first two additions ... too much heat and humidity and you'll end up with bread like the Roman legions sent out with the troops ... keeps for weeks but requires a sword to cut.

Some people use a water spritzer to spray periodically instead. I get much better results by humidifying the oven with a pan.

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Old 12-14-2011, 08:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by knotquiteawake View Post
My grandpa was telling me that instead of using a tray of water he uses a spray bottle to get the oven really moist.

I use the no knead method (but without the dutch oven) for regular bread and get a decent dark crust by using the tray of water. You have to use something thin though like a cookie sheet and just 2 cups of hot water so that it starts to boil quickly and release steam quickly.
He must be French. That's how patisseries make such awesome loaves of baguette with the crunchy crust and chewy insides. Hot ovens and plenty of misting.
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Old 12-15-2011, 05:18 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ndsgr View Post
I was born in SF and miss the bread (ok, so fresh dungeness crab would be nice too).

I've been working with a sourdough starter for about a year. My last one was inadvertently left behind in a hotel room refridgerator in the move. My current one is getting good now. The flavors are decent and the sourness is great.
What was your process for making your starter? I tried one a couple months ago and it didn't work out so well.
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Old 12-15-2011, 09:49 AM   #9
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Thanks for the help guys! I'll have 2 weeks off of work to experiment starting monday. I'll report back with results.

Quote:
Originally Posted by richbrew99 View Post
What was your process for making your starter? I tried one a couple months ago and it didn't work out so well.
I used the pineapple juice "method". Basically, take some flour (I used King Arthur Wheat), mix with pineapple juice and feed everyday. Here is a Link. On that, it takes at least a month for the starter to reach potential in my experience. I maintain it by feeding everyday in 1:1:1 starter, flour, water ratios. I use 50 grams as the measure. Eventually, I toss it in the fridge and feed weekly.

Oh, and we're weird, so we named it. The first one (RIP) was Emilio. The next one was Charlie, but he was sitting by the oven light keeping warm and the wife forgot about him before making a casserole. Fortunately, he was only 2 days old. This one is unnamed so far. I don't know why all that was important, I guess early morning thoughts tend to just spew out...
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richbrew99 View Post
What was your process for making your starter? I tried one a couple months ago and it didn't work out so well.
I always at least try to make a poolish if I know I will be making bread. Poolish is where you put approximately equal amounts of of flour and water by weight and just a pinch of yeast and let it sit out at least overnight or longer to "sour". The poolish is then part of the wet componant when you make the actual bread dough.
Poolish is similar but wetter than an Italian biga.
Kind of a cousin to sourdough.
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