I'm new to this website and decided to join today and post some photos of my first attempt at sourdough bread. Actually, it's not technically my first attempt to bake sourdough, but it's my first somewhat successful attempt at ending up with what looks like a loaf of bread.
I began a wild yeast starter about 4 or 5 weeks ago. During that time, I fed my start every few days - 1 cup of wholemeal very strong bread flour with 3/4 cup of water (filtered).
A couple of weeks into this sourdough journey, I decided to use 1/2 cup of strong bread white flour and 1/2 cup of wholemeal very strong bread (and 3/4 c of filtered water).
Every time I fed my starter, I attempted to make something out of the cup that I removed, because I'm too cheap to throw it away. We've successfully made pancakes a few times, and we notice they get better each time.
I also attempted to make bread a few times, but the first attempt - the dough was too wet and it spread when baking. It ended up like ciabatta bread - but the crumb was very dense. My husband ate it anyway. He's cheap like that too:). Also, I took half the dough of this batch (which was enough to make two large loaves) and used it to make pizza. Which, incidentally? Was AWESOME! (I highly recommend making pizza from sourdough starter - the flavour and texture is unbeatable in my opinion).
The next batch left me fumbling around with very wet dough. Same recipe - but extremely wet dough (scratched my head a lot that day). In the course of waiting for it to rise or ferment or do something - I watched a very nice French Chef on a video - giving instructions on how to work with wet dough.
Tucking that bit of info under my belt, I attempted his method (slap the dough and fold over - repeating until the dough was 'formed' and no longer sticky). It worked. However, it didn't want to rise so much. Or perhaps I was just too impatient after 6 or 8 hours of waiting. In any case, we ended up with a dense-ish loaf - that didn't really rise much - but at least didn't spread out flat. Apologies for not taking photos up to this point!
I think it was around week 3 that we finally got two decent loaves of bread. It rose. They baked on a shallow baking sheet near each other. I was afraid they would spread. The dough was still wetter than I could manage. However, we did end up with decent bread. Although, it was more like a wheaty crumb, than a proper sourdough crumb. So I was still mildly disappointed.
I noticed the starter got really happy around the time I used half white and half whole meal flour. I'm not sure if it was because I mixed flours, or because a few weeks had passed and it was beginning to mature a little bit.
In any case, I'm now about to begin week 5 - and last night I set out the starter to allow it to get to room temperature. This morning the starter was frothy and happy - with a very strong smelling layer of hooch. I swirled it round - then poured 1 cup of starter into my glass mixing bowl. I added one cup of whole meal flour to that - and about 1/2 cup of water - mixed it - and let it ferment for about 1.5 hours. When I checked it at the 1.5 hour mark, I noticed it had almost doubled in size and I though, 'oh yeh - this starter is definitely tanked and ready to rise me some dough!'
So, I added 4 more cups of very strong whole meal bread flour - and I can't remember how much water. I just added it until it felt right. It was probably around just over a cup. Previously, when I followed exact recipes, it was either too much or too little. So, this time, I thought what the heck - just do what feels right to your hands, figuring, if worse came to worse, we'd be making pizza bases again. Plan B (pizza) is never a bad plan - but I was hoping for a decent loaf of bread.
This is what came out of my oven about 1/2 an hour ago.
I'm about to cut it and see what it looks like inside.
I must add here, that throughout the last few weeks, I've been on a learning curve. Not only in patience, but learning from experimenting with various techniques - how to knead versus folding the dough - slashing (my husband just made me a beautiful oak lame' which worked beautifully) - how to tell when it's proofed enough, but not proofed too much - how to get it from the proofing surface, onto a slide and into the oven without destroying it, and so much more.
I'm still not settled, yet, on any particular way to bake this bread. But, I am encouraged that my starter is maturing nicely. I was able to bake a loaf today that didn't spread, losing its shape.
However, it has ended up looking like regular wheat bread inside:
Apologies for the less than stellar photos (to go with my less than stellar sourdough bread, which I'm not even sure I can call 'sourdough bread'). But I'm sure anyone looking at this, can tell it looks like the crumb of regular [homemade] wheat bread.
I would appreciate any tips you more experienced bakers might have to share.
Incidentally, the flavour is good. Also, I noticed when this loaf rose - it nearly doubled in size. I didn't allow it to rise to double because I didn't want it to fall when transferring to the oven. And that worked well. However, I also noticed after baking - it didn't seem to rise much (if any!) beyond what it had risen while proofing.
Is sourdough supposed to rise more on cooking? Should I slash deeper to allow it to expand more? How can I better handle the dough to achieve the signature sourdough crumb? In essence? What am I doing wrong?
Now, I'm going to bore you with the result of the other half of the dough. I attempted to make sourdough rolls to eat tonight with the chicken soup I made today.
I handled the dough the same as the above loaf. I cut into pieces - let them rest a few minutes - shaped them, and allowed them to rise. Then, I slashed and baked them.
This is the mess I turned out:
Clearly Clearly, something went wrong because they look like they were just slashed and ready to bake! Believe me - these are cooked! I'm sure my thrifty husband will eat them anyway, with the chicken soup I just made. But I'm stumped as to why they didn't rise.
EDIT to add:
For anyone interested? I baked the loaf in my Aga - in the top right oven (the hot oven) - directly on the base (which is similar to cooking on a baking stone).
My Aga is oil fired - and is constantly on.
Here is a picture for those who are not familar with an Aga (taken in '09 during a cinnamon roll frenzy):
OH how I wish the old bread oven was still in situ, but alas, someone bricked it in - and removed the dome outside back in the 1950's :(. sigh.....(you can see the wrought iron bread oven door behind the kettle on the top left of the photo; my dear husband restored the rusting old door, so at least it looks nice!)
Here is a better view (taken when the oven was first installed in early '07 - before our kitchen was fully redone):
You see four doors on the front. The top left is the warming over; bottom left is the simmering oven; top right is the roasting oven; and the bottom right is the baking oven. The oven is made of cast iron - so that is the surface I'm cooking on.