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12 August 2010

The Experiment Update: Some Failures and Successes

My sourdough starter is very happy and active. It's name is Harriet. I'm still learning how to use Harriet effectively, how to make bread with only the starter and no added yeast. I've been sifting through recipes on one of my new favorite food blogs,, trying to learn some new techniques and recipes.

The first thing I tried was this recipe for sourdough English muffins and it worked all right, but they tasted like baking soda, which  made me wonder if the baking soda is added to the dough to help it rise by reacting with the acidity created by the wild yeast and bacteria in the starter and if my little Harriet was not well developed and sour enough yet to use. Or maybe they're supposed to taste like that, but I don't think so. They look nice though, right? Later I tried another batch where I reduced the amount of baking soda, and used a little baking powder to make up for it and this second batch didn't get as puffy on the griddle as the first ones, but they did not taste yucky either.

My next attempt was a pizza crust adapted from the recipe in "The Bread Bible" that I brought to a friends house. I made it somewhat later in the day than I should have, and I was just hoping it would be able to rise and develop enough in the small amount of time I gave it. It turned out very delicious, with a great texture and flavor. I was very impressed. I'll be putting up that recipe soon. This is what the leftovers looked like.

Next, I tried making a couple of small loaves using the 1:2:3 method from Flo Makanai. I used whole wheat flour and bread flour, and I made a large batch because I thought I wanted to make some to give to some friends too. The dough was hard to work with. The night before baking, when I was kneading the dough, I thought it was going to be fine, it was smooth and not sticky the way I thought it would be. I let it rise overnight because I think the starter often needs more time to work than regular yeast. In the morning when I attempted to form the loaves it was sticking itself all over the place causing me all sorts of irritation. Then I was impatient and probably didn't let the first loaf rise enough before putting it in the oven, and it turned out deformed and weird. And a little undercooked. I cooked the next loaves for longer and they were a little better. The Lovemuffin says they tasted like sourdough, and that is something, but I did not like the way they tasted. I figured I just don't like sourdough, and wondered why I thought this experiment was a good idea, and then remembered that it is about learning something new. Not about being perfect.

And now I'm trying this sourdough recipe (also from wildyeast) and it has been a little easier. Although I made a mistake in the evening when I was feeding my little Harriet to make enough starter for the recipe plus some to save to keep feeding, and I discovered this morning that I was 20 grams short of starter. I figured it wasn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and continued on as directed. And I think the loaves are wonderful! They rose just fine, but then I had a hard time forming them because I'm terrified of deflating them too much. But they tasted delicious, not to sour and tangy, not weird like the rye flour, just perfect! This might become my go-to recipe for using up Harriet.

Also, I just found this incredible video about making croissants and pastries. You should check it out.

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