Monday, August 06, 2012

Still Warm from the Oven, Going to the Fair

    These are loaves that are going to the County Fair tomorrow morning. The top loaf is a sourdough and the other is a light rye. Neither one seems to show up well in the photos but they did smell great coming out of the oven. I'll have them entered by 9AM CDT and the judging should be done by 2PM.

I think that I'll take next year off from the competition. After figuring out how to maintain and use my starter to advantage, its time to work harder on my shaping. The size and weight of my loaves, around 850g or 30 oz before baking may be a large part of my problem. I also prefer my hydration levels to be around 70-72% so I guess I'm asking for trouble. But these problems can be overcome with more practice.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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  1. Congrats on the blue ribbons at the fair! Family Grace and Grains recommended your blog to me. Do you share your whole wheat starter with fellow breadies? Or can you tell us where you got your starter from? I have not had much success with my whole wheat starter here.

  2. Thank you for your more than generous compliments. If you are interested in building your own starter, I can suggest that you visit the "Fresh Loaf" website and use their search button to look up building a starter. The information provided there is more than enough to build your own.
    If you are interested in purchasing a starter ready to go, King Arthur Flour offers a starter that can be built up for use quickly.
    You can also do a search for "Friends of Carl" on the internet. This is a site that will send you some dried starter that can revived. All you have to do is send them a self addressed envelope with sufficient postage.
    My starter has roots in the 1840s Wagon Trail starter. It also has some lineage from a starter developed in South Africa. It is currently a white flour starter but will convert quickly to an all whole wheat or rye flour starter in about three feedings.
    I have too much on my plate at the present time but I will be able to share a starter seed, about 50-60 grams, towards the middle of October through Family Grace and Grains if you are still interested.

    1. Picked up my heirloom starter today. Thank you! So what are your recommendations in converting this to a rye starter? I have had my rye starter going for a couple of weeks and it's doing well. Do I just add this to it? Put it in it's own bowl and slowly add? Do you know what works best?

  3. Congratulations on your new rye starter. There are several things you can do with the starter. First, you should be able to keep it in a refrigerator in a tight container (allow for fermentation gas) for a few weeks and still use it to build up a new starter. That will give you time for the rye starter to develop more flavor and a healthier population of yeasts and bacteria. If you're happy with your own, you can pass on the starter to someone who is willing to bake sourdough.
    You could add the starter to your own but unless it's struggling, I don't see the need. Just keep refreshing your starter on a regular basis until your happy with your baking results. Then you can keep it in the fridge and feed it as needed.
    Rye flour is wonderful food for starters. A lot of home bakers keep only a rye starter because its flexible enough to work with just about any type of flour. My starter has gotten some rye flour as a supplement during the winter because it seems to slow down and rye restores its vigor.
    A white flour starter is also a flexible tool. If you take a seed from a starter and go through a three stage build using another type of flour such as whole wheat or rye, by the time you are in the third stage, the starter will be around 95% of the new flour type, be it rye or whole wheat.
    The best thing I've done to maintain my starter is to only keep a small amount, around 50 grams or so, of low hydration (60-75%) starter in the fridge to use as seed stock. That forces me to use a two stage build process and I get a lively starter for my breads in return. It also means less starter thrown away into the compost bin because its getting old. As long as I plan to build enough starter to have some leftover, I can keep it going and have healthy stock for my next loaves.
    If you plan on baking every day, you can keep a larger amount of starter at room temperature and replace what you use each day. Clean the container once every week or two and that should be a fine starter.
    The Fresh Loaf website has a large archive of threads on sourdough baking. It's a very well researched and reported on subject. Just enter your inquiry in the search button on the home page and you'll get more info than you can imagine. I owe a lot of baking success to the information that was so generously shared by the bakers who hang out there.
    Finally, should you need ask me a question or need some book suggestions, ask Jenni for my email and I'll be glad to answer if I can in a PM.

  4. Thanks so much! I'm just trying new sourdough recipes this week. Some are winners, others not. I will take up your advice on washing the container every week. Nourishing Traditions says the same thing and I was tempted to ignore that advice..but not that it's come from a Ribbon Winning baker...well, I better get right on that...