Even though my pickled carrots were a fail (brine went gelantinous and gooey; it was gross and even though it still smelled good, I had to throw it all away — not sure what happened there), I haven’t given up on fermenting. Recently I acquired a new sourdough starter and I’ve been so excited to try it out. I had read an article a few months ago about Carl Griffith’s Oregon Trail sourdough (http://carlsfriends.net/), a 150-year old starter that’s still being passed around. It’s all about age with sourdough, and so a starter that’s been kept alive since the late 1800’s should impart great sour flavour.
I really love sourdough, but after I discovered that many commercial sourdoughs just use a sour flavouring and regular yeast (I don’t know why I was surprised to learn this), I decided it was time to try making a true sourdough of my own. I combed through recipes, looking for two to try, as I’d have about a cup of sourdough starter to use after my first feeding (sourdough starters need to be fed with flour, sugar, and water every couple of weeks to keep them alive).
I decided to try two “San Francisco” style sourdoughs this first go, and chose a shorter version and a longer no-knead version. The first “quick” recipe still required making a sponge and letting it sit overnight before adding the rest of the flour. So after its overnight sponging, prep went on as per usual for bread. The recipe called for a stiff dough, and special instructions for baking included putting a pan of hot water in the oven to give it a crisp and chewy crust.
After baking for the recommended time, the loaves were ready to take out, and a full two-hour cool down was suggested so that the flavour of the bread would develop fully. We ate some of this bread for supper the same night, and while the flavour was really, really good, the bread itself was pretty dense. I’m not sure if the dough was too stiff or if it just didn’t have enough rise time or if it was just a little cool in the house. It was certainly edible though, just quite filling. This recipe gets a pass for the sour flavour.
The second recipe I tried was a no-knead recipe. Along with the starter, there was a 1/4 of a teaspoon of regular yeast added, which might’ve just given it the little kick it needed for a good rise. After roughly mixing the ingredients, they were allowed to sit in the fridge for 12 hours, and then sat on the counter for a long slow rise of 24 hours. After this long rise, I did end up having to add a lot of flour to make a stiff dough — I’m still getting the hang of how moist/stiff the dough should be in no-knead recipes. I shaped the bread and stuck it in my stock pot for the final rise in a turned off oven with the light on. I did give it an extra half hour or so for the rise, which I’m glad I did.
This bread rose quite nicely, and while still a dense bread, it seemed properly dense as if it were designed to be that way, rather than that it just didn’t rise well. I would definitely make this no-knead bread again; it had a well-developed sour flavour, but it almost seemed a bit mellower than the first recipe.
So those are my two sourdough results. I’m looking forward to trying some bread machine recipes and experimenting with some sourdough biscuits or other types of baked goods in the future.