Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sourdough Loaves - Attempt #2

My first attempt at making sourdough bread was not a success. The instructions told me to make my starter and then use it exactly the same as yeast. It didn't work, probably because my starter was not active enough at that point, and also because sourdough is not yeast. It needs totally different baking techniques, including (but not limited to) much longer proving times.

So I fed up my starter and when it was very active I tried again. This time I followed the very detailed descriptions for sourdough bread from Nancy Silverton's sourdough bible, Breads from the La Brea Bakery.

This attempt is much more of a success. The bread behaved as Silverton said it would. Primarily it rose as it should. They don't have that nice spiral pattern because my proofing basket hasn't arrived yet, so I proofed them in mixing bowls lined with tea towels. They have taken the shape of the folds and creases in the towels, and are somewhat misshapen and asymmetrical as a result. When I dusted them with flour, I think I used too much. I slashed the loaves with my sharpest knife but the cut is still ragged, because the surface of the bread was tougher than I expected. Silverton recommends the use of a tool called a lame, which is like a razor mounted on a stick. Perhaps I can make my own. My loaves are also darker than I expected, and I'm not sure why that is. I didn't bake it as hot as she said to, because my oven doesn't go up to 500°F. Is my bread overcooked? Or is sourdough bread supposed to look like this? Silverton says:

If I had to choose a Crayola-box crayon to describe its colour, it would be burnt sienna.

Yes, you could say this bread is burnt sienna. Or maybe it's just burnt. I'll know when I taste it, but I'm not allowed to eat it yet. Silverton insists I must wait until it is cool. I don't think I can wait that long.


Anonymous said...

I can't wait that long!

Found you via Hedgewizard, and just wanted to ask where you're getting a proving bowl from? I love the look of the spiral-patterned loaves one comes across in books and on the net, and am quite keen to get one of them thar bowls...

Anonymous said...

What beautiful-looking loaves! For slashing the tops (not that I always remember!) I just keep an old-fashioned razor-blade handy in the kitchen -- works a treat.

Melanie Rimmer said...

My proving bowls arrived today, from a website called Manufactum
They sell all kinds of strange things, and they seem to be beautifully well-made. For example brass compasses, wooden toys, and their gardening section arouses consumerist feelings in me that I don't normally experience. Have a look. If you can confine yourself to buying only proofing bowls, I'll be very impressed.

Anonymous said...

I use a plain, inexpensive single edge razor blade to make my cuts. As long as the razor is sharp, it makes perfect cuts. I found that the baking times suggested by Silverton are too long and result in overcooked bread. Your best bet would be to purchase an instant thermometer and check your bread after 25 minutes. You will be surprised at how quickly your bread comes to temperature (200 to 205 degrees) inn a 450 degree oven. When I bake my loaves in the Dutch oven, they come out golden brown and the internal temperature is 203 degrees.

Anonymous said...

You've got me all excited about bread making again!

Your crust looks good to me - I left a link to a pic of our bread on your post yesterday, if you want to compare. Not that we're experts! Matt has done the no-knead bread, but we found we like this one better. It has more layers of flavor. (It took a few weeks of maintenance feeding to get it there, though - our first few loafs were just ok.)

The nice thing about a lame is that it is thinner than a razor and curved instead of straight, so it doesn't stick when you pull it through the dough. They're super cheap at a kitchen store.

Unknown said...

Melanie, for years I've been baking dark rye bread for my family and consider myself an expert.From the picture, your breads turned out quite well!To prevent the dough from sticking, I sprinkle a little farina on the baking sheets. I make 8 breads at a time-- more energy efficient and freeze them. If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer. I have to thank you for helping me make perfect yogurt every time:)

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