Friday, February 12, 2016

Starting a Culture Club

I haven't had much of a chance to bake this week or organize my recipe and pictures from the bread I made on Superbowl Sunday. So this week instead of posting about my weekly loaf I decided to take a little different route. I've been reading a lot about starters recently and how to create your own. I purchased a starter from King Arthur Flour a little while back and have been maintaining that. After reading numerous pieces of literature, both online and in books, I decided to take on a little project and start my own from scratch. The next couple of posts will keep you up to date on the progress.
By no means is this to be an instructional piece. As usual I make no claim to being an expert in any of the matters I write about. This is about me taking the knowledge I've picked up from varied sources and trying my own hand at it. It may work, it may not. Part of this is me wanting to gain more experience with the life of a starter and learning how it reacts to different scenarios. I am trying to familiarize myself with the life cycle and what the culture smells like and looks like throughout that life cycle.

To keep things interesting I decided to create two different starters: one from 100% White Whole Wheat and one with a 50/50 mix of White Whole Wheat and All-Purpose Flour. Chad Robertson from Tartine uses the 50/50 (100% whole wheat/All-Purpose) mix for a starter in his book. King Arthur uses pumpernickel for the recipe on their website. I decided do a slight variation and use white whole wheat for both.

A couple of notes before we get started:
*I measure by metric weight not by volume
*This whole process is being done in my restaurant where we bake bread constantly through the day. It's a bit warmer than your usual house temperature.
*Don't be afraid to mix by hand whenever possible. You have natural yeast and other microorganisms on your skin and mixing by hand can help give your starter your own "personal touch"

Find a container that is going to be easy to mix in and will allow for some expansion.  I've used a 1 quart plastic container (similar to one you'd find your soup delivered in from your favorite Chinese restaurant).   I used masking tape to label them.  The placing of the labels creates lines that help me see the amount the culture has risen and fallen throughout the life cycle.

I mixed 200g of flour and 200g of water

Mix by hand until there are no dry bits of flour, cover loosely and let sit for 24 hours.


After 24 hours my mixtures had risen considerably.  You can also see little bubbles forming on the top.  This is a good thing.
Most pieces I have read lead me to expect a different result after 24 hours.  Most have said that you would see little to no activity in the first 24 hours.
Either way, active or not, I discarded all but 100g and replenished the mixture with 200g of water and 200g of flour.
Now typically after this point you would let it sit out for another 24 hours.  After 12 hours my mixes had gone crazy and nearly doubled in size.  One had even fallen after its full rise.

At this point I made the decision to give it another feeding.  Everything says let it sit for another 24 but I don't think it's expected to have such activity so soon.  

Again - discard all but 100g.  Replenish with 200g of both water and flour.  It won't look like much is left and that's OK.  

Let sit until morning.


Although the mixtures hadn't risen as much as Thursday, they still had a pretty good rise and had that sweet, ripe smell to them.  They didn't have the sour vinegar smell I've been getting with my other starter at home. (more on that later)

You can see the bubbles on top.  The one on the left doesn't appear to have as many because I ended up giving it a quick stir before I took the picture (8 AM brain fart).

I discarded all but 100g and replenished with 200g each water and flour.  I'm going to let it sit for 24 hours this time before feeding.

That's all for now.  I'll update more after the weekend to show its progress.  Most material I've read says it can take 5+ days until you get the predictable manner you're looking for in a starter (referring to its rise and fall)

Take care,


Friday, February 5, 2016

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

My first post!

Welcome to my blog.  I've been doing hours and hours of research and testing these past few months so I figured it was time to get everything written down and posted in one consolidated area.  So far everything has just been posted randomly throughout Facebook and Instagram.  I've decided to move away from flooding my friends' feed with pictures of bread on a daily basis and let them come to me.  This way I can post my actual recipes and any bumps and surprises I came across along the way.

My goal is to make at least one post a week.  If it's not about baking, it will be about something I learned and something I'm at least working on.  Pictures will definitely be included.