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#46 Tamar G

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 03:59 PM

Robert- what's the problem with commercial starter? How does one get make their own starter? (I'm not really interested in baking bread, I just know that this is a common complaint of yours in restaurant bread service so I want to understand it)

#47 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 06:57 PM

Tamar, the taste, texture and structure of most breads made with natural starter is preferable to me. There are some breads that can reasonably be made with some or all commercial yeast. Very heavy breads with substantial inclusions, such as multigrain bread, will benefit from a pinch. Superfine textured bread like pain de mie, baked in a four sided loaf pan, is better done with commercial yeast. There are lots more. If you're interested, you should do a side by side comparison tasting.

I like sourdough baking for the challenge of using just three ingredients: flour, water, salt. How many different things can you make? How well can you make them? I think I've mentioned before that it is relatively easy to bake decent sourdough bread, but it is relatively hard to do it well consistently over a variety of products.

So, to answer your question, there's nothing wrong with commercial yeast, if you're a wussy, candyass, lazyboy baker.
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#48 Tamar G

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 07:03 PM

if you're a wussy, candyass, lazyboy baker.


no, sir! not me, sir!

what makes up a natural starter? Is it still a type of yeast?

#49 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 07:20 PM

Flour and water. The yeast comes from the air. However, it is best to acquire a good quality stable starter. I have two, one white wheat and one whole wheat, which I've often offered to share with anyone interested. There are also several ways to get one over the Internet.
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#50 Tamar G

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 08:37 PM

Flour and water. The yeast comes from the air.

this sounds a little bit like the reiki discussion

#51 SethG

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 08:51 PM

Robert, I've read your project notes with interest. Sounds like you are keeping a liquid starter. Have you tried incorporating a build in the process in which you make the starter firm, and then make your dough from there? Similar to what you are calling a Poolish (but what I think I might simply call a "feeding" or a "build"), but reserving some water for later. It's something I do occasionally when I have the time, and I imagine it affects the flavor profile somewhat-- at least, it's supposed to!
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#52 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 09:37 PM

Yes. I usually double the firm start (build it, that is) three times when doing a levain. Excellent flavor this way.

Poolish, a term I've never been crazy for, but one which seems to be in somewhat common use, means, for my purposes, a liquid sponge.
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#53 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 03 July 2005 - 09:15 PM

Some interesting developments this week.

-Sponge consisting of half the flour and all the water (and the starter), one hour out, 8 hours in the refrigerator

-25% of the formula contributed by 100% starter

-All white KA all-purpose flour, no other flour, no wheat germ

-80% dough. This is very wet.

-Form baguettes, proof 2 hours right on the peel

Results: best oven spring so far for something this wet. Because both the sponge and the dough were not overproofed. Best crumb so far too. However, my usual ten minutes of steam is too much, resulting in a thick crust. Many people like this, but I think it's too much for most baguette purposes. The other thing is, loaves this wet don't need to be slashed, but I slashed them anyway. The crumb doesn't push up through the cuts as it would with a firmer dough. No harm done, but not beautiful. Maybe just five minutes of steam and very shallow or no slashes next time. Getting there.
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#54 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 12:18 AM

Good results this week. Good enough to say that I've reached a plateau, an acceptable baguette of a certain kind.

My baguettes are, of necessity, of a certain size, the size of the ceramic tiles in my oven. So if the photos don't show a nice long loaf, that's why. It should be enough that I have finally achieved a minimum mastery of imageshack to get these up at all.

So:

-All white flour, KA all-purpose

-A sponge: all the water, half the flour, the starter (the latter equal to 25% of the total this time)

-The sponge goes for an hour at room temperature, which in my apartment in the summer, is over 80 degrees, then it goes in the refrigerator for 8 - 12 hours.

-Add the rest of the flour and the salt

-Ferment the dough in bulk for two hours, turning twice. Get the dough cold.

-Turn out the dough, let it rest

-Divide and form. Let the loaves rise right on the peel for two hours

-Slash, load and bake

-Steam was limited to three minutes in order to have a crust that is not too thick

As you can see, these 100% sourdough loaves had good spring and achieved both a volume and a cell distribution that is acceptable. Taste, by virtue of the long sponge, was excellent, although not as good as a fully mixed and formed loaf which is then chilled for a long time. However, the latter will produce a flatter loaf when a very wet dough is used. This dough was 75% hydration.

Sorry for the overly large images. Haven't figured out how to scale them yet.

Here is the loaf, one of two, along with a little chapeau roll that I made with the left over dough:

Posted Image

Here is the crumb cut with a knife:

Posted Image

And here is the cell distribution from a very thin section held to the light (this is the thing all real bakers are after):

Posted Image
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#55 jinmyo

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 12:25 AM

Very nice, Robert.

You can easily resize in any photo editing program. Try 120 dpi and a height of 3.5 inches.
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#56 Cathy

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 12:36 AM

That is very beautiful bread, Robert.
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#57 Robert Schonfeld

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 12:57 AM

Thanks, Jinmyo and Cathy. It may be pushing it, but there is still something more that I want for this bread, namely the springy, translucent crumb that comes from several firm refreshments instead of the sponge, and a long cool proofing of the formed loaf. This is the crumb of my standard boule. It is rich, deep, with a good tooth and just tangy enough. To get it will mean probably sacrificing some volume. It'll be good, though.

Which is to say that, even though progress has been made, there is further to go, and there is much about which I have no clue. I don't think we've arrived at the standard house version yet.
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#58 Lippy

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 01:20 AM

How long have you been at this, Robert? What you've achieved so far is absolutely beautiful and delicious.

#59 Cathy

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 01:23 AM

It is rich, deep, with a good tooth and just tangy enough.

Just like life, if one is fortunate. :(
You're only as good as your grease.


When working with high heat, the first contact between the cooking surface and the food must be respected.

-- Francis Mallman







#60 Rail Paul

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Posted 13 July 2005 - 01:59 AM

It is rich, deep, with a good tooth and just tangy enough.

Just like life, if one is fortunate. :(

Robert has applied himself to the task with a deep appreciation of the undertaking, and a respect for his ingredients, the required technique, and the finished product.

The crust looks crisp, but not thick and leathery as dark crusts will sometimes show.
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