Posts tagged Starter Management

The Importance of Dough Temperature in Baking

Baking bread at home certainly comes with challenges (or as my enigmatic college calculus professor used to tell me, opportunities for continuous growth). Baking bread at home with a consistent outcome has even more. But there’s a crucial facet of baking that can help us bakers increase consistency that isn’t always immediately apparent: the importance of dough temperature in baking.

Because temperature is one of the main contributors to vigorous fermentation, it’s key that we maintain a sufficiently high, and stable, dough temperature through the entire baking process. Of course, this does become more difficult when ambient temperatures begin to drop (hey, winter!) — and sometimes we don’t even realize it’s happening. Continue reading

Weekend Baking Schedule

The primary goal in this post is to help you get into a schedule for baking fresh, healthy bread every weekend without having to worry about refreshing your sourdough starter during the week. Ok, I know it’s hard to bake every weekend, but I do believe this post outlines a manageable schedule for fresh bread most weekends. It can be challenging to carve out time from our busy work schedule day after day to devote to sourdough starter maintenance — with two kids at home believe me, I get it. So what can we do? What kind of weekend baking schedule can we devise to help reduce the amount of worry while still ensuring we can have fresh bread when we want it? This post will go day-by-day through an entire week and outline exactly what I do each day to address exactly that.

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Sourdough Starter Maintenance Routine

My baking focus has lately been predominantly on my sourdough starter maintenance and maximizing fermentation, and I’ve made some of the best bread I can remember (all the bread pictures in this post were made with this starter). This is somewhat a continuation of my Managing Starter Fermentation post that I wrote quite a while ago, but pinpoints on following my process of initial feeding, watching the rise to peak, building a levain and finally discarding a portion of my sourdough starter over the course of a day.

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Baking Sourdough Bread with a Stiff Starter

Baking in the winter always presents problems here at my house: it’s cold! Probably not quite the cold you get in other parts of the world but it sure is cold to me, and my starter. Kitchen temperatures are consistently hovering between 68º and 70ºF which really inhibits yeast and bacteria activity. I’ll typically offset this by changing the percentage of mature starter carryover or by heating up the water used in my feedings, but you really want to try to keep your starter around 75º to 80ºF — this is not easy to do when winter is bombarding your area. You just have to make do with the warmest spot you can find in your kitchen, for me this is next to my whisky collection… almost poetic.

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My Sourdough Bread with a “Young” Levain

My wife keeps telling me: “every time you bake you keep saying ‘Wow this is the best bread I have ever made’ the saying is getting kind of old now… Hmmm, this is really good bread though, I think it is your best so far.”

I’ve had a number of recent bakes that have just been a step or two above my usual and I just can’t stop eating slice after slice with anything I can even moderately justify placing on top (I even scraped up some onions & currants from a recent meal we had and used it in a sandwich oh. my. God. was that good… See the end of this post.). It’s dangerous when your bread just comes out right; you become a somewhat selfish person and hoard all the loaves for yourself. At this point, however, my freezer is literally full of bread and I’ll have to start giving them away to friends and family again. I know they won’t be complaining.

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