I’m happy to report that the sourdough bread came out perfectly! My new starter has a ways to go before it is as sour as my ten-year old one that I had had going in California for all those years. Alas, it remained in my freezer in California for a year while we were in Arizona (1997!), and when we got home, it looked at me with soulful eyes, and withered! 😦
So that is how long I have been away from this project. Gary (Mr. NOLA Boy) is mad for sourdough bread (or any kind of French-type, crusty bread), and he was beyond jouful when a sample showed up hot out of the oven for him.
It has been about a week in the making. These things cannot be hurried. The starter that I had in Sunnyvale I had captured right out of the air, and that took a couple of weeks to get started.
Apparently the air around the San Francisco Bay area is replete with the proper yeasties floating about in the air, and they will settle on an appropriate surface, nestle in, and thrive.
This time I cheated a bit and bought some freeze-dried culture from a local bakery lady who comes to our weekly farmers market. I reasoned that a culture from this area might have a better chance of survival. But even that was several years ago. Apparently in the freeze-dried state, it remains viable, if not at least a little on the recalcitrant side.
It gave me a run for my money over this last week – feeding and cajoling it. It didn’t produce much action – a small bubble here and there every time I fed it for about four days, but then – Glory Be – “pot likker” formed on the top. That was a VERY good sign. So I gave it a good feed for its overnight slumber.
And then yesterday . . . YESTERDAY . . . OH MY. You should have seen that thing go. I was sitting at the kitchen island where I have my computer, busily engaged in cleaning out my incoming mail box (GAH!), and I sniffed the air . . . what is THAT?
I looked over towards the counter by the sink, and that rascal had overflowed the crock and was making its way to escape down the side of the cabinets. I caught it just in time. I quickly put half of it into the refrigerator, mopped up the mess, and tossed the remainder of it into my bread machine, adding water, flour, and salt. I didn’t know if it would be strong enough to do its thing without a sprinkle of dried yeast, but I took a chance.
The breadmaker did an admirable job of mixing and kneading, but it took about twice as long for the dough to rise to the point where I could take it out and shape it. Rising in place for the loaves took about 1.5 times as long as usual, but at that point, I knew I had a live one, so was content to put in the extra wait time.
I’d forgotten how hot I used to put the oven to bake the loaves, and was chicken to go too high, so settled on 400°, slashed and sprayed the loaves with water, and chucked them into the oven. The loaves didn’t get as brown as I would have liked, but were otherwise perfect. Next time I will crank it up to at least 450°.
There were not as many large holes in the bread part as desired, but that may have been because of my wussiness in crankin’ up the heat. I’m sure I will have no trouble finding someone to gobble up my experiments! ;->
We’re already plotting temps for the next round. This morning, thinking back with Gary’s input, it seems like I would set the oven to 500°, put the bread in and then spray water all over the bread and the inside of the oven, bake it at that high temp for about ten minutes, and then turn it down to 400°. It is the steam that creates the crunchy crust, so next time the oven will get a good spraying, too.