Monday, 1 February 2016

The Rise and Fall of Gertrude the Sourdough Starter

Have you ever made sourdough? I made my first loaf last week and now I know why it is so expensive to buy. It takes forever to make but it is a very interesting process and after a lot of trial and error and flour flying around the kitchen, I created my first sourdough starter ~ Gertrude!




One of the very patient Down to Earth Forums moderators started up a sourdough baking thread and asked if anyone would like to make their own starter. Well, I really didn't have much of an idea of what a starter was but I had been intrigued by the posts that Joolz had written about how she had woken up the starter she was given which was called Priscilla but renamed Sally and if you would like to follow her sourdough posts then start with the one called Waking Priscilla. Joolz didn't actually make her own starter as hers came from Celia from the excellent blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

Sorry about the photos as they were mainly taken LATE at night!



I wasn't exactly feeling too confident with making my own starter when I read on Celia's blog that she had bought hers after she tried making her own and it went mouldy. Anyway, I plodded along and fed my Gertrude for a few days. I think she was the most watched starter in the world as I was always checking her out to see if I can find any bubbles. Imagine my satisfaction when I finally saw those bubbles peering at me through the glass and finally it seemed like the right time to get her ready for baking. I wanted to use the Dan Lepard recipe from the Bread, Water, Salt, Oil....blog. Apparently Dan Lepard is a sourdough expert. The things you learn :-)


 


Alas, as I said before, it is a long process and it was late at night and I was still waiting for her to rise enough to go into the oven and in the end I gave in and turned the oven on.  Of course, she didn't rise much in the oven and came out looking a little like a frisbee.


 


However, when I had a taste I quite enjoyed the tang despite the rather hard crust that had formed.


 


The following morning I cut the loaf into slices to put into the freezer and I saw that there was flour mixture though the middle of the loaf and it was obvious that I hadn't kneaded it enough. Lesson learned!


 


Gertrude was put into the fridge for a week or so as I didn't want to bake another loaf for a while and thought the next time I would try a recipe from Celia's blog. However, when I checked on her a couple of days later...shock horror...there was mould growing on the top.



 


I was disappointed and as my instructor on the Down to Earth Forums was away for a few days I asked Mr.Google what to do and one website said to try and take out some of the starter that didn't have mould on it which would probably be on the bottom.  I was able to rescue about 2 tablespoons from there which wasn't exactly the 200g or so that I needed to make the loaf that Celia provided the instructions for in her easy to follow Basic Sourdough Tutorial.

However, not to be daunted I pressed on and started feeding my Gertrude hoping that I would end up with a loaf that faintly resembled sourdough and finally I saw those bubbles forming and she started rising. Once again, I didn't time it all too well and she hadn't risen enough to put her in the oven by late in the evening so this time I put her in the fridge overnight thinking that I would really blow it this time.



I happened to get up at 4.30am and on my way passed the kitchen I took her out of the fridge, said nicely to her that I would appreciate it if she would rise enough in the next few hours to bake and so she did. The dough had been quite sticky and I found it really difficult to knead despite watching the video that Celia had in her instructions showing how she did the kneading. I wasn't sure what I had done wrong but it was too late now and into the oven she went.

I kept turning on the oven light to see if she was rising at all but I think she spread rather than rise but she did come out of the oven looking like sourdough....of sorts. Never mind, I was still chuffed that I had made my own starter and the loaves can only get better from here on. Can't they???? Ha ha!

I have borrowed a number of books from our city library on the subject so if anyone around here is looking for them when they visit there I won't be too long with them....promise!

Have you made your own sourdough starter by any chance? If you would like to have a try then come over to the Down to Earth Forums and join in and learn a new skill. It is all a bit of trial and error and we are all beginners who are following along and for more information, Celia has written a number of posts on this page on her blog if you would like to try out some different recipes.

Now...I might just go and take a peek at Gertrude and make sure she hasn't gone mouldy ;-) 











18 comments:

  1. Ha ha! Gertrude, Priscilla, Sally - made me chuckle. You are a braver woman than me Nanna Chel, now that you're on the sourdough wagon you will no doubt perfect the technique and then you can teach me!

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    1. Of course I will perfect the technique, Barb. Just not sure if I will live long enough ;-)

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  2. hahaha! I had a wonderful starter going but I killed it and sourdough all seemed just too hard at the moment, I have too many mouths to feed, a starter was jut not high enough up the priority list. Maybe this year will be the year?

    Well done, Im sure before too long you will have the knack and be making amazing sourdough!

    xx

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    1. I think you have enough on your plate at the moment, Emmy, without watching a sourdough starter.

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  3. You are hilarious my friend! I made our bread from scratch for a few years. We are not "off the sauce" so to speak. We are staying away from breads and other white carbs. It's so hard because I LOVE breads! ANY. BREADS!
    Thanks for sharing you sourdough experience! So fun!

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    1. I don't eat a lot of bread, Monica. I read that sourdough was good for you so that's why I gave it a try.

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  4. The best success I have had with sourdough is using the no knead method of breadmaking. I believe this suits the sourdough better as it gives the natural yeast the time it needs

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    1. Thanks for that hint, Phil. It is all a bit of a learning curve eh?

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  5. I love making sourdough, though I've happened upon my own formula over the years. Your dough looks a little too wet, something suitable for making cibatta. I suspect itt needs more flour, like a regular dough, so you can knead it. If you click on the "sourdough" label on my blog, you can see how I make mine.

    I guess its all about discovering your own techniques however, and something you enjoy the flavour and texture of yourself. Everyone finds there own way, and this is all part of your process. :)

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    1. I will check the post on your blog, Chris. Thanks.

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  6. Oh i dont think i would ever attempt sour dough, your so brave and i think it looks great. xo

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    1. Karen, you should give it a try sometime. It is an interesting process.

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    1. Thanks Patsy. We had a few laughs on the Down to Earth forums late at night when two of us had just baked our first attempt. I think we were getting hysterical by then :-)

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  8. I plan on attempting my starter again this summer (it is too cold in the house in the winter) Tried last summer and it was ugly to say the least - I am so impressed!!

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    1. Kathy, I hope you do have another go in summer. I am sure you will be successful next time.

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  9. I think you have done very well with your first two loaves Nana Chel. I had been fiddling around with sourdough for a couple of years, made my own starter, but just could not get the rise that I really wanted and was baking edible but not very share-able loaves. However.... recently happened upon Celia's blog (Fig and lime cordial) I found the best instructions (Basic sourdough tutorial) and voila...!! made a perfect sourdough loaf that was good enough to share. Now my farmgate shop regulars are ordering their loaves. Who would have thought? However, I put my loaf to rise in a cold enameled cooking pot with lid and put in the oven approx 1 hour after the final quick knead, always in the morning after an overnight prove. I never pre-heat the cooking pot any more. 20mins with lid on, 20mins with lid off, 10 mins out of the pot on the oven rack to crisp up the bottom crust. If you stick with Celia's instructions you will save yourself a lot of stress. :)

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    1. Sally, I did read about Celia's enamel cooling pots in one of her posts. That was probably about midnight when I came across it last week. It is all a blur now so I must go back and find that post. Her instructions are just so clear, aren't they? I printed them out for my second loaf and followed the steps religiously. LOL!

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