The Monster in the Fridge


I’ve had a bread machine for years and never used it. I decided to bite the bullet and spend $15 for a ‘real’ sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour. First I created one out of fast acting yeast. The first thing it did was blow up – forced it’s way out of the container and spilled all over the island and nearly dripped onto the floor. This is a compilation of my posts on the subject.

Now I have a new pet – a sour dough bread starter. It needs to be fed regularly, has it’s own cage and needs to be watched daily lest it escape, get sick or die.  I think I’ll feed the spongecritter whole wheat flour and use bread flour in the machine. The wheat gives it a bit better flavor. Just to be sure I don’t mess it up, I’m going to keep the original starter separate. I think I’ll call them Blob and Son of Blob.

October 20th, I made 2 loaves of bread and a batch of pancakes, with a mixture I made myself. They were okay, but didn’t have a sour dough taste. The texture was okay, but meh – not very good.

The second loaf of bread tasted a lot better than the first one. I think I’ll feed the spongecritter whole wheat flour and use bread flour in the machine. The wheat gives it a bit better flavor.  Thus far, it’s Dad and I on the band wagon and hubby turning his nose up. I think he was raised on Wonder Bread, so we have our work cut out for us!

October 22 –  Loaf #3 – made with more water, molasses and less wheat flour. Much better, I think I’ll try that again with loaf #4. There is still no ‘sour’ taste to it – but the wheat is starting to taste nutty, instead of just chewy. All the fiber is filling – I’m not snacking between meals as much. Who knows, I may be onto something.

October 24 – My 250 year old sourdough starter arrived today. I watered it, put it in a clean bowl and fed it. Now I assume it is merrily bubbling away. The instructions recommend you feed it, divide it in half, and discard the other half. I’m not going to discard it. I’m going to divide the discarded half in half and give some away to a friend. The rest is going in with my original ‘pet’ to make it into ‘real’ whole wheat sourdough.
I might freeze some, just to make sure I still have some if I should accidently kill it. I don’t have a lot of luck with new pets. Just ask my chickens.

October 25 – The new starter has been fed and taken care of. It looks good and smells okay. The homemade starter stopped rising – so I put some new starter in with the old. This may have been a mistake, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all just flour and water, so I’m not going to freak out.

As I talked about this experiment – my friends on Robust started to chime in. One recalled her mother keeping a starter in their fridge as kids. Another, a guy, shared his recipe for home made yeast bread. When I remarked the first starter stopped rising I got a cute post:

It’s speaking to you. You just aren’t listening. It’s the Horror on Yeast Street.

Hmm – interesting. He might be right.

Later that day – Loaf #4 came out of the machine an hour ago. I used the pedigreed starter and an egg. Putting an egg in it really helped make it stick together better. The texture is better, but there isn’t a noticable ‘sour’ taste. I like that. I want flavor not sour. I’m not sure I want to keep it strictly white flour. I like the flavor of wheat starter. I don’t know if I can freeze it, or if I just need to leave it in the fridge.

October 26th – Loaf #5 came out of the bread machine today. It had 2 eggs and the wheat starter. It’s very soft and moist, with just a touch of sour. I’m loving it.

October 29th –  Loaf #7 was a crumbling mass of nothing. Amazing that I could follow the exact same recipe and have such an awful disaster come out of the bread machine! The dogs didn’t mind, while it was warm and squshy. But even with butter on it, it was awful. Moral of this story: don’t use an unknown kind of flour that is likely to be many years old. I went to Walmart and bought King Arthur flour – all purpose and whole wheat. Fed the ‘blob in the fridge’ some fresh KA flour. I like the large rectangular ‘cage’ where I keep the Blob. It is the right depth to get a good stir going. Now that the weather is predicted to be completely lousy, I think it’s time to play with sweet breads. For that I’m going to use ‘Blob’ and the Nisua recipe that I got from Mom.

October 30th – Just started loaf #8. This one has King Arthur flour, the same recipe except I used an egg and butter instead of oil. No crumbs on the sides, the ball is nice and smooth. Maybe we finally have a winner??? But I can see where it would be much better to knead by hand. You have more control over the process. I’m hoping that the fresh, high quality flour will make this the best one.

Got to get the dough to taste right first. I’ve got a friend who is going to experiment with me. Dad wants biscuits, too. I love the pancakes! Seriously love them! The next project is to divide it again to make a wheat starter. I don’t think a wheat starter will make as good sweet rolls. I’m thinking Peacan sticky buns for Christmas. Yummm!

Loaf #8 came out a few hours ago. It was much better! Nice and moist, still heavy and the crust was hard, thin but really hard! I don’t know if there is any left. It is still missing the nutty sweetness of Whole Wheat flour. But I’ll have to divide the Blob to make a WW Blob. (Son of Blob?)

I’m almost confident enough to maybe try baking a loaf by hand. Maybe. I still can’t get over how filling one single slice of this bread is. Had one for dinner last night and one this morning. I’m usually ravenous in the morning. A couple years ago I had to go on probotics because my system was screwed up. This might be doing the same thing. (I still haven’t tried an oven baked loaf.)

November 3rd – Bread loaf #10 came out of the machine. I used sorgum instead of sugar and a double-yolked egg – this loaf is twice the normal height, the bread is very smooth, fine textured and moist. The crust is thinner and more delicately crunchy. Yummy! I’m still using the bread machine. I’m getting the hang of cutting thinner slices. Since I have 2 starters, I have to alternate between them.

On Robust we went from a lesson in breadmaking to a political discussion. Not at all on topic. However, my bread-maker gave us a lesson on cutting bread.

November 4th –  Hello my Padawans.  Today, you will learn more than the secrets of the Force.  You will learn how to thin slice bread. 

Get two heavy bookends.  Make sure they’re nice and clean.  Put your loaf in the middle, and like books, press the bookends into service on each end of the loaf. 

Two options.  An electric serated knife – your training lightsaber… and with the bread remaining secure via the bookends, take your time and go as slow as you like…

Or use a long serated bread knife, for a manual cut. 

Cheat-sheet time.  Use a wax paper under the bread that is held firmly by the bookends.  Using the knife, evenly space notches in the wax paper on both side, close together.  When slicing downward, keep a bird’s eye view and stay between the notches, scooting over a single notch each time. 

As in anything, practice makes perfect, Padawan.  Bookends frees up a hand for bread stability.  Don’t panic.  Stay serene.  Cut the hell out of it like the Jedi you’re meant to be. 

May the thin slices be with you.

November 8th – Yes, the dogs want to eat Blob. They are more enthused over bread crust than dog biscuits. I wonder how nuts they will get when I break out the peanut butter? My oldest dog has started ‘crumb surfing’ the carpets. I think I need to vaccum the floors more often. 😛

Actually, Blob and Son of Blob are in plastic quart containers. I had a very large ‘cage’ for Blob, but it didn’t explode like my experimental sourdough. Since I got started with this – I’ve learned that a quart mason jar is the usual containment device. If I can get my hands on a couple jars, I’ll switch them over. I don’t want the hassle of cleaning up another exploding container. Twice was plenty.

December 18th –  I’m sorry to announce the demise of Son of Blob. The wheat flour sour dough starter suddenly developed an unpleasant odor and an odd soupy texture. I tried to revive it with a feeding, but that didn’t seem to help. Even an infusion of Blob was only a temporary fix. The bread coming out of the bread machine was dense, brick-like and lacking in flavor. I used half of it in waffles a few days ago – they tasted okay. But Son of Blob still didn’t quite smell right and the texture remained soupy – so Son of Blob went into the bread machine tonight. Blob the First thrives and will continue to serve the family need for sour dough starter.

My adventures will continue – and be posted here.

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