Flop (Pt 1)

This week has been one tiring week with a couple flops thrown in to add insult to injury. To be fair, the flops are partially my fault. I generally advise people to follow baking recipes. Regular cooking is a little more flexible, but baking… Baking you should always stick. to. the. recipe. I tell people this all the time, buuuuuuut sometimes I fudge this a little. And this time it caught up with me. Honestly, I don’t know whether it was one of my alterations that caused flop number one or the recipe.

Anytime I have milk in the fridge that’s turning, I quickly label it “SOUR MILK” and stick it in the freezer. When I am ready to do some baking say a cake or one of my braided egg-bread loaves, I thaw out this sour milk and use it in the recipe. Generally this works out for me and is a nice addition to my baked goodies. Generally. I got a rude awakening this week when used some of this sour milk to make a sourdough. My thinking was that it was a sour fermented dough anyway so sour milk couldn’t hurt, right? Ignoring the fact that I found no evidence of this being a benefit via Google, I forged ahead thinking I knew better. Despite the fact I’d never made sourdough before. I’ve made countless successful loaves of bread in my time. How could this be any different?

I had all the right ingredients. I was even using rye for the starter! I’d heard many extol the virtues of using rye flour in the starter. This was a relatively inexpensive ingredient. I was ready to make some lovely, chewy sourdough. However, my recipe from Joy of Cooking had me making two loaves. That’s alot of bread for a household of just two people. Soooo I may have halved the recipe to only make one loaf. I don’t recommend this as the math gets a little fuzzy when dealing with fractions and chemistry (teaspoons… tablespoons… cups…). But of course I did it anyway. I took the risk.

Lastly, there were a couple steps where I added flour and liquid where the liquid didn’t seem sufficient. So I added more liquid since the “dough” seemed dry. I can hear you from here. I hear the slo-mo NOOOOOOOOOOO. Yup. I did it. It was just so dang difficult to stir the flour into the starter. Don’t get me wrong. The starter fermented beautifully. It had the typical funky smell you expect. Sadly, I wound up with a regular loaf of rye bread. It tasted good and was delicious warm and slathered in salted butter, yet it wasn’t open and airy as sourdough ought to be.

The last thing I can think that could have caused a hindrance to my success in sourdough is the recipe. Occasionally, I run into a not-quite-right recipe in Joy. I don’t mean to be critical of Joy, I really don’t. It’s just… sometimes I run into one that doesn’t turn out like it should. Honestly, I’m ok with this. This is all part of the learning process. Even my sweet SIL consoled me in that, though my finished product was a little dark and more close-crumbed than sourdough should be, it looked fine and it took her a few attempts to get her own sourdough just right.

Humbling. All of this. All of this is humbling. Still, I persevere. I press onward. While I was out the following days, I snapped up another bag of rye flour to make another attempt. This time following all the right steps, measures, and ingredients. I guess I can just find a friend to give a loaf away to… If you want to try your hand at Sourdough Rye, see below.

Ingredients:
4c rye flour
3-1/4c water
2-1/4tsp Active Dry Yeast (ADY)
3-1/2c AP flour plus 1-1/2 to 2c for kneading
1tbsp caraway seeds
1tbsp salt
melted butter (my favorite it Kerrygold salted)

Instructions:
1) Combine in a bowl 1/2c rye, 1/4c water, and 1tsp ADY. Cover tightly with plastic wrap (I prefer Glad Press ‘N’ Seal) and keep in a warm place (~85°F) for 24hrs (in the oven with just the oven light on does the trick).
2) Stir into the starter 1c rye and 3/4c water. Cover and allow to ferment 4hrs longer.
3) For the first sponge, stir into the starter 1-3/4c rye, 3/4tsp ADY, and 1/4c water. Let rise, covered with a clean, damp cloth in a warm place (the oven with only the light on is good for this still) until doubled in volume.
4) For the second sponge, add 1-3/4c rye, 1-3/4c AP flour, 1/2tsp ADY, 1c water. Mix until smooth. Cover with a clean, damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume (~1hr).
5) Add 1-3/4c AP flour, 1c water, 1tbsp caraway seeds, and 1tbsp salt. Mix until smooth and let the dough rest (covered) 20min.
6) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead 1-1/2 to 2c of AP flour into the dough until you have a rather firm dough.
7) Divide in half and shape into two long or round loaves. Place them on a greased baking sheet and allow them to rise, but not double.
8) Preheat the oven to 425° Place a baking dish filled to 1/4in water in the oven. Bake the loaves for 50-60min (but the pan with the water comes out after 20min).
9) As soon as the bread is done, brush the tops with melted butter. Cool completely.

Wish me luck on my second round later this month. What is your most humbling kitchen foible?

(No current reading due to heavy workload this week.)

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