Focus for April 2012: Sourdough + Yeast Cultures

April's focus is Sourdough, and our next meeting is the "Taste-and-Smell" on Sunday, April 1. Please join our meetup group for event details and to RSVP.

A Special Guest:

We'll be joined by a Northwestern University yeast biologist, who will bring a number of yeasts in culture for us to sniff. Come and familiarize yourself with the single-celled organisms that give rise to our bread.

When it comes to sourdough, ask a hundred bakers about their respective methods, and you'll hear a hundred different answers. Some of the variables you may encounter are:

  • Which flour(s) to "feed" the culture (bread flour, all-purpose flour, rye, or a combination of these);

  • Hydration of the culture (from stiff to runny);

  • How often to feed the culture (from twice/day to once/week);

  • At what temperature to store the culture (from room temperature to the coldest part of the fridge);

  • Whether or not to adjust the pH of the culture with an acid (such as apple cider vinegar).

A dominant influence in the health of a sourdough culture seems to be constancy: choose a method for maintaining the culture, and stick with it over the long haul. The yeast seem to like this approach, as it gives them a chance to get used to their environment and thrive. This is especially true when a culture is young; as the culture matures, it tends to be better able to recover from infrequent or irregular feedings.

Breadtopia offers a helpful video, Managing Your Sourdough Starter.

At the February and April 2011 meetings of Chicago Amateur Bread Bakers, we touched on some of the finer aspects of sourdough, and highlights of these discussions were posted on this blog.

The book my husband and I turn to again and again for help with sourdough (and many other aspects of bread making) is Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread. Hamelman's "Vermont Sourdough" is a classic, and a good place to start.

As always, baking to the focus topic is not a requirement for the event, simply a suggestion to inspire your baking. The only requirement is that you bring yeasted bread you have baked.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...