Friday, April 14, 2017

No Knead, No Commercial Yeast Bread with Raisin Liquid Starter

You probably don't know this but since last year I've been trying to bake a sourdough bread. I say trying because I kept failing. And failing. The problem is the sourdough starter.

This is just one of many starter failures. I tried Peter Reinhart's formula. I discovered pineapple juice is not something you want to add to your starter. A swarm of flies will enter your home. I cursed Peter Reinhart upside down. I tried another Peter Reinhart's formula, this time without pineapple juice. I don't know what happened. Scary stuff grew on the starter. I followed The Perfect Loaf's formula. The starter did not smell good. Also stuff grew on the starter. I tried Dean Brettschneider's Bread formula. I forgot what went wrong. There were many other tries, following this youtuber or that book author. Nothing worked.

Finally I followed Richard Miscovich's formula and managed to produce a starter which didn't look like something died. I made a levain out of it. Unfortunately, the loaf of bread I baked came out of the oven so heavy that I knew right away it was wrong. The inside of the bread looked weird, totally inedible. I don't know what I did wrong. Was it Singapore weather? Finally I decided to give sourdough starter a break and look for alternatives.

I found this book Jayeon Bread at the bookstore and it looked interesting enough to me to buy it. The starters in the book are made from fruits. I chose raisins because the success rate is higher. I followed everything the book said. Boiled the jar and utensils. Used organic products. My first try. I had huge amount of mould growing on the raisins. I wanted to cry. I had to discard the raisins. My second try, I had better luck but after 7 days I still couldn't hear any sounds coming from the raisins. Plus some mould kept coming back. I did some major googling and found some answers. The book said to stir the raisins once a day. Actually you have to give the contents a good shake. A stir is not going to deter the mould in Singapore climate. I did that and boom! Success. No mould.

See my raisins have started to float.

On the 7th day, I felt the liquid was ready to be used because if you put your ear next to the jar, you can hear lots of sizzling sounds. I've never heard anything more beautiful. The smell of the liquid starter is a bit like wine. Very pleasant. The ones that failed previously had a bad smell.

Getting the liquid starter to work is only the first part of the journey. Next, I had to use the liquid to mix with bread flour (1:1) to produce a refreshed starter. This is similar to a sourdough starter. I had to discard/feed the refreshed starter at least one day before I can use it to bake. On the third day, I carefully measured out 110g of refreshed starter to make White Pan Bread. I felt it was safest to bake something easy.

This is my refreshed starter. Just look at all the bubbles.

This is my final dough after everything is mixed together by hand. It looks like there's a lot of dirt in it. It's just the lighting. The "dirt" is actually tiny bubbles. I was a bit concerned it's quite floppy. I left it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I looked at the dough and it had risen quite a bit. Wow, the magic of time. I shaped it as well as I could into an oval shape to fit in a loaf pan. The dough was really hard to manage as it had the tendency to flop and spread out. I let it rise a bit more at room temperature. I think it took about 2 hours before I became impatient and put it in the oven.

Success! The bread is not gummy in any way. The texture is not bad. The most important thing - it's edible! I'll be honest. This is not the tastiest bread I've ever eaten. It's just plain white bread. But I almost cried when I realised I had succeeded because I've had so many failures. Finally my dream of baking bread without any commercial yeast has come true. I feel like I created life! And the most amazing thing about this bread? I didn't even do any kneading.

The Jayeon Bread book has a formula for sourdough. I think I will try that next. You never know, 20th time (I've lost count) lucky?


Jane McLellan said...

10 out of 10 for persistence! Well done.

Ely said...

So cool! But here's my suggestion. Find a local bakery and ask questions. You have climate challenges that definitely require tweaks in your starters.

Ok, and I just googled "sourdough starters in hot and humid climates" and got quite a few hits. Here's the first link I clicked on:

Have fun!

Jane McLellan said...

PS. I use baby bottle sterilizer to sterilize bottles etc when I do fruit bottling or whatever. I figure that if it's good enough for babies, it should be good enough for yeast!

Projects By Jane said...

Hi Jane, that's such a good idea using baby bottle sterilizer. I've given mine away a long time ago.

Projects By Jane said...

Thanks Ely for your googling. The one thing I haven't tried with sourdough is adding salt. I'm starting to think rapid fermentation is the issue with Singapore climate.

Most bakeries in Singapore do not sell sourdough bread. I'm pretty sure the reaction would be like: "Sour what ah? Our bread not sour. You crazy ah!" And you can't just want into a bakery in Singapore and ask questions. No one will entertain you.

I tried asking the chef teacher at the baking school I attended but he refused to share his knowledge with me. His answer: "Don't ask me anything about sourdough. I can't help you."

Thanks for all your help. I'll keep trying.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane

I got some sourdough starter from an artisan bread-making class I attended in May. I used it for the first time yesterday. We took the bread for breakfast this morning and we are still alive. So, I guess my stock is safe for consumption. Do contact me if you want some to start your own sourdough "baby".

Chau Lee (Momshoo)

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