It’s been some month ago when a reader suggested to build a “help” page where I could bundle and answer the most frequent questions. That was a great idea and I can use this page as roadmap to one ore the other informative post I wrote in the past eight years. Many of these are hiding between all the recipes.
I hope, you will find this page helpful and that you find the answers for your questions. And if not, this will be a good place to asked general questions
Some days ago I had to sent some sourdough per mail. That is easy when the sourdough is mixed with a lot of flour to form dry crumbs – the German name for this is “Krümmelsauer” while it is called “Gerstl” in Austria. The crumbs should be as dry and fine as possible. This reduce the amount of water and put the microorganisms to hibernation. In this state there is nearly no fermentation going on.
Reactivation is easy as well. Mixing the “Krümmelsauer” with water and waiting until the first bubbles are showing. And as I realised that I never showed this kind of sourdough conservation on the blog, I made a double batch. One halve I sent to Berlin, the other one I kept for three days on the counter to simulate the enviroment during mailing. Then I mixed the sourdough crumbles with water and as my sourdough is quite active I saw the first bubbles after one hours already. I let the mixture ferment for another five hours, then I used it to start a sourdough. And this sourdough doubled its volume easily overnight.
Now we feeded our new sourdough for for four or five days and it is happy bubbeling. But how to proceed now? Here is an overview on how to care for a sourdough: Continue reading
The oldest method to rise a bread is using sourdough. As soon as water is mixed with flour, yeasts and lacto bacteria which can be found in the flour starts to proliferate. Soon the first bubbles can be observed which is a sign of the microorganism activity. The microfauna starts to stabilize. In Spelt and Wheat sourdough the dominating species are the same, while in rye sourdough other bacteria species are predominant. The is the reason why rye sourdough is more sour than a wheat or spelt sourdough.
To me, the basic of good breakfast is a good roll. And so we are baking rolls in part three of our little bread baking course. These rolls are looking more complicated then they. For shaping we will use the same method then for the bread we baked last time. And already after 15 minutes the rolls are deeply cut, which is much easier than cutting a fully proofed roll. The cut is carefully laid together and will open beautiful during baking.
For a good volume the recipe uses on the on hand some fat and the lecithin from egg yolk and on the other hand a good kneading. For kneading such a firm dough I knead like that: I press the dough with the heel of hands away from my body. Then I draw the dough back to my body with my fingers. While kneading you need patient because it takes 10 minutes to reach middle gluten development. So turn on some music and knead ahead. At the end the dough should is soft but not sticky.
Having a active sourdough like the sweet starter is a good thing. But there is always the risk of loosing. It could starve while you are on a longer vacation or because you have no time for bread baking. Or (worst case scenario) some mould could start to grow on your precious sourdough. And that’s when a backup can be handy.
When I grow my sweet starter in December, I decided to test two different methods for storing sourdough: Freezing and drying. And after three months I tested which method provides a faster success when I reactivating. I mixed both the frozen and the dried starter with fresh flour and water and left them on the counter. After 20 hours the dried starter was clearly back to life as I could judge from the increase of volume. A feeding with flour and water showed that it could already triple its volume after 4 hours on 30°C, like it would before freezing.
The frozen starter was barely alive after the same time, only some tiny bubbles suggest that it was not completely dead. But that does not surprise me so much, because during the freezing process the water in the cells of the microorganisms starts to form crystals, which damage the cells. During drying on the other hand the cells form spores to survive the unpleasant situation and spring back to life as soon as it comes in contact with water and flour.
Flour is essential for baking bread. But if you start to compare international flours you will fast realize that the flour types in one country are not easily to translate into flour types of another country. There is no international standard to make flour comparable. And that’s why MayK asked me to make a picture of the flours I use and give a closer description because German Type numbers can be rather confusing.
In Germany, flour is classified by its ash content. For that the flour is burned in a 900°C hot oven, so only the unburnable part of the flour – the minerals – are left over. And then the ash is weighted. According to the DIN 10355 each Type of German flour has to contain a defined amount of minerals. For Type 550 this is rougly about 550mg Minerals in 100g flour (which can also be described as 0.55% ash content). Continue reading
How to start baking bread? I remember that I started with searching for a recipe and just simple following the instruction. I can’t tell you anymore which recipe it was (it was before I started blogging) but I knew that it was far away from being perfect. But I already cached the bread baking virus.
Every now and then readers and friends asked me which of my recipes they should use for their first bread. I send Friends and colleagues, which I can provide with sourdough, directly to my favourite wheat and rye bread, which has an easy to handle dough. But giving sourdough to readers is not as easy and so I developed another recipe.
It is made with Pâte Fermentée as preferment. It is a preferment which did not need a lot of care. You mix it, you put it in the fridge, you wait for at least twelve hours. No fussing about the right temperature or the need of using it while on its peak.
The dough is easy to handle and instead of scoring the loaf, you can press it down with the handle of a wooden spoon, which creates the niece pattern on the loaf on top of the pile. But it is a bread which is great for experienced bakers as well. I used it with great success for making loaves decorated with roses for the 90. birthday of my boyfriends grandmother.
And at the end it tastes great, as well. It has a soft, fluffy crumb under a crisp crust. It has a mild aroma with complex flavour profile due to the preferment.
Three Month ago I baked a bread decorated with a rose for Bread Baking Day. My Mum was very much in love with the decoration and asked me if I could bake such a bread for her birthday breakfast with her colleagues. And of course is her wish my command! And so I baked another decorated bread last weekend, with a beating heart – baking something as a present makes me always nervous.
I changed some points of the process. Last time I realised that I don’t need to knead more flour in the dough to make it firmer for the decoration, so I skipped this step. And yes, with the softer dough it is still possible to form beautiful flowers and leaves. This time I felt more confident and decided to take pictures of the process for a little “how to”.
I changed the recipe of the dough a little bit, too (and yes, even my own recipes are not safe from being changed). I added some more rye flour and sourdough and a little bit of butter which makes the crumb softer. The bread is tasted even more delicious as its precurser, and so the name “Wheat and Rye bread No 2” is a little bit misleading, because for me it is the Number one!
There are many variations on how to form an Easter bunny. This is a more human shape with or without an Easter egg in its arms – similar to my Weckmann.