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Sourdough Success!

By rusty in Culture
Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 01:59:31 PM EST
Tags: Food (all tags)

I have been working for nearly two months now on a top-secret1 bread project. Previously known only as "Frisco," the few details that did leak out were sketchy at best. Stories of mutating biological agents, smelly goop, and some reports of initial failure left bread analysts stymied, puzzled, and frankly, worried.

But at last the truth can be revealed. I have been making sourdough. And at last, I have succeeded! [Insert evil laughter here.]

Now maybe some of you think you've made sourdough. "How hard is that?" you are thinking. "You just mix the packet with a little water, throw in some yeast, and bake it up. What's he going on about?" I'm not talking about that kind of sourdough. I mean first-principles, grow-your-own-starter-from-scratch, prairie style sourdough. The point was not so much to produce the bread, as to explore the process by which you can actually make good bread with nothing but flour, water, and time.2

A few of you may still be with me. If you've ever tried to grow your own starter, you have probably gone through much the same process, and it ain't easy.

The article that started me off was John Ross's Sourdough Baking: The Basics. I've read a lot more sourdough stuff since then, but that article pretty much covers it and has provided the most consistently accurate information I've been able to find anywhere. There's a lot of misinformation out there, so don't believe anything you haven't actually tried. Ross makes the starter process seem a little easier than it actually turns out to be, but otherwise, the instructions he gives are spot-on.

What's Sourdough?

Sourdough is bread made without processed yeast. It's not without yeast, as there is yeast aplenty. But the yeast doesn't come from a jar or a cake or a packet. You grow your own yeast by mixing flour and water, and letting it sit around on a counter for a while. There's yeast in flour already, there just isn't much of it. So you have to provide an environment that's friendly to yeast growth, and you have to feed it to encourage the yeasties to multiply and thrive. Luckily yeast eats flour, so all you have to do to feed it is add more flour and water.

The other thing that grows in a sourdough starter is lactobacillus. The bacteria (which are similar to the bacteria that make yogurt and cheese) form a symbiotic relationship with the yeast, eating yeast digestion products, and making the batter very acidic, which kills all the other microorganisms that are floating around in the air and water and everything else. Yeast (at least the kinds you want) can live fine in this acid environment, but nothing much else can, so the bacteria act as a preservative for your starter. The acid produced by these bacteria are also what gives sourdough bread its distinctive yummy taste.

Growing the Starter

I began my starter with whole-grain flour, since that's reported to have more wild yeast mixed in with it than the more heavily processed white flour. Actually, most sourdough resources say that rye flour is best of all, since it has a lot of yeast, and also has a lot of the glucose that the yeast like to eat readily available. But you can get a starter going with any kind of flour at all.

The way you make a starter is to mix some flour and some water into a sticky paste. The proportions aren't too important -- you should aim for a ratio of around 1 to 1 flour to water by weight, or roughly 3 parts flour to 2 parts water if you're measuring by volume. The water has to be below 120 degrees (this and all temperatures in Fahrenheit). Higher than that will kill the yeast. Heat is basically the only thing that kills yeast, so a little cold is better than a little warm. Eighty degrees seems to be ideal, so the water should feel about the same temperature as your skin.

Mix the flour and water, put it in something with a lid that can allow pressure to vent (a Bell canning jar with a loosened top is ideal, the wide-mouthed kind is even more ideal since it's easier to clean) and plop it on your counter.

Now wait. A long time.

Feeding the Starter

What's going to happen is, the wild yeast that's already lurking dormant in your flour will wake up in this warm friendly water bath, and discover that it's surrounded by glorious food. It will immediately start to eat the flour, excrete yeast's traditional digestion products, alcohol and carbon dioxide, and make lots of babies.

After a while, the yeast will have eaten up all (or most) of the flour you started with. It will run out of food, and billions of yeasts will die. Buddhists halfway across the world will wince at the death cries of your yeast. You don't want that to happen. So you've got to feed it.

Feeding a starter just means you dump out half of it, replace that half with a fresh mixture of flour and water, and stir thoroughly. This gives your yeasts fresh food to eat, and prevents the horror of a yeast famine. You should do this at least every twenty four hours. At the start, it won't look like anything's happening. Feed it anyway. After a few days, you'll start to see bubbles in your starter, and it'll have a smell to it. Not a bad smell exactly -- mine smells kind of fruity and alcoholic. If it smells downright bad, then something might have gone wrong. But it probably won't.

Starter Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

Eventually, when you've got a good strong starter, you can store it in the fridge and feed it weekly. But don't rush to this point. I refrigerated mine way too soon, and had to de-refrigerate it and put more time into getting it growing properly.

In my opinion, you should leave your starter out at room temperature and feed it daily for at least a month, and probably much more. This will give it plenty of time to gain the rising power that you need from it, and will give you time to get to know your starter, and learn how long it takes to activate, and how long it will stay active for. These things are very important when the time comes to bake with it. So leave that fridge alone for a while.

Another key point that I didn't see emphasized enough elsewhere is that your starter will need to be able to at least double its own volume. This should be obvious, since it has to be powerful enough to make your bread rise. But it didn't occur to me for quite a while. So a few bubbles and a sour smell is not enough! That's a good beginning, but you've still got a long way to go. I found that the scientific approach worked well. I'd feed the starter, then mark on the side of the jar where it was when I had just fed it. Every hour or so thereafter, I would mark again at the level the contents of the jar had reached. This gives you a nice time-lapse view of how active your starter is, and when it's slow or fast.

My starter, for example, sits pretty still for an hour after feeding. Then it starts to lift, gaining a little in the second hour, a lot in the third hour, and a lot in the fourth hour. At about hour five, it slows down, and just maintains for a couple more hours. Altogether, it increases in volume about 150% by hour five. At about eight hours, it has exhausted the food supply, and starts to fall. This information lets me get a good idea how long I'll have to let the bread dough rise for it to be fully risen (which is about four or five hours, and no more than eight).

And a final starter lesson: I began with whole wheat flour, as mentioned above. For a while, I continued to feed it wheat flour. This led to abject bread failure number one (see below) and a starter that clearly had some life going on, but wasn't really jumping out of the jar. Eventually, I transitioned over to feeding it white flour, and this made a huge difference. While they may have come from wheat flour, my starter yeasties really like to eat white flour. Perhaps the finer milling makes more of the food available faster? I don't know, but I would recommend transitioning any starter to white flour feed after a week or so. Mixing flour types in your starter won't harm it. It's all just glucose to the yeast.


Attempts one and two to make actual bread from my starter were abject failures. I learned something from each though. Mainly, I learned that my starter wasn't ready yet, but that's not all.

Attempt number one was made far too early. My starter didn't have nearly the CO2 production power it needed to actually rise a dough. I ended up with a rock-hard lump of petrified flour. But I also learned that the traditional form of a sourdough loaf (a dome shape, basically) requires a pretty stiff dough to hold its shape for the long rising process. If you're accustomed to making yeast bread in a loaf pan, you'll want your dough to be a lot firmer than you're used to making. Of course, you can make sourdough in any shape you like. But I wanted the dome loaf, so that's something to note.

Attempt number two was made later on, when my starter had more power, but still not enough. I tried to make rolls, thinking the smaller pieces of dough would have an easier time rising, but no dice. Here too, I re-learned the stiff dough lesson. The rising process of sourdough also tends to make the dough progressively more wet, as gluten is consumed and alcohol excreted, so a very stiff dough will soften over time. If it starts out exactly as wet as you want it to finish up, it will end up far too soft, and will collapse. This is a totally unfamiliar experience in commercial-yeast baking, and very important to note.

Success at last!

After failures one and two, I decided to concentrate on the starter. So for a good month, I left it on the counter, fed it every day, and watched it pretty carefully. This was also the period when I transitioned to feeding it white flour.

A few days ago I gave it a feed in the mid afternoon. It rose pretty well, approximately doubling its volume. Before I went to bed that night, I didn't feed it again but I gave it a thorough stir. The next morning I looked at the jar and realized that my stir had prompted unknown heights of expansion. The high-tide line on the inside of the glass, where the starter had risen to before it fell back again, was almost three times the original level of the starter. This was something I hadn't ever seen.

I went through a few more feeding cycles to get a sense of how long everything took. I identified the timeline described earlier, and found that it was very consistent across feedings. Finally, it was ready.

My bread recipe was a slightly modified version of Ross's basic recipe in the article that started it all. It went as follows:

  1. Add a cup of water and a cup of flour to the starter and let it go through about three-quarters of a cycle. This should be the point when the yeast is most awake and active.
  2. Mix two cups of the proofed starter (called "sponge") from step one with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 4 teaspoons of sugar.
  3. Add flour one half cup at a time, until the dough just holds together.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. You don't want to do this too early, because salt is bad for yeast, but you need salt in there for the bread to rise properly, so do it about halfway through adding flour.
  5. Add more flour until you have a stiff bread dough. Ross calls for three cups of flour. I found that after two cups, I had a dough so dry I had to put in a little more sponge to moisten it. So the amount of flour all depends on how wet your starter is (which will vary a lot) and what kind of flour you're using. This just has to be done by feel.
  6. Now knead for at least fifteen minutes. Like any bread, you need to develop the gluten to make little elastic pockets for the yeast to fill with CO2.

That's all there is to the dough. When I had a good elastic dough, I stretched and rolled it into a ball with a good tight skin on the outside, and placed it on the pan I intended to bake it on. I put a large glass bowl upside down over it, to keep the moisture in without actually touching the dough. I then put this whole thing in the oven, which was warmed slightly by its pilot light. You should be able to rise it wherever you normally rise bread.

After you make the dough, make sure you've got some extra sponge left. Give this a feed and put it back in your jar, because it's your starter for next time.

Then you wait, much longer than you'd wait for processed-yeast dough. My bread took about four hours to rise all the way. You can tell if it's risen by poking it gently. When it's still rising, it will feel very tight, and the dent you make will spring right back from the gas pressure inside. When it's done rising your finger dent will stay poked-in.

When the rise is done, slit the top with a sharp serrated knife dipped in cold water, and bake! Ross calls for starting in a cold oven which you let heat up to 350 degrees with the bread in it. I simply popped it in a 500 degree oven, but honestly I'm not that happy with how the crust came out, so I might try his suggestion next time. You are free to choose your own baking method.

When it's golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped, it's done. Let it cool completely before you cut it. Then slice and enjoy some of the best goddamn toast you will ever have.

Only the Beginning

This article just touches on the bare bones of sourdough. You can make any kind of bread as a sourdough, you can use the stuff for rolls, pizza dough, or any other bread product you can imagine. There's a whole bunch of sites with much more info about sourdough out there. One of the best I've found is Sourdough Home, which is a little hard to navigate but has a lot of useful info. Caveat lector though, as I've found many sites perpetuating untrue sourdough myths and giving some really dumb advice.

The above is also by far not the easiest way to obtain good sourdough bread. In fact, it's probably the hardest way. Easier ways include going to your local grocery store or bakery and buying some, purchasing or getting a proven starter from a friend, or buying a sourdough mix. But if you're interested in the process of baking as much as the results, stubborn enough to want to make something that is wholly yours, and perhaps have a bit of a scientific turn of mind, you might find sourdough baking a fun and satisfying hobby.

1 Not really.
2 Technically, the actual bread as baked also contains salt, oil, and a little sugar, but those things are not necessary, merely desirable.


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I bake bread
o No 39%
o Yes, but never sourdough 37%
o I've made yeast bread, and sourdough from a mix 10%
o I've grown my own starter 10%
o I have a stable of starters from all over the world 1%

Votes: 156
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o 1
o 2
o Sourdough Baking: The Basics
o article that started it all
o Sourdough Home
o 1 [2]
o 2 [2]
o Also by rusty

Display: Sort:
Sourdough Success! | 179 comments (161 topical, 18 editorial, 0 hidden)
You mention (4.00 / 2) (#2)
by sasquatchan on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 10:36:22 AM EST

the acidophilus/lactobacillus bacteria, but where does it come from ? I understand the natural/"wild" yeasts in the flour and what not, but the other bacteria gotta come from somewhere, and intuition says bacteria that live off of lactose/milk sugar wouldn't naturally be found on flour -- no food there ..

I mention this because most every sourdough recipe I've seen (never tried, though we've gotten starter before) lists milk as an ingredient -- you get the starter from an evil friend or grandma (like those friendship cakes, ugh), mix it daily, on odd days add 1/2cup flour and water, every 4th day add 1/4 cup sugar, and on 7th day add milk, on the 14th day it's usually ready to go.

So where's the beef ?
-- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.

Who knows (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 10:42:12 AM EST

I might have that detail wrong. There's some kind of bacteria in there, but maybe it's not a lacto-. I had that same thought writing this. Lemme see if I can find out for sure what kind of bacteria it is.

I do know that milk is not a required ingredient. Many sourdough recipes use variuous shortcuts to sort of simulate or speed up the process, and using milk might be one way to get fast bacteria on the cheap. But I can say for sure that there is some sort of bacteria action going on in there, even without milk.

Further research coming...

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Yeah, it is lactobacilli (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 10:46:53 AM EST

Apparently lactobacilli can metabolize glucose and maltose in an anaerobic environment. So the CO2 from the yeast produces an environment that the bacteria can live in, and they eat of some of the sugars from the flour.

References with more info here and here (scroll down to the bottom).

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Interesting (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by sasquatchan on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:15:55 AM EST

So I'll guess the bacteria is there in the wild, or picked up from the air ? (like some Belgian (? open-fermented type) ales that pick up flavoring from bacteria in the air when fermenting)..

None of those pages mentioned milk in sour dough sponge/starter. Interesting. A lite search of google shows plenty of recipes with milk, but no explanation of the difference. Did your research say much about "shortcuts" and their effect on the end result? (Though the NYX.net link was waaay more scientific than most cooks would care to know :)
-- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.
[ Parent ]

Lambic ales (4.00 / 1) (#116)
by mouserar on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 08:44:45 AM EST

are the ones that are semi-wild fermented. They are stored in a location that is known to harbor the yeastie beasties.

...makes my clumsy fumblings look like the premature ejaculations of a chess club nerd getting it on with twin cheerleading Homecoming Queens... - Rog
Parent ]
and they are so damned yummy. (1.00 / 2) (#164)
by joschi on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 06:02:10 PM EST

after my little sourdough experiment i'm going to see if i can find any home lambic recipies.

[ Parent ]
From your own untidy habits (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by KWillets on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:39:48 AM EST

Lactobacilli live in the air and all over.  If you've ever done the biology experiment where you leave a Petri dish out for a while and see what grows, that's the kind of bacteria we're talking about.

[ Parent ]
Lactobacillus is everywhere (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by epepke on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 01:43:01 PM EST

It's a problem to keep them out, not include them. Lactobacillus is everywhere. And it's called "lactobacillus" because of what it produces (lactic acid) rather than what it eats (practically everything).

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
I cannot in all honesty support this effort (3.83 / 12) (#9)
by marcos on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:08:36 AM EST

I have been working actively for the PETB (people for the ethical treatment of bacteria) in the last few years, and we very much condemn the senseless murder of bacteria.

At least 5 million living things thrust into a gas oven and burnt to death. Does this remind you of anything else?

Say NO to genocide against bacteria! Your dog is a pet, but remember, you have a pet that actively takes care of you (in your mouth, for example). That is your PET B, and the PET B is an important pet.

Shortly actually, we will be airing our video on Al Jazeera showing the alternative pets being killed in the thousands, and not a soul protesting. I personally drafted a letter to Arafat asking him to remove the bacteria from the suicide bombers mouths and other orifices before their being sent on suicide missions. The men might have volunteered, but did the Bacteria indicate their willingness to die?

Say NO!

But... (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by nixterino on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 03:11:30 PM EST

Yeast aren't bacteria. They're much more advanced. On the tree of life, humans are much closer to yeast than to bacteria. Being on the computational side of bioinformatics I can't remember the significant differences - something about nuclei?

[ Parent ]
yeast only makes it rise (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by scruffyMark on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 05:05:24 PM EST

Bacteria is what makes it sour.

If yeast is all you want, just dump a couple teaspoons of dry yeast into some water a couple hours before you want to bake. Then you'd have plain old bread

[ Parent ]

also see (3.33 / 3) (#10)
by chu on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:09:17 AM EST

http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2003/3/15/396/25012/138#138 - hysterical account of sourdough making and near divorce

only leisure class can afford this sourdough crap (1.66 / 6) (#11)
by sye on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:09:29 AM EST

For people who have a life to earn, i highly recommend "Spring River Villa"'s fish head tofu soup . The trick for foreigners who never liked bones or the taste of bone marrows ( according to oriental wisdom, bone marrows are most nutritious ) is to open the can half way so fish head remains in the can when tofu and soup are being poured out. You have to boil the soup. It tastes good while hot and bad when it gets cold.

commentary - For a better sye@K5
ripple me ~~> ~allthingsgo: gateway to Garden of Perfect Brightess in CNY/BTC/LTC/DRK
rubbing u ~~> ~procrasti: getaway to HE'LL
Hey! at least he was in a stable relationship. - procrasti
enter K5 via Blastar.in

That explains why (2.00 / 1) (#17)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:33:29 AM EST

subsistence farmers do it this way.

Tablet is the wrong medicinal analogy: suppository more adequately describes the Smart Display experience. - Rupert Goodwins

[ Parent ]
you are right about that (n/t) (1.00 / 1) (#53)
by sye on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 02:57:09 PM EST

commentary - For a better sye@K5
ripple me ~~> ~allthingsgo: gateway to Garden of Perfect Brightess in CNY/BTC/LTC/DRK
rubbing u ~~> ~procrasti: getaway to HE'LL
Hey! at least he was in a stable relationship. - procrasti
enter K5 via Blastar.in
[ Parent ]

Making bread (1.58 / 24) (#15)
by A Proud American on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:16:32 AM EST

Folks, the only people who actually make their own bread are the Wonder family.  Anyone else who attempts it, especially by hand and from scratch, seriously needs to examine other hobbies.  Their time, energy, and money could all be much better spent helping a charity or leading a church group.

Bread making is a myth perpetuated by the incessant giving, re-giving, and re-regiving of break making machines as wedding and birthday presents.  See Old School for more details.

The weak are killed and eaten...

Bah. You know not the joys (4.33 / 6) (#16)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:31:42 AM EST

of making and experimenting with new bread recipes. My own inventions include making bread with cold coffee instead of water (makes a strong brown bread great for soup or chile) and a multi-grain bread using oats, whole-wheat or rye and white flour.

Both are delicious. Recently I branched out into making homemade sticky buns (cinnamon rolls for you heathens) - thereby ensuring that my wife will never, never, leave me.

And, yeah, I use the bread maker to do all the grunt work of kneading the dough. I just show up when it's done the hard work, shape the loaf on a baking stone and take the credit.

Tablet is the wrong medicinal analogy: suppository more adequately describes the Smart Display experience. - Rupert Goodwins

[ Parent ]
White flour (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by KWillets on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:49:55 AM EST

It's likely that the microfauna are benefitting from the diastatic enzymes in the white flour, which break down starch into more digestible glucose and maltose.  For some reason whole grain flours omit the barley malt that is typically added to bread flour.

I've started adding 1 tsp. malted wheat to my whole wheat bread, and the difference is dramatic.

Do you have something against (1.09 / 33) (#26)
by A Proud American on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:02:37 PM EST

... whites?

The weak are killed and eaten...

[ Parent ]
Wow. (4.00 / 1) (#48)
by woem on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 02:47:04 PM EST

You've just proven to me that you don't really care to contribute to a discussion, merely blather on about inane bits. You just gained my first permanent, broad-scale 1 rating.
i either +1fp or -1. no exceptions. i ♥ turmeric.
the only class that should be discriminated against is the stupid.

[ Parent ]
Very sweet. (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:52:30 AM EST

Nice. Beware all your baking friends though - the y'll be hitting you up for starter.

BTW - would you send me half if I paid the fex ex fees?


Tablet is the wrong medicinal analogy: suppository more adequately describes the Smart Display experience. - Rupert Goodwins

FedEx? (3.50 / 2) (#25)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:00:34 PM EST

I don't know, it might get damaged in transit. :-)

Actually, if this starter turns out to be viable, I plan to dry some of it, and I really like Carl's practice of giving some to anyone who sends an envelope. So I'll probably do that.

Of course, all starters need a variety name, so I think I'll call it the Godforsaken Island starter. Give me a little more time with it though.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Well you know (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by sasquatchan on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:34:41 PM EST

the exposure to the sea-salt air must imbue a very distinct and local flavour that can't easily be reproduced in the kitchens of suburbia.
-- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.
[ Parent ]
USPS? (none / 0) (#156)
by Ian Clelland on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 05:14:11 AM EST

Did the USPS ever act on the plans to irradiate all postal mail? You know, just in case it contained any biological agents? If so, it might make shipping the poor defenseless yeasties a bit more difficult.

[ Parent ]
Radiation! Pah! (none / 0) (#158)
by rusty on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 08:59:21 AM EST

I doubt that would kill them. I mean, it might kill a few, but there are hundreds or thousands of billions. No way it'd kill all of them. Postal radiation isn't that powerful, I don't think.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Postal irradiation -- significant concern (2.50 / 2) (#166)
by kmself on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 11:44:20 PM EST

This was in fact a major concern for seed companies, many of which have based their existence on the USPS. A Google search turns up several references, here's one on the Canadian perspective and another voicing general concerns. No hard data in my quick search, but you're welcome to do your own homework ;-) Ah. Seed industry bypasses mail over fears of irradiation . Typical security response: added inconvenience of new security features leads to users accessing backdoors....

Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Why is this getting positive votes? (1.87 / 24) (#29)
by A Proud American on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:19:54 PM EST

As of right now, the poll shows that at least 80% of all voters do not make their own bread.  Yet, I see that the majority of positive votes are for Front Page status for this piece.

What gives?  Is this just changing our priorities to suit Rusty's article?  I like him as much as the next guy, but if 4 out of 5 do-it-yourself Kuro5hin types don't even make bread, why should this article be displayed on our Front Page (it's not Rusty's Front Page, it's the Community's Front Page; we pay the bills here).

The weak are killed and eaten...

So scientific (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by misfit13b on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:54:01 PM EST

Thanks for reminding us all on how accurate poll results are. Especially ones with 18 votes tallied as of when I wrote this reply.

Whining's not going to change anything. Vote your -1 and move on.

[ Parent ]
Well written and interesting... (5.00 / 2) (#38)
by lurker4hire on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:55:51 PM EST

articles with real substantive content are worth a +1 regardless of whether or not one actually bakes bread.

[ Parent ]
Oh, OK (1.87 / 8) (#41)
by A Proud American on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 01:00:14 PM EST

I guess my 40 page How-To on setting up a Linux server will definitely get published by Nature, then.  I mean, after all, if it's good, publish it (even if you're audience doesn't give two shits)!!!

The weak are killed and eaten...

[ Parent ]
mmm... baking with linux (4.66 / 3) (#45)
by lurker4hire on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 02:11:34 PM EST

Why not try and find out?

Seriously though, I'm guessing the votes indicate that the audience gives at least two shits. I voted up this article for the same reason I voted up CheeseBurgerBrown's series about pregnancy. Even though I have no interest in having children, I found the articles interesting and well written, particularly interesting because it was a subject I was not familiar with.

[ Parent ]

Baking with Linux? (4.00 / 2) (#101)
by Drooling Iguana on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 02:52:16 AM EST

I think that's more commonly referred to as "overclocking."

[ Parent ]
two shits (4.00 / 6) (#46)
by ucblockhead on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 02:21:14 PM EST

Given that this article made it to the front page, one assumes that it was something that the audience did indeed give two (or more) shits about.

It's easy to tell when the k5 audience doesn't give two shits about a story. It's when it gets voted down. I believe you have some experience with that.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Heh (1.64 / 14) (#50)
by A Proud American on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 02:52:24 PM EST

Typical Intellectual Whore response ;-)

I'll be thinking of you tonight when I'm fucking a 10.

The weak are killed and eaten...

[ Parent ]

sweet dreams (nt) (3.50 / 4) (#54)
by ucblockhead on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 02:57:50 PM EST

This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Mmmm, Both hands [nt] (none / 0) (#183)
by monkeymind on Wed Apr 23, 2003 at 06:41:03 AM EST

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.
[ Parent ]

Ah, but the audience does give more than two shit (4.66 / 3) (#47)
by Siddhi on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 02:44:35 PM EST

I do not make bread. I will not make bread in the near future. But I would have +1 this had I been around when it was in voting. Why ? Because it is interesting to read. Because the discussion is good.

Its like the sushi article. I dont make sushi. I didnt plan to make sushi either. But the article gave me enough motivation to go out and actually try making some, something which I hadn't planned for.

[ Parent ]

Because (3.00 / 1) (#39)
by tokugawa on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:56:51 PM EST

It is interesting in a if world governments start falling and the bread distribution system starts to crumble in major urban areas then I have the knowledge, the power, to make my own sourdough bread.

[ Parent ]
Educational? (4.00 / 2) (#42)
by sypher on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 01:09:39 PM EST

Perhaps the people voting the article up did not know how to make bread before learning how. I know I will be giving it a try, and I will vote it up too, so I can read what other tips people will add to the comments. Good clean tasty fun!

I dreamt of it once, now I fear it dreams of me
[ Parent ]
What-ev-er (4.40 / 5) (#57)
by x3nophil3 on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 04:12:00 PM EST

Did it occur to you that those 80% are in fact precisely the same group of people who are most likely to be interested in learning how to bake bread, and thus interested in this article?

Yeesh. Think man, think.

[ Parent ]

You're right (2.22 / 9) (#59)
by A Proud American on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 04:25:34 PM EST

It's well documented that the typical American dream consists of learning how to make text files in an obscure geek's computer operating system, as well as learning how to make one's own bread.

I bow in forgiveness.

The weak are killed and eaten...

[ Parent ]

The American Dream (3.00 / 1) (#60)
by ucblockhead on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 04:30:49 PM EST

Are you kidding? Yuppies spend a fortune to bake bread.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Gender confusion (1.28 / 14) (#76)
by ubu on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 08:51:23 PM EST

Baking bread is womens' occupation. That K5 in general — and Rusty, in particular — is so confused on this point hardly shocks the imagination, but it betrays the fundamentally effeminate underpinnings of most geek "culture" anymore.


As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Real men (4.12 / 8) (#78)
by ucblockhead on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 09:14:04 PM EST

Real men are secure enough in their sexuality that they don't worry about whether something is "for girls".
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Being secure in your sexuality is for girls (4.20 / 5) (#82)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 10:03:47 PM EST

Sissy. ;-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Why is it? (1.21 / 14) (#83)
by ubu on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 10:30:38 PM EST

...that homos always think gender roles are sexually significant? Again, that confusion thing.


As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Huh? (4.50 / 2) (#136)
by ucblockhead on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:40:35 PM EST

Oh I get it...you think that you'll upset me by implying that I'm gay...
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Sourdough (3.33 / 3) (#30)
by engine16 on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:20:49 PM EST

is the greatest bread ever developed. I cook it daily. +1.

Ape Infinitum

Heat is not the only thing toxic to yeast (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by x3nophil3 on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:42:54 PM EST


After some bad bread mishaps, I have to add that salt will kill yeast. When making bread always sift the salt into the flour before adding the yeast.

When I first started making bread, I made the mistake of dumping the water + yeast solution directly into a well in the flour wich had salt in it. Dead yeast makes for disappointing bread (matza anyone?).

Oops (2.00 / 1) (#34)
by x3nophil3 on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:47:59 PM EST

Re-read more closesly and noticed rusty mentioned this. Ah well.

[ Parent ]
Organic flours (4.80 / 5) (#35)
by x3nophil3 on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:52:33 PM EST

Another side tip. If you have a health food store nearby, organic flour is a whole new level of bread experience. I'm no organic food zealot, but unbleached organic bread flour yields bread that is so much more flavourful than heavily processed mass-produced flour. Bread is all about impurities.

And somehow the crazy 'organic food' markup doesn't hurt so much when your buying something that's under 1$ a pound.

Good point (5.00 / 2) (#37)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:55:05 PM EST

Also organic flour, and especially stone-ground organic flours, are reputed to be very good for getting a starter going. Basically, the less processing the flour has been through, the more wild yeasts are likely to be living in it.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Question for the trolls (2.22 / 9) (#40)
by Terence J Crewcut on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 12:58:47 PM EST

For a while I kept seeing people asking about the CMF, but I haven't seen that around lately. Seems like a story bound for the Front Page would be the ideal place to do that kind of trolling. Not that I'm suggesting or condoning that--personally I think rusty's doing a bang-up job. I'm just trying to stay hip the current trolling trends. Sorry for the intrusion and thanks in advance.

Starter questions (4.33 / 3) (#49)
by phunbalanced on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 02:47:51 PM EST

What I don't understand, is do you use all the starter to make your sponge?  Or can you just start with extra starter so that when you make your sponge you have some left?

I'm a bit confused how you keep the colony going, so that you don't have to start from scratch everytime.  Maybe you're supposed to start from scratch everytime?

no (5.00 / 3) (#56)
by scatbubba on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 04:08:32 PM EST

there is plenty left over. You can get a good starter going and bake frequently from the same starter.

[ Parent ]
Starter (5.00 / 3) (#58)
by ucblockhead on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 04:22:08 PM EST

There's batches of starter in San Francisco that they've kept going since the 1840s.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Indeed (3.50 / 2) (#69)
by ender81b on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 06:47:57 PM EST

I work at a local restaruant and we have some sourdough starter that has lasted, so far, 24 years.

[ Parent ]
Pretty much unkillable (4.00 / 2) (#73)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 07:19:10 PM EST

The stuff is basically unkillable, except for heat. But temperatures consistently above 120 are rare outside of an oven, so in a natural environment,it'll last pretty much forever.

I just read today that some settlers would use sourdough starter to patch holes in their cabin walls, because when it dries, it is like cement (I should have mentioned that in the article. Do not let the stuff dry on your dishes!). They've actually soaked and revived some of the wall-patch starter, which has just sat around in the elements for 150 years.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Ah, memories (none / 0) (#126)
by jabber on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 11:13:29 AM EST

My first job was at a pizza shop. The guys that ran it had started their dough the day they bought the place, and kept it going for years. Then, when they changed locations, they bought a new shop, new ovens, new everything. The only thing they took with them was the dough.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

You use about half each time. (4.66 / 3) (#61)
by x3nophil3 on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 04:52:09 PM EST

It depends how much starter you have, of course, but most recipes I've read say to develop the starter until you have about double the volume you need, then split it and use half for sponge, and keep feeding the other half for next time.

[ Parent ]
No, don't start from scratch! (5.00 / 2) (#65)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 05:35:30 PM EST

It doesn't really matter that much how you do it, actually. Just so long as you make sure you add enough food into your starter to have more than enough sponge for your recipe. Whatever sponge you don't use is the starter for next time.

I had about a cup of starter, and fed it a cup of water and a cup of flour to make the sponge. I needed two cups of sponge, so when it was all mixed together and foamy (thus much greater in volume than the ingredients would suggest), I had about a cup left over. I gave that another feeding of 1/2 cup water and 3/4 cup flour, and put it back in the jar.

If you have a lot of starter, you could just use part of it in the sponge. The key thing to realize is that "sponge" and "starter" are the exact same thing. Sponge is just starter that you've fed and let sit until it got all foamy.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Diluted starter (3.00 / 1) (#85)
by Moebius on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:52:36 PM EST

I'm a bit confused though - you say to start with rye or wheat flour, and then switch to feeding it with normal bleached white flour. But since you throw out half of the mixture each time you feed it, don't you end up evenually losing most of the original yeast, gradually replacing it with plain white flour yeast?

[ Parent ]
Many baby yeasts (4.00 / 1) (#105)
by 31: on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 03:41:02 AM EST

While not a bread expert, a bit of beer experience may come in handy here... yeast goes crazy with the reproduction around sugar in a little warmth.  At the bottom of my carboys (what the beer does it's fermentation in), there's usually several inches of dead yeast and other sediment, and every bottle has at the bottom almost as much yeast as was pitched into a 5 gallon batch at the beginning.

So you'll end up getting some yeast from the white flour, but at each step you'll have more from the first step my a large magnitude.  Eventually the original wheat's yeast's descendants would be outnumbered, but i don't think it would be for a while (you'd have to figure out the growth rate, then it'd be pretty easy to figure out...)

And even so, it sounds like the whole or rye wheat is just used because it has more yeast, not because it's 'better' yeast.

Maybe rusty should take his yacht to belgium, and see if he can do a starter in an abby attic... makes for good beer, maybe it would make for more interesting bread?

[ Parent ]

Sterilization (none / 0) (#117)
by rusty on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 08:45:28 AM EST

Actually, some people sterilize the flour they feed their starter, either by baking it in the oven for a bit or mixing it with boiling water, letting it cool, and using that mixture as food. You do get some new yeasts each time you add flour, but in general it's not a big deal unless you've got some kind of super-special unique flavor from your starter that you really want to preserve at all costs.

The greatest likelihood is that the yeasts on your food flour are the same variety as those in your starter already, and also your point about the sheer numbers of them is right. There are <Carl Sagan>billions and billions</Carl> of yeasts in every teaspoon of starter. The relative few from the food probably either get overwhelmed or join the party.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Hooray for Carl Sagan and his goofy accent! (none / 0) (#177)
by PowerPimp on Tue Apr 22, 2003 at 06:31:06 AM EST

<Carl Sagan>billions and billions</Carl>


You'd better take care of me God; otherwise, you'll have me on your hands...
[ Parent ]
Dump half? (none / 0) (#125)
by jabber on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 11:10:56 AM EST

Early on in the article, you say to "dump half out". Can you elaborate on this step? It got me a bit confused.

Do you actually discard half of your starter, and make only half the Buddists cry? Or can you split the starter in half, and make more? Do you do this split at each feeding? Or only at the first?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Volume control (plus pancake recipe) (5.00 / 1) (#127)
by rusty on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 11:59:10 AM EST

Basically, you want to double the volume of the starter at each feeding. So if you have one cup of starter, you want to feed it one cup of flour/water mix. The problem is that if you keep doing this, you'll rapidly end up with huge vats of starter, more than you could ever possibly need. All you really neeed to keep on hand is at most about a cup and a half of starter.

So when you've got the volume you want, the usual technique is to throw half of it out, and replace that same volume with fresh flour/water. You don't actually have to discard the part you get rid of, though there's no compelling reason not to. If you feed in the morning, the starter you were going to throw away will make some delicious pancakes. In fact, I just made some this morning, and they're very good. Here's what you do:

  • Take one cup of starter
  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil to it, and stir
  • Beat one egg and stir that in
  • Stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • Stir in 1/2 to 3/4 cup flour (amount of flour depends on how wet your starter is -- you want to end up with something that's the consistency of a very thick pancake batter)
  • In a separate bowl, mix some milk (say about 1/3 cup), one teaspoon of baking soda, and a pinch of salt. Stir up.
  • Add milk and stuff to batter and whisk thoroughly.
  • Add milk and/or flour to get the consistency you like. Thicker batter makes fluffier pancakes, thinner batter makes flatter pancakes.
  • Let the batter sit for five or ten minutes.
  • Cook on hot griddle
They're really good. Like, really really good. You can also use excess starter to make rolls, or whatever. You can dry it, by laying out some wax paper on a pan and spreading the starter out in a thin layer over it. Leave it to sit for a few days till it dries out completely, then crumble it up and keep in in a ziplock bag.

But if you haven't got time or inspiration for anything else, yes, you can just dump it down the sink, and the Buddhists will just have to live with it. And you do repeat this each time, if the feeding would mean that you'd end up with more starter than you need. If you're feeding the leftovers from your sponge and you've only got a little starter, there's no need to throw any of it away. Like I said, it's just done as needed to keep the volume under control.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

In San Francisco... (none / 0) (#137)
by Ricdude on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:51:44 PM EST

At one of the (oldest) bakeries in San Francisco, they make sourdough from a starter which has been kept alive for over 150 years.

The recipe I had when I was experimenting with sourdough, went something like:  Combine one cup flour and one cup milk (it might have recommended adding active yeast, too).  Let sit.  Every use (or once a week at least), remove one cup of starter, and replace with one cup flour and one cup water, alternating between water and milk every week.   I made a reasonable batch or two in my bread machine, before having to move, and discarding my starter.  

I also let mine sit in an open window, to try and catch wild yeasties.  Not an experiment for the faint-hearted.

[ Parent ]

Best...Title...EVER (5.00 / 7) (#51)
by BenJackson on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 02:54:17 PM EST

Sourdough Success! (Culture)

Am I the only one who cracked up at this? Sorry I missed my chance to make this an editorial comment.

Thank god (4.00 / 2) (#63)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 05:30:02 PM EST

Someone got it. :-)

Actually "culture" would probably be the right section anyway, but considering the subject, it was a must.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

A must? (4.00 / 2) (#79)
by onallama on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 09:47:05 PM EST

But this was about breadbaking, not winemaking... ;-)

[ Parent ]
Nope. (1.00 / 2) (#74)
by YelM3 on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 07:22:52 PM EST

Please explain.

[ Parent ]
Huge number of cooking/food articles (4.42 / 7) (#52)
by Siddhi on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 02:54:31 PM EST

Personally I like it. Maybe food deserves its own section ? These topics seem to be always popular, they generate good, wholesome discussion and are fun and interesting. It looks like all of us geeks have a hidden, supressed fascination with cooking :)

I never used to cook very much (always used to eat out). I read some cooking articles on k5, and thought, yeah maybe I should give this a try. I now cook dinner every day (almost) to the point of being deeply interested in cooking.

Sounds good. (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by La Camiseta on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 05:59:34 PM EST

Maybe merge Technology and Science into Techno-Science or something and free up a section for Food.

[ Parent ]
Food sectioning (3.66 / 3) (#87)
by ZorbaTHut on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:13:53 AM EST

Merge "Food" and "Fiction" - keep people guessing! Is that recipe real, or just the product of a deranged mind? Try it and find out!

[ Parent ]
Geeks and cooking (none / 0) (#102)
by Krazor on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 02:57:33 AM EST

Quite a number of the scientists and geeks I talk to say they like cooking because it is the closest thing they get to experimental chemistry these days.

Maybe this is true of K5 readers too?

[ Parent ]
Why geeks like cooking (5.00 / 1) (#141)
by breuwi on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 03:55:27 PM EST

I used to get excited over getting new computer gadgets, buy all the latest software, and play with it. Now, I find that I'm bored with the gadget aspect of computers. I have a decent system that does what I want and I'm not waiting around for it to do anything like in the old days. And the latest version of Office doesn't really do anything new that I care about. I find that my lab has way nicer stuff than I could buy, anyway.

So I find that I've transferred my gadget love to the kitchen. There are a lot of cool things to buy to satisfy my gadget lust (even though some of them might strictly be just as useless). Like chocolate dipping forks, a French copper pan specifically for boiling sugar, or a very nice knife.

Also, there is the craft and learning aspect of it. Geeks like learning new things and becoming very good at them. For all of the superhuman programmers around here, or at least me :), when learning the latest language or framework, it doesn't really feel like you're learning much new. But with cooking, at least initially, there is an opportunity to learn great deal of skill.

You might also consider the hand workout of kneading bread may help your carpal-tunnel, standing up once in a while helps your circulation, and girls like chocolate.

[ Parent ]
ode to food. (none / 0) (#181)
by chimera on Tue Apr 22, 2003 at 10:04:04 PM EST

geeks are geeks cause we fancy the Good Things In Life. toys, work, nifty ideas and abundant sex. good food is widely considered part of the Good Things In Life.

geeks eat. more importantly geeks understand the larger schemes of energy intake.

geeks likes to fiddle around with complexity AND simplicity in combinations. food is utterly complex and yet so simple.

geeks are generally intellectually wellequipped, especially in comparison to marketroids, hence geeks do really appreciate the good work done in good food instead of seeing foodtime as YAOTAOC (Yet Another Opportunity To Advance Ones Career) equivalently  YATtLA (figure that one out)

geeks, especially american ones, are trendspotters. transatlantic flamewars, ahead-of-the-curve thinking, all out perfectionism, abandonware. you name it. the finns have always known to have a good drink when they spotted one.

geeks are generally well aware of history. food is very important in history. lots of flamers dies early byandlarge by food.

geeks really dont like 'alternative' rock. geeks like classical music, which goes way good with food. for example, classical music improves the state of vegetables prior to featurelocking.

geeks like acronyms. lots of acronyms in bacteriology (sp?).

food as well as bread go well with free beer. geeks percieve this.

[ Parent ]

More to come? (4.00 / 7) (#64)
by electricmonk on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 05:34:46 PM EST

I'm waiting for Part II: Rusty Gets a Yeast Infection.

"There are only so many ways one can ask [Jon Katz] what it's like to be buried to the balls in a screaming seven-year-old" - Ian

You're supposed to cook the bread first... (none / 0) (#113)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 07:30:46 AM EST

BEFORE you do that... stuff... to it.

Tablet is the wrong medicinal analogy: suppository more adequately describes the Smart Display experience. - Rupert Goodwins

[ Parent ]
Editorial (4.75 / 4) (#68)
by ComradeFork on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 06:07:32 PM EST

It's articles like this that I actually read Kuro5hin for. Rather than the huge amount of politics, I much prefer reading articles on how to actually do things, not just form opinions.

So, all you article writers out there! Write more constructive articles like this one (hopefully about programming language -grin-), and you get free +1 FPs! Not the +1 FP rusty payed me to do :P

I agree (4.00 / 1) (#84)
by Moebius on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:49:17 PM EST

One of the wise things k5 (vs. the Other Site) did was adopt the wider motto "Technology and Culture, from the Trenches." It's geeks talking to other geeks about all sorts of things in an intelligent and interesting manner. We can have nice articles about what it's like to run a p0rn site, how to bake bread, commuting by bike, Zen meditiation and other fascinating (and well written, from a hackish point of view) articles along side every report about Microsoft, XHTML standards and NetHack tournaments -- without people complaining it's not "news for nerds." Stuff like this (along with the tech stuff and the politics) are what make k5 worth visiting. And bookmarking, frequently.

[ Parent ]
Me too (4.00 / 1) (#88)
by CAIMLAS on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:51:36 AM EST

Agreed whole-heartedly. K5 could disappear if it weren't for good articles like this. Thanks rusty. :)

To add something: the best sourdough bread I've ever had had black olives cooked into it. They retained their olive flavor, enhanced the bread's flavor, and absorbed some of the 'sour' flavor as well.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

Indeed. (5.00 / 1) (#93)
by CAIMLAS on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 01:12:23 AM EST

By a "good" K5 post, I mean a combination of the following traits: interesting, unique, educational, humorously written, and/or thought provoking. This article covered all but 'thought provoking', as far as I'm concerned.

As far as associative herd thought, I disagree. It only follows rationally that since this is rusty's site, that he would have the best grasp on the types of articles to post, etc. I personally didn't even know he posted it until after I'd finished reading the write-up and had already decided that it was good.

Additionally, you can sod off and die if you don't like something, or you can keep it to yourself. There's something called 'tactfully disagreeing' and what you posted was not that.

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

Assessment of the K5 Troll, (published 2003) (5.00 / 1) (#107)
by CAIMLAS on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 04:58:59 AM EST

You never read the written by part at the top?

Don't you think that question is a bit redundant, since I <u>did</u> just say that I didn't?

I will assume from that....interesting colloqualism that you are either British, European or both.

Nope, I'm a pig-headed and ignorant American - much like yourself, it would seem!

As long as I see totally biased minimal government liberal attitudes written by people who wear tie die and smoke pot all day I will continue to post and debunk their attitudes.

I'm what you might describe as a non-drinking, non-smoking, "straightedge" Republican/Libertarian with a penchant for military apparel - dress and BDU. What is it, exactly, that you're contending with me? Or do you not offer any mettle or mental forte to contest with?

There have been 2, count them 2 articles about bakeing bread of various types!

What kind of ignorant person thinks that this is informative?

So you're telling me that you knew, prior to this article, the subtle nuances that go into the making of sourdough bread without the store-bought packet? Or did you even read the article? And you're saying that anyone that did not know this outdated fact (at least in the western world) is ignorant?

If modern society ends in our lifetime, then I suspect that if we ever met in the void desert lands of the future, you would be able to provide me with a slice of bread? Obviously you would have the knowledge to make it from scratch. Who wouldn't?

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

Levels of Education (none / 0) (#160)
by DoctorD on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 11:17:30 AM EST

People must really not get out much do they? Bakeing bread is MUNDANE and anyone who has gone through a simple cooking class in junior high or high school in the United States in the public school system should know at the very least how to find this information and very possibly how to do the actual act.

I'm not sure what uppity junior high or high school you went to in the US.  But when I took Home Economics in jr. high we cooked mac & cheese -- from  a box!  There were people who had no idea how to boil water, which burner to put the pot on or even something like salting the water to cook the pasta in.  Did I learn how to make bread from scratch, especially without using store bought yeast?  Hell no.  Did I learn anything from that class other than how to sew--or how not to.... Yeah, I can make pizza dough from scratch--but I still use the store bought yeast packet.

I suggest you vist a jr. high or high scool today.  I suspect the experience would give you nightmares.  For example, I had to take the Ohio's 9th grade profficency test for statistics, I didn't need to pass it as a basis of graduation.  If you seen this test, and then saw how many high school freshmen couldn't even PASS it, you'd suddenly know how bad off America's Public Education System really is.  For a bit more direct example, when I was a senior I was a teaching assistant a couple days a week when my college class wasn't being held.  I was helping her freshmen algebra students with some problems.  These kids could not add numbers without the help of a calcuator.  They didn't even know how to add using their fingers.  So in their case 2 + 2 = 5

"If you insist on using Windoze you're on your own."
[ Parent ]

The Dear Leader.... (2.00 / 1) (#70)
by Tezcatlipoca on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 07:05:03 PM EST

... has gone bananas.

Or maybe he just managed to disguise his true nature of tortured frustrated chef long enough.

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?

The latter (4.00 / 3) (#71)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 07:15:10 PM EST

You can talk about the former when I write up my Guide to Perfect Banana Bread. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
PS: (4.00 / 4) (#72)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 07:15:55 PM EST

Isn't "Dear Leader" what they call Kim Jong Il (by law)? I'm not sure I like the sound of that. Don't make me re-educate you.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Since I started to post here... (none / 0) (#171)
by Tezcatlipoca on Mon Apr 21, 2003 at 05:59:28 PM EST

.... you are the first one that notices the sarcasm.

Well done D.L.

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
[ Parent ]

This "Perfect" Banana Bread (2.50 / 2) (#77)
by pyra on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 08:52:42 PM EST

had best involve coconut.

Or else...

Well, I couldn't really think of a good Or Else, so maybe you'll be let off the hook this time...

"It was half way to Rivendell when the drugs began to take hold" - Hunter S. Tolkien "Fear and Loathing in Barad Dur"
[ Parent ]

Acetone (5.00 / 2) (#75)
by MonkeyMan on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 08:31:38 PM EST

Back when I kept sourdough, occasionally the starter would pick up some bug from the environment and start smelling like acetone and would have to be thrown away. So if you are badly addicted to sourdough you might want to divide your starter into two containers and alternate between them.

How long until it's NOT a daily excercise? (3.00 / 1) (#80)
by tzanger on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 09:47:28 PM EST

Once you have your sponge and you're happy with it (and are storing it in the fridge) how often do you feed it? Do you let it come up to room temp to feed or do you feed it and put it back in the fridge right away? How do you properly care and feed your sponge AFTER it's healthy?

Feed it weekly (3.00 / 1) (#81)
by rusty on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 10:02:25 PM EST

I probably should have filled that in, huh? Well, when your starter is active and healthy, you can pop it in the fridge, which greatly slows down its metabolism. Then you only need to feed it weekly, or every two weeks or so.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Ok... (none / 0) (#122)
by tzanger on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 10:51:42 AM EST

Ok so you feed it weekly, but how do you feed it... Do you take it out, let it warm up for an hour, feed it, let it sit until it goes dormant again and pop it back in the fridge for another week? Or do you just pull it out, throw half away, mix in the 50/50 water/flour and throw it back in?

Can you freeze your sponge if you're going on vacation or aren't planning on baking bread for a while?

[ Parent ]
The latter (5.00 / 1) (#130)
by rusty on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:08:47 PM EST

From what I've read, it's better not to let it warm up. You want the yeasts to stay in their slowed-down feeding mode, so nothing good will come of letting it warm up. Just pull it out, chuck half, refill with flour and water, and put it right back in the fridge.

Also, starter in the fridge will tell you when it wants to be fed by forming a layer of "hooch," which is a darkish alcoholic liquid. When the hooch starts to collect, it's feeding time. You can pour off the hooch or stir it in, it doesn't really matter.

Freezing starter won't harm it, but isn't really necessary. You can leave it in the fridge indefinitely. If you don't get around to feeding it, no biggie. The yeast just goes dormant till there's more food around.

All you have to remember is two basic rules:

  1. Never add anything but flour and water to your starter.
  2. Never heat it past 120 degrees F.
If you follow those two rules, nothing else you can do will kill it.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Excellent. Great Story. Thank you. :-) [n/t] (none / 0) (#148)
by tzanger on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 09:45:18 PM EST

[ Parent ]
missed one... (5.00 / 1) (#154)
by vyesue on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 12:06:48 AM EST

3. never, ever, feed it after midnight. (1 and 2 are about you killing it, but remember: with a little help, it can kill *you*!

[ Parent ]
I think I speak for a lot of K5ers (4.33 / 3) (#86)
by groove10 on Thu Apr 17, 2003 at 11:59:31 PM EST

When I say that I wish I had enough time, motivation, and supplies to bake my own bread. I am a carbo-fiend and I have loved sourdough bread ever since I was a little kid growing up in California. There was this bakery in Bishop, CA called Schots I beleive that made some ridiculously good sourdough. Ah, rusty, I'm jealous, and hungry. Good article. I think I'll save it and try to make my own some day. Oh BTW, does sourdough come out differently if you use a prepackaged starter and cut the lead time down considerably?
Do you like D&D? How bout text-based MMORPGs? You need to try Everwars. It's better than shooting smack!
yes (none / 0) (#104)
by Trollaxor on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 03:00:38 AM EST


[ Parent ]
question (2.00 / 1) (#90)
by Trollaxor on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:56:16 AM EST

did you use rain water?

why that does matter (2.00 / 1) (#94)
by Trollaxor on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 01:16:44 AM EST

it's from nature.

[ Parent ]
XOXOXO (5.00 / 2) (#115)
by tkatchev on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 08:05:05 AM EST

Not. What about acid rain?

It was all the rage in the '80ies.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Old school (5.00 / 3) (#118)
by rusty on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 08:47:03 AM EST

Acid rain has since largely been replaced by acid house, jungle, and breakbeat.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
if ur flour is low on yeast (3.00 / 3) (#97)
by squidinkcalligraphy on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 01:22:51 AM EST

Consider obtaining some from other non-supermarket sources. A breadshop I used to work in got their starter started from grapes in a vineyard the owners had their honeymoon at (come to think of it, I don't really want to know what else went in the starter).


But anyway... back to the story; grapes have wild yeast on them. This is how wine ferments. So you can obtain some of this yeast by crushing some freshly picked grapes (I wouldn't trust ones bought from the store) and including them in the starter (also adds some sugar for the yeast to eat). Another way a friend suggested was to leave a bowl of dough (flour+water) underneath a grapevine for a day or so; the natural yeasts should fall into the bowl an help ur dough along.

I am curious as to the difference in taste between sourdoughs of different yeast origins.

An identity card is better that no identity at all

The grape theory (none / 0) (#119)
by rusty on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 08:52:18 AM EST

I've seen that advice elsewhere too. But I've also seen an argument against it, which made some sense. The theory is that the yeasts that live happily on grape skins probably eat different stuff than the yeasts that live in flour, so they're not likely to do you any good. I can't say whether it's true or not, all I know is that I (eventually) didn't have any trouble getting plenty of life out of flour alone.

There is a guy who's gone around and collected and analyzed starters from bakeries and homes all over the world. He would probably know.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Lots of stuff has yeast, including the air (none / 0) (#139)
by breuwi on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 03:25:34 PM EST

If you're interested in learning theory of baking I recommend Wayne Gisslen's "Professional Baking". It has lots of recipes, but focuses more on actual learning and generalization. For example, a bread recipe would have a list of ingredient quantities and say "Straight dough method". This way is much better for actualy learning than following step 1, step 2, etc. for a lot of different recipes. Be warned, though: you will need a nice scale, since most of the ingredients are measured by weight.

This book contains sourdough starter recipes with rye flour, yogurt, potato, and apple.

I went to a free bread making class by the King Arthur Flour (which I highly recommend, and they also put out a nice catalog). The very good teacher said his favorite starter was made with grapes. He said to buy organic, unwashed grapes at a farmer's market which should have a whitish powder on the outside of them. That contains the natural yeast that is living on the outside of the grape.

My understanding was that there is not really much natural yeast in flour. When you make sourdough starter like this, the natural yeast in the air starts collecting in the dough. San Francisco sourdough is distinctive due to the natural yeasts present in the air there. It helps that the air in SF is damp and ripe with interesting bay smells: people living in the desert may have a hard time doing a starter like this. Adding things (like fruits) that have yeast on them help this process.

I had a good beer in Belgium that the bartender said was fermented in open casks using only the yeast floating around in the environment. It had a distinctive taste due to the natural yeast in the Brussels air.

[ Parent ]
Proffesional Baking (none / 0) (#152)
by squidinkcalligraphy on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 11:19:48 PM EST

That is a good book indeed. Has been my bible for several years. Have focussed more on the cake and pastry recipes than the bread tho (since I was employed to bake cakes). Would recommend it to anyone who wants to bake things.
An identity card is better that no identity at all
[ Parent ]
HAHA! (4.60 / 5) (#103)
by transient0 on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 03:00:32 AM EST

I get it! the subject is "Culture" because it's a yeast culture. oh man... that's funny.
lysergically yours
Natural yeast tricks (4.00 / 1) (#106)
by gnovos on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 03:54:13 AM EST

Natural yeast lives everywhere, in the air, on your shoes, between the buttons on the TV remote, everywhere.  So if you want, get yousefl some white flower, spread it out flat on a cookie sheet and just let it sit in a dry, open but not windy, place for a day or so.  Then start the sponge, and you'll have "yeasted" your flour a little more than when it was in the bag.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
beer (5.00 / 1) (#135)
by ucblockhead on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:38:12 PM EST

You can also make beer with wild yeast.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Mmmm, Lambics (none / 0) (#167)
by george2112 on Sun Apr 20, 2003 at 04:02:02 AM EST

Often tough to find, but well worth the effort: I love a sweet, sweet lambic.

Lambic : beer :: Sourdough : bread, is a very apt analogy.

Lambics are often fermented with fruits, like cherries (which yields a Kriek) or raspberries (which yields a Framboise). Other fruits (Peach, Black Currant) are also used. I usually prefer an unfruited Gueuze, though this is often very sour, and probably an acquired taste.

[ Parent ]

Taming the Wild Yeast (none / 0) (#175)
by drtofu on Tue Apr 22, 2003 at 02:02:39 AM EST

Someone who caught wild sourdough yeast, tamed and ate it.

[ Parent ]
I hate sourdough bread (2.66 / 3) (#108)
by bh213 on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 05:28:09 AM EST

When I came to San Francisco, I didn't even know it existed. When I bought it, I though there was something wrong with it. Anyway, I learned to avoid it. Some of my friends discovered, that if you put mixed egg and slice of this bread in pan and let it fry for a while, it becomes eatable.

Family vacations to Germany (3.00 / 1) (#134)
by basj on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:35:28 PM EST

Couldn't agree more. I hated the stuff when I went with the parents on vaction to Germany and all they had was sourdough. Yuck. English (and American I imagine) bread is even worse. It's white and it's mushy and in the best cases it tastes like nothing. And no, I don't like baguettes either.
Complete the Three Year Plan in five years!
[ Parent ]
So, it sounds like (none / 0) (#150)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 10:54:43 PM EST

you don't like anything except matzo....

Tablet is the wrong medicinal analogy: suppository more adequately describes the Smart Display experience. - Rupert Goodwins

[ Parent ]
Ah, (none / 0) (#111)
by Akshay on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 05:50:57 AM EST

... but we're in a post-modern age, so unless this was an allegory on Iraq, it's an effort at understanding a pre-modern-age culture. You know, the way you learn about the Amazon by going to Disneyland.

This is the most boring article I've read (2.66 / 3) (#112)
by synik on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 06:34:20 AM EST

Rusty, we don't pay you $70,000 p/a to spend months making bread...

The human race has suffered for centuries and is still suffering from the mental disorder known as religion, and atheism is the only physician that will be able to effect a permanent cure. -- Joseph Lewis
I do. (5.00 / 1) (#114)
by gilrain on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 07:34:58 AM EST

Check's in the mail, rusty. Good work.

[ Parent ]
so... (none / 0) (#145)
by Work on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 05:23:24 PM EST

what do we pay him to do then? This article is useful, informative and entertaining. Its far better than the iraq drivel.

Sheesh, and isnt it obvious this is what he does in his SPARE TIME? What, you think he's tethered to the damn server 24 hours a day?

Christ man. Give it up. Some of us like to live a little. Even if living is making sourdough its better than bitching about someone who writes about their sourdough adventures.

[ Parent ]

then dont read it. (1.00 / 3) (#163)
by joschi on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 05:48:15 PM EST

at least shut the fuck up about it, who do you think cares that you chose to read an article you didnt like?

[ Parent ]
Great article (3.00 / 1) (#120)
by cestmoi on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 09:41:15 AM EST

I've heard it said, but do not know if it's true, that San Francisco Sourdough is unique due to the yeast found floating around the bay. That is, it's not the wild yeast in the flour but yeast that's peculiar to San Francisco's air.

Is that possible? Sounds a bit parochial or, in a more cynical vein, like marketing hype but then again,...?

Possible (none / 0) (#121)
by epepke on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 09:47:30 AM EST

It's difficult to make a good lambic outside Belgium due to the particular flora and fauna in Belgium.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Not just the yeast, but.. (none / 0) (#123)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 11:06:45 AM EST

the bacteria and the time the starter was "started". No two starters are exactly the same.

Tablet is the wrong medicinal analogy: suppository more adequately describes the Smart Display experience. - Rupert Goodwins

[ Parent ]
Somewhat true (none / 0) (#128)
by rusty on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:04:06 PM EST

There's a lot of info out there on the microbiology of sourdough starter. San Francisco seems to be fertile for a particular combination of yeast and bacteria species which is distinctive.

There is a lactobacillus named Lactobacillus sanfrancisco which was actually first discovered in San Francisco sourdough starter, so that is more likely to be the unque component. Pretty much all of the taste comes from the bacteria, rather than the yeast.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Awesome artice! (none / 0) (#124)
by jabber on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 11:07:50 AM EST

I can't wait to fail a few times before getting this right. Sounds like a fun project.

The "from scratch" approach to herding your own yeast appeals to me the most. Rustic. Now, can we get some lambic to go with the yummy sourdough?

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

first (none / 0) (#129)
by mincus on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:07:12 PM EST

i think that things like this are perfect for the site... its nice to have some (for us) crazy experiments to try.

now, I began my starter yesterday in the 3/2 ratio you suggested and its sitting now but... I thought that it would be more watery.  It looks more like a lump right now actually.  Am I missing something, or am I right on target and I should just keep at it?

Depends on the flour (none / 0) (#131)
by rusty on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:14:37 PM EST

I probably should have made that more clear. All different kinds of flour behave differently in water. Some soak up a ton of water before they get liquidy, others don't. So really don't stick too religiously to my measurement advice.

What you want is a kind of thick batter. It should be pourable, and stirrable, but not like totally free-flowing. It should probably be thick enough to stand a chopstick up in, but not thick enough to stand a metal fork in. It should definitely not be able to hold a shape on its own. If you stir it with a fork, and lift the fork out, some of the stuff should cling on to the fork, but most should slide off. It'll be kind of sticky.

Hopefully that gets the general idea across. If you think it's too thick, by all means add some water and stir till you've got something that looks better to you. The more air you get in there the better, too.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

ahhh (none / 0) (#133)
by mincus on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:33:58 PM EST

so today when i feed my starter, I might want to add a bit more water because it really looks like a ball right now... this is going to be a great experiment i think. I'll post the daily pics of my starter in a few weeks like I did with previous experiments (ala the foot experiment)

[ Parent ]
It is all about quality (4.00 / 1) (#132)
by ColeH on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 12:23:38 PM EST

If you think the bread you buy in the store is anything like fresh, homemade bread then I think you have never had any. I never buy bread from the store (I use a breadmaker) for the simple reason that homemade is much, much better.

Curses! (none / 0) (#138)
by /dev/trash on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 01:57:21 PM EST

I have printed out your article and am planning to start my starter tonite.  I do hope it works out well.

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
motivation (4.75 / 4) (#140)
by CodeBhikkhu on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 03:29:08 PM EST

I know this is a troll but I'll bite. Some of this may look like a straw man arguement and maybe it is.

I believe that executing skills such as this are very important to people in this modern age.

If one has to ask the question "what's the real motivation besides some obcession[sic] with hippidom?" one is obliged to ask some other questions as well.

Why should people ever build things with their own hands? Why should people ever cook any of their own food when they can pull it all out of the freezer MRE? Why should people have their own gardens, grow their own flowers from the seeds? Why would anyone ever write a piece of software on their own when they can actually buy something that does the same thing? Why would I ever want to make my own clothes rather than buy them from a store? Why should I buy my tools from the local ACE Hardware rather than from the Mega-Huge Home Despot?

Some people don't want to live their lives as blind consumers and don't want others to have to sacrifice their ideals and their trade and their art to stay alive. If we don't support arts and craftsmanship it will die and those people who practiced these arts will be forced to work in jobs that don't utilize their skills.

Providing these service, making homemade bread and offering it to people, offering the methods (the art and craft of it) is an act that strengthens community. Buying bread from the Megalo-Mart grocery store doesn't strengthen community it kills it.

For some people, being mindful of where the things they consume come from is important. Who made this, what were they paid, what were their working conditions? Why did they make this? How was this made?

For some people, knowing about the content of their food is important. If you don't think this is important, ask someone who grows wheat for a living if they'd like to eat the product they grow. They use so many damn chemicals on that stuff that they are scared of it. (My friend grew up as a wheat farmer.)

Eating something made mindfully sits a lot better with my conscience than blindlessly consuming something that was made by a machine or by an underpaid worker who hates their job of sitting in front of a food processing line in a factory.

If you can buy things like organic flour from your local food co-op you are probably supporting a niche farmer (maybe even local), not some huge corporate farm or some farmer who rapes the soil by dumping way too many chemicals into it. They rarely even rotate crops anymore, they just dump more chemicals onto the ground to compensate for the fact that they are messing with processes they don't really understand. They are polluting. Don't believe me? My grandfather died from pulmonary fibrosis induced heart failure because farm chemicals from the 50s-70s destroyed his lungs

Exercising your right and ability to make it yourself undermines the global money machine which will produce anything in any way as long as it can be sold. Do you think "Wonder" makes bread because they like making bread? NO, they do it because they can make money. Research the founder of Barnes & Noble and you'll find out why he sells books. He said that he'd have picked any business if he thought he could make tons of money off of it. (I used to work for them).

Sure you pay higher prices for quality goods made with mindfullness, but isn't it work it. This comes back to the quality vs. quantity arg.

Self sufficiency is another motivation. How many people would be up shit creek if we had problems with famine in this country like they do in other countries. When international aid drops off a sack of wheat on the doorstep of your starving family will you know how to feed them? Could you teach a hungry Iraqi how to make bread with a sack of flour?

This is important to me because acts like this, baking things, building things, etc cause me to really live in the moment while I'm doing them. Slapping a burrito in the microwave or slathering peanut butter on store bought bread doesn't bring my attention to the now. I'm probably doing it because it is fast and I think I have better ways to spend my time. What makes taking time baking bread so horrible compared to playing a computer game for instance?

This isn't about hippidom, it is about compassion for people who made the food, supporting your community versus blind consumption and presercing art and craftsmanship and the artisans and craftsman of your community and maybe even becoming one yourself or we could all just waste away in front of the television.

Of course, temper all of this with a dose of reality and realize that you can't always be mindful of everything. The effort is important.

Metta, Coda
"A week long Dalai Lama Fantasy Camp where you get to run around in red robes and eat rice and chant mantras with the Twelfth son of the Lama himself wont teach you what zen is." -- skyhook
Wow (5.00 / 1) (#146)
by rusty on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 08:39:48 PM EST

That all sounds pretty good. Mainly, though, I just like making things.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
You can't make good bread in a regular oven (5.00 / 1) (#142)
by dead pixel on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 04:25:48 PM EST

While you might have all the ingredients, you'll never get the cooking process right in a standard oven.

To get a nice brown (crispy) outside while keeping the inside moist, you need very high temperatures and short cooking times. A brick oven will easily go 1000º+, this will quickly crisp the outside and trap moisture inside giving you an almost doughy texture. I know the ones at Panera (and most bread ovens for that matter) use steam injection to accomplish this effect. A regular oven will just dry the inside while the outside is browning, more of an Easter bread texture. Same goes for Pizza, though I can usually make a fair pie if the crust is stretched very thin and I use a preheated stone (500º).

Depends on what you want. (none / 0) (#149)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 10:52:09 PM EST

I wouldn't want to make a deep-dish pizza that way!

I get good bread from a 375-400 F. oven and a baking stone. Higher temps give me a crust a mile thick and a too-doughy center.

Tablet is the wrong medicinal analogy: suppository more adequately describes the Smart Display experience. - Rupert Goodwins

[ Parent ]
What about self-cleaning ovens? [n/t] (none / 0) (#169)
by p3d0 on Sun Apr 20, 2003 at 01:42:30 PM EST

Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
Ya Fun ! (4.00 / 1) (#143)
by thirstyfish on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 04:43:39 PM EST

There's a resturaunt in Juneau Alaska which got their starter by scraping an old cook pot from the gold rush that had been used to mix bread in.  Yeast lasts a while I guess.

Leaving the starter out in the open air is why sourdough will vary from place to place, and why San  Francisco sourdough is different from other places - different airborne yeasties.  Don't think I would want to try any bread from Los Angeles.

Here's something else to try: get a loaf of sourdough from, say, San Francisco and use the soft middle of the loaf as the basis for a new starter.  There should be enough viable yeast to get it going.  There's at least one bakery that got it that way.

Reports of playing Mozart and Bach to your yeast are wholly unsubstantiated.

Why do I get the suspicion... (2.00 / 4) (#144)
by Estanislao Martínez on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 05:15:49 PM EST

...that this story made FP mainly because rusty wrote it?


You're just naturally suspicious. [nt] (none / 0) (#147)
by rusty on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 08:40:21 PM EST

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
The wonderful methods of empirical science. (none / 0) (#155)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 02:13:20 AM EST

Imagine how interesting it would be if you were some day to try submitting a similar enough story under a different account name, and see if it would make FP.

The realm of the hypothetical is fascinating, isn't it?

[ Parent ]

You think I haven't? (5.00 / 1) (#159)
by rusty on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 09:00:54 AM EST

I have done that experiment. So far the story has always gone where I expected it to go. Incidentally, I have also had stories rejected posting as myself.

Perhaps next time I'm inspired to write something I'll do it again though.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

anonymous reviews (4.66 / 3) (#165)
by SteelX on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 07:33:35 PM EST

To make it really fair, perhaps the whole "reviewing" process should have the poster's name blinded out. This is akin to how anonymous reviews are done on scientific papers in the academic/research world.

[ Parent ]
I disagree (none / 0) (#168)
by p3d0 on Sun Apr 20, 2003 at 01:40:19 PM EST

I found this much more interesting and entertaining than the usual endless stream cynical wannabe-worldly reactions to the war in Iraq.
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
[ Parent ]
alright, this rules (1.00 / 2) (#151)
by joschi on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 11:19:28 PM EST

I started my starter last night, in fact just about 24 hours ago.  i fed it *once* about 4-6 hours ago, already its *doubled* its size since i fed it.  i really expected this to take a few weeks at least.  

so here's what i did, i did the recommended 2/3 flour to warm water (~ 90 deg), stuck it in a clean pickle jar i had lieing about, but i made sure to get some real nice flour.  I live in Berkeley and hippie crap like that is plentiful :)  so i got me some organic whole rye flour, its kinda grey in color... impressive stuff.  

i'm really looking forward to making some bread with this, i might even try to make a loaf on sunday just to see if its possible :)

forgot to mention... (1.00 / 2) (#153)
by joschi on Fri Apr 18, 2003 at 11:24:24 PM EST

i think another key thing is that i left the jar sitting right here on my desk on top of my stereo receive which gets a little warm, not hot but warm.

my girlfriend and I just a tiny little bit of the stuff, and man is it sour... this is going to be tastey bread. :)

(btw, if you live in the bay area, berkeley bowl is where i bought this uber-hippie flour)

[ Parent ]

Organic rye flour (none / 0) (#157)
by rusty on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 08:57:21 AM EST

You lucky bastard. I guess the stories are true, then. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
wacky (1.00 / 2) (#170)
by joschi on Sun Apr 20, 2003 at 03:02:10 PM EST

so yesterday my conony did *nothing* when i fed it, how bizarre is that?  the first feeding it doulbes its size... second feeding it does nothing.  i just fed it with white flour instead of rye, lets see what happens today...

[ Parent ]
dude... (none / 0) (#179)
by barooo on Tue Apr 22, 2003 at 11:26:48 AM EST

Dude, I feel for you. My first attempt did the same thing. Organic stone-ground rye flour, led to a very active, almost immediately doubling colony, then activity dwindled to nothing over the next 48 hours and 2 weeks of resussitation (sp?) efforts failed so I started over.

Something about the rye seems to be great for getting it going but leads to an unstable equilibrium with all the little yeasties dying off pretty quickly.

. If hooch doesn't make it (my second starter attempt is named hooch. Clever, huh?) I'm going to start the next one with a 2:1 blend of organic stone ground wheat and unbleached bread flour that I'll leave out for 24 hours to "absorb" local microfauna, then immediately switch to unbleached bread flour for subsequent feedings. The barley malt flour I've been adding every other feeding seems to help too. I haven't seen that suggestion anywhere else, although a suggestion I have seen a lot is to use water that you've soaked raisins in overnight, for the initial mix.

One more drink, and I'll move on
"Grace is Gone", Dave Matthews Band
[ Parent ]
Malting (none / 0) (#180)
by KWillets on Tue Apr 22, 2003 at 12:49:05 PM EST

Last night I tried the same thing with my starter; I added a tsp of malted wheat powder to the mix which was recently refreshed with unmalted wheat flour.  This morning it has finally doubled, although it may be from the warmer spot I put it in.

Malt is really good stuff.  I make mine by sprouting wheat berries:  soak 12 hours, let sprout for 2-3 days until the shoots are as long as the seeds, then dry at low temp (100 F) and grind in a coffee grinder.

[ Parent ]

Impressive (4.00 / 1) (#184)
by barooo on Wed Apr 23, 2003 at 09:51:27 AM EST

Malt is really good stuff. I make mine by sprouting wheat berries: soak 12 hours, let sprout for 2-3 days until the shoots are as long as the seeds, then dry at low temp (100 F) and grind in a coffee grinder.

I just buy mine at Wild Oats. Although at some point when the collapse of civilization comes, you'll still be able to make bagels and I'll be stuck eating lice and grubs.

One more drink, and I'll move on
"Grace is Gone", Dave Matthews Band
[ Parent ]
Rye Starter (none / 0) (#174)
by KWillets on Tue Apr 22, 2003 at 12:17:43 AM EST

There seem to be different theories about this stuff, but one book I read the other day said that rye has more yeast on it when it grows, and yields quicker starter.  Organic culture and low-temperature milling also help.

I did a rye starter a while ago, and found that it did the same as yours - a quick doubling on the second day, then somewhat less activity.  Now I have a starter that hardly seems to rise at all, although the lactic and acetic bacteria are quite evident.  

The equilibrium that the starter eventually reaches is probably somewhat different from the initial growth spurt.  

[ Parent ]

Celiac Sourdough (5.00 / 1) (#161)
by craigd on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 12:16:56 PM EST

I have Celiac Disease. This means I cannot digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. None of the gluten-free cookbooks I have seen have a real sourdough recipe (though several suggest adding a bit of sourdough starter to your bread as a flavoring agent), so a while ago (actually using the same article by John Ross for inspiration) I began to try to make sourdough. I'm using rice flour rather than wheat flour.

Lessons Learned

First, I had thought it would be a fairly simple matter to create the starter. Nope. When I had my starter behaving how the article said it would, it still wasn't active enough to rise properly. So I took it back out of the fridge to catch more yeast and reactivate what I had. Within a few hours, it was growing rather nicely, and filled up my jar to the brim with nice little yeasts. Now that I read what Rusty has written, I think I should try getting it even more active than that. I'm going to try baking more bread with it as soon as I have.

Second, I had thought that baking with rice flour would be a fairly simple matter of replacing the wheat flour with rice flour in the recipe, and then adding a bit of xanthan gum. The gum is to hold it together, a function normally filled by the gluten. I have since learned that unless you use a mix that is high in bean or tapioca flours, there is not enough protein in the flour for this to work. I can't stand the taste of tapioca. So my next bread will have some protein added. The standard way to do this is with egg whites or gelatin, depending on the pH of your water.

This apparently applies to all breadmaking, but especially to gluten free breads: The water you use should have a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.

The combination of mistakes I made for my first loaf gave me a bread dough that rose to about 120% of its original volume, and was so dense it would be best used as a doorstop. Gluten free dough ought to be different in the opposite direction - it should have a consistency somewhat thicker than cake batter.

A man who says little is a man who speaks two syllables.
Gluten Free Breads (none / 0) (#172)
by Taeram on Mon Apr 21, 2003 at 07:34:26 PM EST

Do you have any more gluten free bread making tips?

I have a similar condition, dermatitis herpteformis and I'd love to find a decent bread recipie. The rice bread I find in stores is heavy enough to dent my kitchen floor, but barely holds together after slicing. I just can't make my peanut butter, bananna and brown sugar sandwiches like I used to!

[ Parent ]

Some tips (none / 0) (#173)
by craigd on Mon Apr 21, 2003 at 09:04:00 PM EST

I'd start with books by Bette Hagman, paritcularly The Gluten Free Gourmet Bakes Bread. Basically, the things to keep in mind are:

1. This is a lot harder than baking with gluten. I've learned from my failures, but I haven't had any true successes yet. A lot of this is based on advice from other sources. It certainly fits with how I've failed so far.

2. Not all non-gluten flours substitute cup-for-cup. You will have to experiment, or use a mix like the ones Hagman suggests in her books. Rice flour, btw, is a perfect substitute for wheat flour in sauces, but not in breads.

3. Most non-gluten flours have less protein. Therefore, your breads will not be elastic enough. Hagman suggests adding unflavored gelatin or possibly egg whites. Also, bean flours and IIRC tapioca flour have a significantly higher protein content than rice flour.

4. Your dough should not be the consistency of bread dough. It should be slightly thicker than cake batter.

5. Gluten is one of the chemicals that holds the bread together. This means you have to use a substitute - about a teaspoon of Xanthan gum per cup of flour works well - and learn to live with the fact that your breads will be rather crumbly. They'll also be a bit dense, but they don't have to be ridiculously so.

6. Gluten-free breads are more sensitive to pH than wheat breads. So says Hagman, although I haven't had trouble with this. I think the pH of our water is fine. I can't be sure what it is, because my pH indicator was old and registered about 9. Anyway, you want it in the 5.5-6.5 range. You can adjust down by adding a little vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is made from wheat, but it has recently been established that the gluten molecules don't get throught the distillation process as they are too big. You can adjust the pH up by substituting egg white for your vinegar.

Also, check your local health food store for things to buy while you're learning. I've had good success with a rice pecan bread. Good luck!

A man who says little is a man who speaks two syllables.
[ Parent ]
Beginnings of Successful Bread! (none / 0) (#186)
by craigd on Wed Apr 23, 2003 at 08:49:31 PM EST

My (mostly rice) sourdough starter has gotten to the ideal of rising to twice its size after about four and a half hours from feeding. I've got it in the fridge now, and when I've baked a decent bread from it I'll let y'all know how it worked.

A man who says little is a man who speaks two syllables.
[ Parent ]
Your next assignment, Rusty... (none / 0) (#162)
by jij on Sat Apr 19, 2003 at 01:07:04 PM EST

...should you choose to accept it, is to create the perfect loaf of salt rising bread, and send it to me.

This comment will self-destruct in 10^2 years, if not sooner.

"people who thinks quotes are witty are fucking morons" - turmeric

sourdough is yukki! (none / 0) (#176)
by Liet on Tue Apr 22, 2003 at 05:08:14 AM EST

not to mention sour, why would you want to make more of it?!!?

Good timing rusty! (none / 0) (#178)
by barooo on Tue Apr 22, 2003 at 11:15:45 AM EST

I've recently become fascinated by making bread. I picked up Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It's the only book I've seen to get all 5-star reviews from Amazon. The only thing I've made based on one of his formulas was pizza dough, and it was pretty tasty. Not as crunchy as I like, but it had a good taste and texture towards the edges of the pizza. It was my first attempt at utilizing the "baking stone" pizza technology and I think I might've needed a hotter oven.

I've been following his recipe for a seed culture. I'm currently in Jamaica so my girlfriend is feeding "hooch" every couple of days. She says he's doubling pretty quickly and rising nicely. I started hooch with some organic stone ground rye flour from Wild Oats market, and I've been feeding him unbleached high gluten bread flour from King Arthur Flour, plus every other feeding he gets a 1/2 tsp or so of barley malt flour (diastatic malt it's called on the bag, but it's not the same as the diastatic malt that KAF sells).

My first attempt started well. It doubled within 36 hours, but after that two weeks of alternately feeding, not feeding, stirring, putting in a warm place, putting in a cool place, and swearing got no activity beyond a nice sour smell/taste. But it wouldn't rise at all. So I bleached my glass beaker, boiled it, and started over. This one, while I'm being much less precise with, seems to be working better. I think I might have had some antibacterial dish-soap residue in the beaker the first time. I hate that crap, but we have a costco-sized container of it left. I'm convinced it's breeding resistant bacteria...

When I return from Jamaica I will attempt to make a bread from hooch. I think I should have decent luck. I'm curious to see if native Kansas City microfauna produce decent bread.

Now I'm thinking about buying a mixer. I love mixing dough by hand, but I suspect I'd be more likely to whip up a batch if I had a mixer. I'm eying a Kitchen Aid "artisan" 5qt. mixer. They seem like the best value. Going up to a 6 quart is almost 33% more expensive. Unless I'm making an enourmous rustic boule (e.g., pain a la Poilaine) 5 qts would be plenty big.

One more drink, and I'll move on
"Grace is Gone", Dave Matthews Band
Nice Trol but (none / 0) (#182)
by monkeymind on Wed Apr 23, 2003 at 06:22:22 AM EST

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein If you sit on your ass and let others do your living for you, you don't win...

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.

My progress (none / 0) (#185)
by skim123 on Wed Apr 23, 2003 at 03:44:56 PM EST

Four days into trying to culture yeast, I don't know if I've failed or succeeded. I followed these instructions, starting with wheat flour, and mixing in white flour. The goop has a fuity, alcohol-like smell, but I'm seeing very, very few bubbles in the goop, and no noticeable rising. Meh.

I think I'll give this batch a few more days and then perhaps try my hand at it again, maybe this time going with the organic flour.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

I just want to say.... THANKS! (none / 0) (#187)
by msphil on Mon May 12, 2003 at 01:40:12 PM EST

This article revived my interest in my family's starter (which has been limping along under my care, as I did not understand the process that well...).

I have since sent off for Carl's, received it, and baked three excellent loaves of bread (two with S. John Ross' basic recipe, and one cinnamon raisin loaf from the rec.food.sourdough recipe FAQ) with it. (It also showed me what a starter should be like.)

I've also set about reviving my family's starter (looks like the yeast is either very weak or dead), including an experimental cross to see if I can get one going with Carl's yeast and my family's bacteria. I rather like the flavor of my starter, but the rise is weak and slow at the moment.

Just as a note, the best place in my house to let the bread rise so far has proven to be the top of my monitor :-)

So, a couple weeks after the article is posted, I'm still doing stuff with it. And loving it. So... thanks!

Sourdough Success! | 179 comments (161 topical, 18 editorial, 0 hidden)
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