Category Archives: Techniques and Tips

All Flours Are Not Equal

What would happen if you ran out of bread flour but still wanted to make bread? Or the store had an awesome sale on cake flour which you were tempted to use instead? Flour is basically just flour, after all, no? There’s not much difference between Pastry and All Purpose, besides a bit more protein, right?

As an experiment, the class did a test this week to see what each of four types of flour could make, using the same recipe for each and changing only the type of flour used. The recipe was put together by team of Chelsea, Connor and Lauren.

We tested simple panned bread loaves made from:

  1. Organic Bread flour
  2. All Purpose flour
  3. Pastry flour
  4. Cake flour

Each batch were made with the exact same ingredients except for the flour, in the same quantities and mixed in four identical 10-quart mixers. Each mix made four identically sized loaves and baked for the same amount of time. Although not under strict laboratory controlled conditions, these were, in effect, identical breads.

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Liquid vs Stiff Starter: Do I need both?

Which type of starter will be most beneficial?

The question of stiff vs liquid starter has recently been bought up here on Yumarama and since it was discussed over on Mellow Bakers previously previously, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to carry that conversation across to the blog as well.

BREAD2AngleSomeone recently asked what the point was between using stiff and liquid levain, specifically in Jeffery Hamelman’s book BREAD. I pondered and, in effect, could not come up with a solid answer for myself, primarily because I haven’t really dabbled with a stiff starter very much. But still, why DOES Jeffrey ask for a stiff starter here or a liquid (he prefers 125%) there? In other words, what are the benefits of each, in his view?

So I figured I’d go to the source and ask.

Hi Jeffrey,

Someone recently brought up a question I was a little confused about and figured I’d go to the source to see about an explanation.

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Reviving Dried Sourdough Starter

In a continuation of the “How To” on drying an active starter previously posted here, we’ll look at the steps to revive that starter. A few people have asked how this is done or how long it takes to get a dried starter back to active duty.

So let’s get going and you’ll see it its actually pretty fast and easy.

Our Mis en Place here is very simple: your starter flakes and some water. Here is the bag of dried starter I made from my ‘from scratch’ starter PJ in the other thread some 7 months ago. It has been kept in the freezer for most of that time. You may be using your own dried starter or a bit you got from a friend, a commercial one like Carl’s or King Arthur or specialty source starter from Sourdo.com… the specific source won’t make any difference, the reviving process is the same.

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Dry Your Starter: Simple Insurance

There you are, going along making another batch of tasty sourdough bread, everything’s going peachy, the dough is in the oven baking, making the kitchen smell heavenly, the loaves are a lovely golden brown and only a few minutes before it’s time to pull them out to cool, when you suddenly realize…

O! M!! G!!!  You immediately feel flushed and light headed, your stomach suddenly knotting up: you’ve accidentally put ALL your starter into the dough and forgot to save some to keep feeding. There’s no way to get it back out of the dough, it’s now bread and well baked.

This is the end of your starter, one of the few ways to actually kill it.

Perhaps you’ve been cultivating this starter for several months or even years, perhaps it was even handed down to you from your great gran from the “old country” and there’s no way to get more. You even washed out the jar so you can’t scrape a little batch up from the smears on the sides and continue on.

Or maybe a good hearted soul decided they’d do you a big favour one day and clean your fridge of all the old stuff, that bottle of sauce with just a teaspoon left, the lettuce that’s seen a better day, that jar of white goo that smells really weird… all into the trash or recycling and the jars washed up. “See how neat it all is?” they proudly say.

Or you have not fired up the starter for a very long time and go to grab your yeasty pet only to find the contents are totally encased in mould.

Oh, I hear a few of you chuckle, “That would never happen to me” you say with confidence. Stop chuckling, this has happened to a LOT of people, people who are totally familiar with and have been using sourdough for years, verily, your “pro” home bakers. All of the above scenarios have happened to people I know.

An inattentive few moments and there goes that starter you created from scratch several years back, gone. The bread comes out of the oven and tastes great but it is a sad affair indeed because it’s the last you’ll get of old Sam or Punchy or whatever you named you pet starter. Gone to sourdough heaven.

All you can do now is start from scratch. In a few weks, you will have a new starter but it will take a long time before it has matured and developed its own character. And very likely it will be different from ol’ Sam.

So how do you avoid that heart-crushing scenario? Simple: dry your starter. Do it next time you do a starter feed. It’s crazy simple and will ensure you can revive ol’ Sam even if you do get a brain fart moment and toss all of it into your latest dough. Here’s how…

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How big is a cup? Flour volume vs flour weight

one cup of flourHow much does a cup of flour weigh?

Here’s a question that seems to pop up on a fairly regular basis in the bread forums. Someone sees a recipe that requires 3.5 cups of flour, or one that looks for 368g of flour. Either way, they’re used to the other method of measuring and they run into problems making the conversion from one to the other.

Why is it confusing? Because one is a volume measure and the other is a weight measure. As we all know a cup is not always a cup:  a cup of rocks and a cup of feathers will not weigh the same. Simply stated, volume and weight are not a consistent and easily interchangeable form of measure. Add in the confusion of liquid vs dry ounces and cups and you have a mess.

But there’s probably a set “standard” weight for flour, right? I mean, measuring flour is something people do ALL the time and have done for eons so someone, somewhere probably has The Definitive Weight for a “cup of flour”.

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Why Discard Starter: A Mathematical View.

DiscardingYou see this question pop up all the time in sourdough discussions:

“Why do I have to discard? I hate the idea of throwing anything away. Can’t I just keep feeding the starter?”

Although reducing the waste we produce as a species is a good thing, there are times when it’s actually more logical to NOT do so. And feeding a starter is one of those times.

Let’s first see about the starter when you’re just starting it up from scratch.

Early in your starter’s young life, within the first two weeks or so of starting a starter from scratch, there is absolutely no good reason to save the excess “flour soup” you’re cutting back. It has done it’s job and is spent, and unless you’re building excessively large amounts (see the Starter Step by Step series to see the recommended  quantity), it should only be about 2 tablespoons of flour each day, this is not worth worrying about. Even if ditched directly into the trash or compost, it’s still not “wasted” any more than that nice dinner you ate yesterday was “wasted”: it was used to feed your starter, so it had a purpose and served it well. So right off the bat, we need to get out of this idea that bit of flour you used to feed our yeast is wasted.

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