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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Pane Siciliano

001-Pane_Siciliano-headerOur second Italian bread in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Pane Siciliano is recipe #23 in the BBA Challenge. New in the process is the use of semolina flour, a flour made of durum wheat which is often used in making pasta. It is a slightly gritty flour and has that distinct yellow cast to it you can see in your standard spaghetti and which adds not just colour but extra aroma and flavour, says Mr Reinhart. This is an enriched bread, having the addition of a little olive oil and honey.

I’m looking forward to the final product to see how this works out.

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Sticky vs Tacky dough

For those who wonder how you can tell the difference between those two states of your dough, here’s a simple explanation with visuals that should clarify the differences.

FrenchBBA08 FrenchBBA09

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Pâte Fermentée

PFheaderPâte Fermentée is one of the basic pre-ferments used in bread making and it refers to a dough that is made before the bulk of the main bread dough is put together and allowed to mature or ferment.

OK, so how do you say it? The French word “pâte” means ‘dough’ and is pronounced “paw-tt”. “Fermentée” means fermented and is pronounced “‘fair-mahn-tay”. (Please don’t confuse“pâte” and “pâté” – one means dough where the other means a paste, as in “pâté de fois gras”.)

By allowing a portion of the dough to ferment ahead of time, it can be allowed to do so overnight (or however long) in a cool space (slowing yeast activity)  where it develops a lot of great flavour that would not be available in a shorter rest time. The dough is then added to the rest of the bread’s ingredients and presto, your “new” dough gets a tremendous flavour boost.

In a bakery setting, a large amount of this dough would be made regularly and a small portion of it would go into, say, baguettes, another portion into kaisers, etc. This is why the pâte is very basic – it would be used throughout the day to make whatever bread was on the menu.

At home, you still want the fermentation/development that occurs but would normally just make enough for your next bake.

In The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, this shortcut is used a fair bit. It’s a very simple, lean dough.

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Pain de Campagne

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Pain Campagne (Country Bread) is recipe number  22 in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and we’re now past the halfway mark in the full 43-recipe BBA Challenge.

Despite the disappointment of the previous bread, Pain a l’Ancienne, I was looking forward to making this one because it involved some fancy cuttin’ and shapin’ and the techiques we’d learn about here were more on the presentation. The bread itsef still looked interesting. And I’ll say right away that this one did not come out badly.

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