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Fermentation

Okay, enough of the posts about me and my life. I know why you're really here, which is to read about food. So! Several different factors have converged recently for me, which means it's time to write about them under the theme of fermentation.

The first is that my recent hostess here, K, is a brewer and microbiologist. She was highly amused to learn that I'd brought three precious cultures along with me: Herman from my dad, my yogurt starter, and the sourdough starter I recently bought so I could make injera*. So then she loaned me The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz. scrottie had actually pointed out the book to me a couple of weeks ago. It's a compendium of information on the subject and is making for excellent reading material. If you know anyone who homebrews, makes kraut or kimchi, makes yogurt, or makes bread, give them the book as a gift. I especially like the book for its inclusion of contemporary primary scientific literature. I had to tell K about the great contrast between Fermentation and that introvert book in that respect, heh. The introvert incorporated primary literature, but in such an annoying way.

Anyway! Back to fermentation.

When I left Bryan, I left behind a small container of that sourdough starter, so yesterday I started getting text messages from my friend J, who decided to play with it instead of just composting it. The net result of that pestering is that I went back and uploaded a photo series that my friend L took back in 2009 and made a Flickr album that documents my bread-making procedures (*do* read the captions; the devil's in the details). I feel like I did something comparable back in 2009 on LJ, but once again various search algorithms (including looking back at that date window in 2009) failed to turn it up.

Regardless, that's still how I make bread these days, except now with sourdough starter instead of dried yeast. One difference I didn't include in the photoessay is that it's helpful to feed the sourdough starter once or twice before dolloping out a portion for bread-making (food: 0.5 C starter, 0.5 C water, 1 C white flour; let sit at room temperature for 12 hours, then repeat). My brief experiments have suggested that it's much easier to keep a white-flour sourdough starter, so that's what I've been sticking with, for now. The folks at Root Simple have pointed out that it's easier for molds to gain a toehold in whole-wheat flour. The starter thereby replaces the white flour I'd previously been adding to my bread dough. The discarded starter can be added to pancake batter, or mixed with more flour and rolled out to make crackers (bake the crackers at the same time as the bread, eh?).

Then, J's comment about sticky dough meant that I had to dig up this Root Simple post on dough hydration and using water instead of flour to keep dough from sticking. Those Californians do some interesting stuff with flour and water, that's for sure.

So, fermentation. An extensive topic. I haven't even mentioned the videos over on Breadtopia, which really *are* one of the best ways to learn how to handle bread doughs (although I had substantial comments to make about the whole wheat croissant video, based on my various experiences...). That said, Fermentation is doing a better job of addressing the nutritional aspects of fermented foods overall, so what this all means is that aspiring bread-bakers have to poke around here and there and keep trying out different things to figure out what will work best for their specific circumstances.



*As K pointed out, over time a sourdough starter will take on the characteristics of a given location, so in a lot of respects it's silly to pay money for sourdough starter, when one could just capture wild yeast. In my case, I had a timeline I wanted to keep, and limited know-how about the timeline required to get a wild-capture sourdough starter up and running. There are good instructions for those interested in the cheaper method, but don't get hung up on the beginnings. Just get some and make bread.

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( 2 remarks — Remark )
randomdreams
Feb. 13th, 2015 01:03 am (UTC)
I will look for that book. Both N and I are interested in fermentation, although in different aspects thereof.
rebeccmeister
Feb. 13th, 2015 12:24 pm (UTC)

Yes! Definitely recommended.

( 2 remarks — Remark )

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