Sourdough victory

Victory is sweet, and it tastes like sourdough.  After many false starts and several outright failures, I finally succeeded in cultivating a wild-yeast sourdough starter.

Here’s the better part:  I baked a delicious loaf of bread, leavened by nothing more than my wild-yeast starter!   I didn’t even have to cheat and spike it with commercial yeast.

As I mentioned in a previous post, using an acidic, sweet liquid (pineapple juice) to hydrate my initial culture proved to be the breakthrough I needed….information I found in Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. After a little more than two weeks’ tending, which consisted of occasional stirring and less occasional feeding, the initial culture was lively enough to raise a loaf of bread.

I built the levain into a dough starter with part white whole wheat flour, aging it a day in the refrigerator to develop the sour flavors.  Then I mixed the dough starter into a batch of dough, which also rested in the fridge overnight.  Finally, on baking day, I proofed the unshaped dough at 75 degrees for two hours, shaped it into a loaf, and proofed for a final two hours.  The dough was quite slack, which made me nervous:  so I couched it in a well-floured wooden bread bowl.  I wondered:  would the wild yeast produce any oven spring at all?

Five or six slashes completed the loaf before it baked for 30 minutes at 450, directly on a baking stone.  I didn’t need to worry about oven spring–the loaf rose tall and wide, filling out the slashes and splitting open on one end.  Better than its apperance was the taste:  tangy, with an large, irregular crumb and thick, crunchy crust.

After all of the failures, success tasted delicious (when spread with a little salted butter).  It will be interesting to see how long the loaf keeps without staling.

Next on my baking horizon:  sourdough chocolate croissants…

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