An experiment with sourdough (part 3)

Welcome back! I honestly thought I would have to announce the demise of my sourdough today and blog it as a misdemeanour (misfatto) but no! The sourdough is still alive and kicking (see photo)! By the way: I read that ,apparently, there is a tradition amongst sourdough hardcore makers to name their sourdough. That’s right! Just like what you would do with a pet. Bizarre,eh? So in line with this tradition I have decided to call mine after the little cat I brought back from Hungary. So Tomik it is! Anyway, let’s rewind a bit and I’ll tell you exactly why I thought Tomik had met his maker (Ha ha…ok, the metaphor doesn’t quite work in this case, but you know what I mean). The reason was that after the first feeding took place (part 2 of the experiment) I noticed that shortly afterwards all bubbles had disappeared and the mixture had gone flat and separated into a top layer of acetone smelling liquid and a bottom layer of oily, gungy looking dough! What on earth was THAT??? It didn’t look right at all and I seriously thought it was a goner. Anyway, thinking that it needed more feeding  I threw half of it away and addedd fresh flour, grapes and water like in day one. Sadly it didn’t seem to work and the same thing happened: by evening the dough had separated and there were no bubbles (which indicate a good, active sourdough) to be seen. I confess I felt a teeny bit despondent. What should I do? I started asking myself some rather philosophical questions on the line of “Is life long enough to mess on with a silly dough” and “at what point should you admit defeat in life”? Seriously, my first reaction was: chuck everything away and forget about it. But then I decided to persevere.  I don’t like giving up on things plus I couldn’t kill Tomik in such a heartless,brutal manner. So I consulted the Bible for all problems: Google! Well…what an education! There is a vast amount of information and literature out there about sourdough: fan groups, blogs, recipes, forums, you name it!  So of course I went investigating my problem. What was the reason for my sad looking, separating dough? I found the answer. An overactive, underfed dough. Putting more grapes, in other words, didn’t help at all as there was too much fermentation going on. I was ending up with an alcoholic type of substance (called the “hooch”) at the top which was eating away my yeast. The advice was not to despair ,to discard the liquidy top layer and feed the dough with just flour and water. I did that twice, threw away most grapes during this procedure and ended up with a much better looking sourdough this morning, which clearly is still active (see bubbles in the picture). PHEW! But what a palava! Is it worth it, I ask myself? My husband is seriously worrying about my sanity and mental state when he sees me cursing and swearing around that plastic jar and gazing intently in it for hours to check activity! I must confess it might appear to be a little bit daft, but hey! This is something I’ve never tried and I’m always in favour of exiting one’s comfort zone and trying new things. Going back to Google and the information I found on line. It’s truly fascinating. Reading the various blogs/articles available on the net one quickly realizes there is not just ONE way of making sourdough. It get started in different ways, people feed it using different proportions of flour/water, different types of flour, etc. Really, there is enough stuff for a Master degree in there.  Now a final question: WHEN will I actually USE Tomik? Well, one thing I’ve learnt (and there seems to be consensus amongst the sourdough cognoscenti) is that…to sing it along the tune of the Phil Collins song…”you can’t hurry dough! You just have to wait”…. :-) It would seem that the earliest one should use the starter is when it’s a week to ten days old. Considering the setback I have had I am not going to try baking with it just yet. I want to wait until I have a really happy, bubbly, established  dough before I do anything with it. By the way, I read that, apparently, it’s ok to stir it often as it encourages fermentation. Till our next session then….the sourdough saga continues.

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2 Responses to “An experiment with sourdough (part 3)”

  • Davvero una saga. E in più meglio di una seduta psicanalitica per comprendere il tuo carattere, Lucina. Quanti avrebbero buttato via tutto oppure sarebbero andati a farsela fare da qualcuno esperto. Ma tu no, hai messo le mani in pasta, hai PASTicciato e sei andata avanti. Tomik è una metafora della vita. E lo dice anche il tuo sottofondo musicale. Lo dice la mamma!/search?q=You+Can%27t+Hurry+Love

  • Accidenti! Quanto filosofeggiare, cara Candi! Però è vero che questo un po’ rispecchia il mio carattere perché io non mi arrendo mai alla prima difficoltà ! Sono come un cane con un osso, come dicono qui. Non mollo! ti confesso che sento di essermi buttata a capofitto in un buco nero. Se vai a leggere su internet si trovano tante di quelle informazioni, TUTTE contrastanti sulla pasta madre. C’è addirittura chi dice di non provare neanche a farla perchè è troppo difficile. Il consiglio è di farsi dare un “figliolino” da qualcuno che ne ha una ben avviata. Altri dicono che non ci sono problemi e che farla è semplicissimo. HELP? Comunque mi sono resa conto che sono lontana dall’aver creato una pasta madre decente. L’ impasto deve gonfiare e raddoppiare il suo volume prima di potere essere usato per la prima pagnotta. Beh, per adesso l’impasto mi pare un po’ troppo liquido e non sta lievitando. Quindi devo essere paziente ed aspettare. Nel frattempo ho dato da mangiare a Tomik anche un po’ di farina di segale che dicono aiuta la fermentazione. Vedremo!. Bill si sta preoccupando per tutte le attenzioni che dedico a questo impasto. In effetti si sta trasformando in un ossessione. Ah ah! Se non altro mi diverto…..

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