Quest for Pumpernickel: 4. Teil

I've had a rather up-and-down week with my starter…

After all those lovely bubbles in the previous post, when I checked on the starter Tuesday morning I found it had overflowed the jar during the night (which is a mason jar with a screwed-on lid, so, not easy to overflow), but it had collapsed back down, so I thought that was probably what it should be doing (my various instructions do talk about it rising and collapsing during the creation process). So, OK.

I wasn't able to feed it again till about 7:30 pm Tuesday night (giving a tour at work), but I fed it 1/16 liter warm water + 50g rye meal, per the Oetker book. It looked OK, sort of spongy. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos during the rest of the process…

The starter looked OK Wed AM, with small bubbles. When I got home around 5pm, it had some liquid on top (which after some internet research I find referred to as "hooch"). Not so sure of its status at this point, as it didn't seem to have risen again, but I fed it again anyway: 1/16 liter warm water + 50g rye meal.

Thursday AM there was more hooch on the surface again, so I began to despair, but decided to let it stay in the dehydrator till I got home. Thursday was the final day according to the Oetker book, so I stirred the starter (if that's what it had indeed become), and put it in the fridge to deal with on Friday.

Friday evening I did some more research online, and found a site that describes the characteristics of a healthy starter, and how to revive one that isn't healthy. The site seemed to say that "early" hooch was a bad sign, but on the other hand, it said if you stir the starter and there are small bubbles on the back of the spoon, it's healthy. I did have the small bubbles, and I wasn't sure whether the hooch was "early", and I wasn't sure if the smell was OK (never having used sourdough starters in the past). So I tried "proofing" the starter according to instructions on this site (linked above). At least I think I was understanding it to say that I could follow these instructions to determine the status of my starter. At 7:30p I mixed 1T of my starter with 100g each of white flour and warm water, and set in the dehydrator at 80 degrees for 12 hours. Saturday morning the test jar looked… OK, some bubbles, but not risen, but it smelled OK I guessed.

Well, enough fooling around. Al said, just like with his beer brewing, sometimes you just have to go for it when you can't seem to get a definitive set of instructions. So I decided to go for a pumpernickel this weekend! I'm using the recipe on Samartha's site, so that meant planning for a 3-hour ferment and 24-hour bake, along with baking stuff for the church bake sale being held Sunday morning (I should have taken a photo of the end result of that 8 hours of kitchen time… Indonesian spice pound cake, autumn leaf molasses cookies, apple-raisin-oatmeal cookies, cinnamon biscotti … mmmm). So I set my jar of starter out next to the crock pot to warm up Saturday morning. According to one of my bread books, it needs to come to room temp before either using or feeding (weekly).

At 6:15pm Saturday, having finished all my other baking, I measured out 120g of starter into a glass mixing bowl. I understand from my reading that the starter must always be replenished by the same volume of equal parts flour & water, so I fed it with 60g rye flour (I think maybe I'll alternate flour & meal) and 60g warm water, then set the jar in the dehydrator for the same length of time as the pumpernickel dough will ferment. So, back to the dough, according to Samartha's recipe for 1.2 kg of dough (sounded about right for 2 loaves to me), I mixed into the 120g starter: 640g of the rye meal, 430g warm water, and 7g (approx) of sea salt. Theoretically that's all that should be in pumpernickel. I kneaded it by hand for 5 minutes, and it had a lovely grainy consistency, very sensuous, if that can be a characteristic of dough :-)    I set the bowl in front of the wood stove for the next 3 hours, in which time it seemed to have risen somewhat, though I didn't expect it to very much. Just before 10:00pm I formed the dough into 2 sort of cylindrical loaves, and rolled each one in heavy-duty foil, sealed at the ends, put them onto a baking stone, and put in a 250 degree oven with a large casserole dish full of water. Samartha used loaf pans and sealed the tops tightly with foil, right next to the dough, but my Oetker book describes a (different) bread which is baked for a long period in a foil wrap, and the original pumpernickel Nadia had sent me was in a foil wrap as well, so I decided to try that.

So now, there's been a great smell in the house all day today, but I can't see how it's going. I'd love to know when (or if) it turned black, but I have to wait another 2 hours to take it out of the oven, and then both Samartha's instructions and the Oetker book (for other similar long-baking breads) say DO NOT cut it open for another 12 hours, as the process is still completing. It's a good thing I'm a patient person…

But it really does smell right, so I'm hopeful!!!


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