Rambles' Ramblings

Ramblings, a salve for any hurts



Sourdough bread: Success!

As of today, my starter is a week old. Two days ago I started the process of making bread using it after feeding it and leaving it at room temperature for two days. It is rather vigorous, able to double up within two hours. Hence, the decision to bake using my relatively young starter with no added yeast.

The recipe I got from It is rather to my liking as it is quite simple to make. Making the sponge dough takes 12 hours at room temperature, then the first rise for 24 hours in the fridge and a final rise after shaping for 5 hours at room temperature. The timetable makes it easy to schedule it around the working days and the fact that it does not require a very specific temperature is great in my opinion. Of course, I have my doubts since I am pretty sure that temperature plays a major role in proofing. Nonetheless, without a proofing oven or even a banneton, I would not be able to do much about temperature even if I want to.

I could not resist peeking as the dough rise. I did my sponge dough in the oven as it keeps it covered without fuss. Using the same bowl, I covered it with a large plate and dumped it in the fridge for 24 hours with regular peeking. The last part is the most difficult. After shaping it, I left it on the table to rise covered with a damp towel. First mistake: the towel stuck to the dough, necessitating several minutes of delicate disengagement to prevent deflating the bread.

Second mistake: leaving it on the counter. After 5 hours, the dough has relaxed so much that it is very soft and unwieldy. It proves near impossible to maneuver onto the baking sheet. I deflated the first two loaves before discovering that using a flour covered spatula to slowly remove it from the table top is the best technique to avoid deflating the bread. Even so, oven spring was great and even the deflated loaves turned out with good crumbs.

Of course, I made some adjustments to the recipe I got from It is virtually impossible to get spelt flour in Malaysia and you will have to shell out a pretty buck for rye flour. Hence, instead of those flours, I used only whole wheat flour, bread flour (in lieu of rye) and all purpose flour (in lieu of spelt). My novice mistake: I poured all the water recommended into the flour before realizing that the different flours used may have affected the liquid required. Hindsight is always 20/20. I ended up using nearly 200g extra flour to create a manageable flour. Oh well, at least it is savable.

The bread itself is rather sour, a pleasant surprise considering my starter is quite young. It, of course, lacked slightly in flavour due to the mix of flours used. Nevertheless, I am heartened by it turning out quite well, especially since I read so much about failing he first few loaves of sourdough bread because of a weak starter.

I guess that’s all for my first sourdough experience. One side note, the dough was supposed to be for one boule. My oven is small and will definitely not fit. Therefore I quartered it and still ends up with huge loaves. Next time, I must at least halve the recipe as I really doubt we will be able to finish it before spoiling. Goodnight!


Sourdough starter: Double the volume

Here I am again, not even 24 hours from my last post. I feel like a proud mom, eagerly documenting her wee darling’s every achievement however insignificant it might be.

I am proud of my starter. It has reached a very healthy stage in 4 days rather than the week every website told me to anticipate. Just to be sure, I added a dose of orange juice tonight to ensure that it is on its way to maturity.

From what I see tonight, it does look like it is about ready to be put into the refrigerator, being able to double the volume in 2 1/2 hours. Tomorrow morning I will feed it again and then pour into a clean container for the fridge.

Before I finished up on this post, let me show you my starter:


That black line marks where the level was when I fed it earlier. As you can see, it has very nearly double in volume. All the websites agree that it is a sign of a healthy starter. Finally I can try to bale those tasty sourdough bread that are so expensive in Malaysia.

Sourdough starter: Success!

FINALLY! A starter that succeeded. I am so thankful to Breadtopia for their excellent instructions on how to create one and actually explaining why. Second step: add more flour and orange juice and should see activity within 48 hours. 7 hours later, my starter is already bubbling. I fed it another 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 1/2 tablespoon of water and it has gone on bubbling.

It smells excellent, slightly vinegary and yeasty, which was NOT what my last attempt smelled like. My last attempt was rancid by this time and stunk up the entire house. Ugh. Now, with this starter, I can actually see myself baking a loaf of sourdough bread next week. I plan to keep it on the counter and feed it daily for a week before refrigerating it in order for it to mature a bit.

Time to search for sourdough bread recipes I guess. Oh well, I am getting tired of regular bread anyways.

Sourdough starter (orange juice as liquid)

After that dismal failure for my first ever sourdough starter, I was not sure whether I would ever make another attempt. See, it is not because it failed (well, maybe a little), but the point is that I don’t like not knowing where and how I failed. Then I came across this awesome site called Breadtopia which is primarily concerned with bread as its name suggests.

Anyway, out of curiosity I checked out the instructional video on making a sourdough starter and found, to my great surprise, a scientific and logical explanation to the chemistry behind a starter. Needless to say, I am intrigued and decided to try again albeit with one minor adjustment: instead of using pineapple juice as recommended, I decided on orange juice.

Both juices are acidic in nature and there has been comments that used orange juice successfully. Right now it has been about 27 hours since I mixed it up. It is smelling rather sour and I hoped with all my might that it will succeed. Fingers crossed all the way!

White bread vs Wholemeal bread

All this while I have been baking wholemeal bread since I started baking bread. Even the occasional rolls and buns have some all purpose flour mix in. However, we really miss our sandwich loaf which was soft and fluffy (though possibly not as healthy as the much denser wholemeal bread). Therefore, I decided to try my hand at baking a pure bread flour bread that is titled The Sandwich Loaf in my beloved bread recipe book.

The recipe calls for 100% bread flour, which, by now, I always have some at hand. A little yeast, some salt, some sugar, water and olive oil are the rest of the ingredients.

After mixing it all up and kneaded the dough which was rather wet (which makes it quite a challenge to knead without it sticking to my hand), I left it to proof in a pot. Boy, it rose so magnificently that I wonder whether there’s still enough yeast activity for the second rise.

I do not need to worry. By the time the bread went into the oven, it has risen to heights never before seen in our house. It makes a singularly HUGE loaf.

Now that I think of it, it makes sense. Since bread flour contains such a high percentage of gluten, it would have help the flour to keep its shape and support it enormous rise. Next time round, I am going to divide the dough even further to avoid the sides touching my small oven.

No Knead Bread

I have the idea of having homemade bread for breakfast as a means to save money (and using it in other areas). Only problem: bread needs time to bake and obviously I couldn’t bake it just before I get out of the house. No, it must be pre-prepared at least the night before. So I thought to bake a whole lot of bread on Sunday and eat it throughout the week. Good plan, but for one flaw: usually by Wednesday, all the bread I made is eaten. Any bread not eaten after Wednesday tends to just sit and harden. Not exactly breakfast material. Plus, eating the same type of bread throughout the entire week makes me tired of it.

Solution: Freeze half the bread dough and bake it in the middle of the week, preferably on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I have full day classes on Wednesday and simply do not have the time or energy to bake. So that’s it, or so I thought about my brilliant plan to have homemade breakfast.

Casting around the internet in search of fresh ideas, I saw the phrase ‘quick bread’ for the first time. Promising to eat up comparatively little time, it sounds just like what I needed. Until I saw that among the ingredients is baking powder. I had bought many packets of yeast and really need to use them all up before they expire and so could ill afford to add yet another ingredient to my baking shelf. Then I saw the tab titled ‘No Knead Bread’ which sounds interesting.

Curiosity made me clicked on it and I am introduced to bread not shaped before baking. One of the most interesting type of no-knead bread I saw is ‘batter bread’ in which the dough is whipped instead of kneaded and has the consistency of cake batter. It sounds so easy that I thought I have finally found the solution to my problem. Plus it uses yeast as the leavening agent.

Whipping up a batch is easy since I have all the ingredients right there on my baking shelf. Within an hour, the batter bread is ready to be baked. I was so very disappointed when it failed. Instead of warm, soft and fluffy insides, I found the insides to be sticky and very moist, to the extent steam is released when we cut through the crust.

Thinking back, I do not think the failure has anything to do with the recipe, but instead with oven temperature. As my oven is quite small, I have come to realize that for most recipes I need to reduce the temperature by 20 to 40 degrees. This time round, I reduced it by only 10 degrees and it is entirely possible that the temperature is too hot and cooked the crust first, sealing the inner part of the dough, which resulted in the insides being given a steam cooking.

I will certainly try this again as it is so easy to make. Once I master this technique, I will be able to customize it and bake it easily for different flavours during the week. But I will only have the time to experiment during the Diwali holidays. So I shall speak more of this at a later date. Goodnight!

Soap and Baking, Oh My!

It is really interesting how interests evolved and grow. I, for one, would not have pegged myself for being one of those ‘make it yourself’ type of people. Even when we got the oven, it was mainly for my sister. I got curious about baking, went to research on cake (because everyone loves cake and commercial cake is really bad for our family – parents with diabetics and us two at a hereditary risk). I found myself falling into that world so fast that my head still spins until today.

I started off making no-bake cookies and cakes and quickly upgrades to baking them. At that point in time, I am still wary of altering recipes and so found myself with many too sweet cookies and cakes. Once I started to cut down the amount of sugar required in the recipes, the products become much more palatable.

Then I discovered bread. I first started to make bread using recipes from a real cookbook, the first one I got. I was apprehensive of using yeast and kept on checking whether it rises. It rose beautifully and it was delicious, though being such a large batch, it took us some time to finish it. I will admit, I went a bit crazy, making three different batches in just three days. We were heartily tired of bread by the time we finished them all.

For me, bread is one of the easiest thing to bake, until one batch failed so utterly that it is more brick-like than bread-like. Then I realized that ambient temperature is as important as they always tell you. Even in hot and humid Malaysia, rainy days still meant failure to bread left to rise on the counter top. A tip I found on worked well for me: pour a pan of near boiling water into a baking pan or a large plate placed at the bottom of the oven and place the dough inside to rise. It works out every time and I no longer has the trouble of failed bread. I thought that is all to my obsession to homemade goods.

Of course, then I am introduced to soap making by a friend. While soap making may be much cheaper in other countries, it is ridiculously expensive in Malaysia where it is very very very difficult to get hold of one of the essential materials: lye, or sodium hydroxide. After that, the different oils and essential oils as well as colourants do not make it any cheaper. To date, I have only made one batch of lemon-scented soap which should mature in about 2 months. Although I have been meaning to make a second batch (chocolate soap!) today, I forgot to get the materials needed and so my plans are thwarted. Oh well, it will keep.

The same friend asked me about gluten-free bread (she has a nephew who was put on a gluten-free diet for health purposes) which I neglect to research for such a long time. She has heard of flourless bread, which to me sounds quite impossible until I checked it with Google and finds that not only is it very possible, but probably tastes as good as normal bread.

There’s only one problem: the recipes frequently asked for coconut flour or almond flour, both of which, again, is quite difficult to source in Malaysia. So off I went again on another research binge: how to make coconut flour. It turns out to be quite easy, though tedious. Why not almond flour, one may ask. Well, it is because coconuts are cheaper than almond here and it make sense to go the inexpensive road although I might make some almond flour for just for special occasions.

Seriously, I have too many interests when I should be studying. But then, I wouldn’t have as much fun without all these projects. So I guess I will just have to learn to manage my time well.

First Taste of Sourdough Bread

Yesterday I got a loaf of sourdough bread from a deli. It is expensive! Where a normal loaf of bread of that size costs around RM4 – RM5, sourdough bread costs nearly RM10. It was good though, so very good. I eat it plain since it is already so flavourful.

I was a bit worried I would not like the taste, but it is great! The indescribable blend of taste give the sourdough a unique taste. It is now my favourite bread aside from homemade wholewheat bread. Now I am more anxious to learn to bake this sourdough bread since I foresee much eating of this bread. If I buy instead of bake, my budget for food is going to acquire a huge hole.

Now, first thing first: work up courage to ask for a starter or attempt another starter by my own. Let’s see how it goes then.

First taste of Sour Bread

Uuuuhhhh….. That’s what I sounded like when I tore into a loaf of sour bread this afternoon. It was so tough and hard, almost cloth-like in its texture while it weighed like a brick. I was so very disappointed since I have heard all kinds of good things about sour bread and I want to make sour bread myself. Then my friend set me straight, telling me a good sour bread has a tough crust but ‘fluffy intestines’ and what I had was clearly a failed sour bread.

The taste is not bad. If that is what sour bread taste like, I am all for it. The only issue I have is the toughness of the bread. I am going to try another bakery next week. Hopefully it won’t be that tough again.

In another note, my starter is coming along quite nicely. The smell has lessened from yesterday and bubbles formed almost as soon as I stopped stirring. Does such an active starter means that I will be able to bake a nice sour bread by next week? Please tell me I can.

It is however quite difficult to find a recipe which lists measurements by weigh. Most of what I have found so far uses cups. If anyone have a good recipe for sour bread, would you mind giving it to me? Thanks!

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