Posts Tagged ‘susan toy’

There’ve been so many requests for this starter, after a subsequent story included Part 2: actual sourdough bread. So I’m including it here, original question and answer, an all.


The start of something sour
by Darcie & Dean Hossack
Hi Darcie ,
My wife has been baking bread since we were married , that was in 1957  and it went from the ugly to the bad to the best , it’s a learning process  of course  . One kind of bread she has not been able to bake is a  REAL sourdough  bread . I don’t mean the N. American type but the European  type . We come from the Netherlands   , I come from the southern part of Holland near the German border and there was baked  sourdough bread that was sour .  By the way , she never buys yeast  , she grows her own  , makes lovely bread . She tried  different yeast  recipes  that I found on the net , but no luck  .  So  the question is : do you have by chance a recipe to make that sour yeast  that’s used in   those breads  .  I talked to German baker in town and he knew what I was talking about but did not  want to give  a recipe .
So we keep on hoping  , maybe your the  answer .
Gerry and Erica Vermey
Dear Gerry and Erica,
I began sleuthing out answers to your question back in the middle of July, having little idea just how right you were. It’s no easy thing to part professional bakers from their sourdough secrets!
After some (understandably) blank stares and unanswered emails, and knowing already that I’m not half the baker your wife is, I grimly turned to my own research. Days later, I had only gotten as far as France (where they like their sourdough nice and unsour), and was overwhelmed by internet innuendo and conflicting cookbook advice. How would I ever come up with an answer that’s better than I am? How would I know when I’d found it?
So when my friend, Susan Toy, took some time off from her too-busy-to-bake business as an independent author rep., I quickly went over my head to a better baker. Susan is the most consummate one I know outside of a professional kitchen.
As luck would have it, while visiting her alternate home in the Caribbean, she was already on the case on behalf of an island restauranteur who turns to her for the development of any recipes having to do with leavening.
Said Susan:

“You’re in luck. I had planned to develop an extra-sour sourdough starter while I’m on Bequia. So today is the day I will ‘start,’ so to speak, although it’s pouring rain again, and may be too cool to get the fermentation process properly working.

“Of course, German bakers use rye flour almost exclusively to make their sourdough starter. Rye definitely already has a stronger taste, so will give a more sour flavour to the bread. I don’t have any rye left in the freezer, and I might not be able to buy any at this time of year. One of the drawbacks of Bequia – we’re limited in the ingredients we have readily at hand.

“The secret to sourdough is in the amount of flour and water (and only flour and water are used), then in the time allowed for fermentation. A stiffer dough is required, so 50% hydration is what you’ll want to mix, ie. twice as much flour to water, by weight. I’ve now mixed together 12 oz. of flour with 6 oz. of water and the resulting dough is indeed stiff. Now, if I leave it sit for a few days and don’t feed it, I should have a highly acidic starter that I can then add to a bread recipe, and will hopefully be rewarded with a stronger biting taste, as well as a crunchier crust, as a result.”

A few days later, after incorporating the starter into a San Francisco-style recipe, Susan had two loaves of very sour sourdough. The following week, after discovering some rye flour in her Island freezer, and after five days babysitting the new batch (which she refrigerated for part of that time, as she suspected bread mold was trying to gain a foothold) she adds that “There’s no comparison at all! The rye is a far superior, bordering-on-vinegary taste.” Exactly what she, and hopefully you, were looking for.


And once that’s done…


San Francisco-Style French Bread
1 1/2 cups warm water (105F, 40C)
1 envelope active dry yeast (1 tablespoon)
1 cup sourdough starter
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
Water for tops of loaves
Warm a large bowl. Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into warmed bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water. Set aside to soften 5 minutes. Stir in sourdough starter, sugar and salt. Beat in 3 cups flour until blended. Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place free from  drafts. Let rise 1 1/2  to 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Lightly grease a large baking sheet; set aside. Stir down dough. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a medium-stiff dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead dough 8 or 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Add more flour if necessary. Shape kneaded dough into two 10: x 3 1/2” loaves. Pull out ends of each to make them narrower than center of loaf. Or shape into 2 round loaves.
Place on prepared baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place free from drafts. Let rise 1 to 2 hours or until almost doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400F (205C). Pour water 1 inch deep into a 12” x 7 1/2” baking pan. Place in bottom of preheating oven. Use a pastry brush to brush tops of loaves with water. Use a razor blade or very sharp knife to cut kiagonal slashes across tops of loaves. Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped with your fingers.
After 30 minutes, if loaves are golden brown, cover with a tent of foil to prevent further browning. Remove from baking sheet. Cool on a rack. Makes 2 loaves.

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