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Al-Wheys Experimenting: Sourdough September 2019

Back to doing some experimenting and playing with dough. Years ago in a bread course my chef and now good friend Richard Miscovich wanted to play with waste and use whey (what remains from cheese making) to replace water in bread to increase nutrients. I knew it worked but I also had two factors I wanted to play with. A) I wanted a stronger sourdough flavor while playing with sourdough for Sourdough September, and B) I had whey that was both from raw milk (who knows what fun micro organisms lived in it through the cheese process) and has cultures from making the milk into cheese.

Luckily I currently live in the great state of California that allows raw milk to be sold locally and I was able to get my hands onto a gallon. I used a chèvre culture to make the cheese. Traditionally chèvre is made with goats milk (chèvre literally means goat in French) but I did some research and when cow's milk is used it's called bovre, or soft cultured cheese. Since the milk and cheese are never brought to a high temperature there was no pasteurization and any micro organisms that are in there will be in the bread and interact with the wild yeast cultures. Don't worry though, baking will kill off everything and leave behind nutrients and flavor. The whey was a little more white and less clear than what I get from ricotta making so I was interested if there would be a slight cheesy flavor as well that is left behind.

As for the sourdough side of this I began with my personal culture, Carmen. I started her in December 2017 so she is almost two years old now. In the past when I have made sourdough at home I will mix the dough and do the bulk fermentation in one day, shape in the afternoon, and refrigerate overnight before baking on day 2. The overnight rest (referred to as retarding the dough in baker's terms) slows down the yeast in the bread and allows other lactobacilli bacteria to turn more sugar into lactic and acetic acid, this will make a more sour flavor. I do like my sourdough already but I was raised on San Francisco sourdough that is very tart and I wanted tart. To help with this I wanted to do a three day process. Mix the dough day 1, retard overnight, shape day 2, retard again overnight, bake day 3.

The recipes I used for this experiment were a french country loaf that I love to make and the classic baguette dough, even though I wasn't going to shape it into baguettes. The main two differences is the hydration of the dough and the french loaf had some whole wheat flour along with bread flour. Day 1 both doughs looked good and mixed up well. I placed them into cambros and let them sit in the fridge. As the day went on I questioned if I should have let them start at room temp to give the yeast a little help since I was playing with the microscopic life. I ended up pulling the doughs that night and leaving them on the counter until morning. They were not super active when I went to bed so i felt this would get a better texture from the dough.

Day 2 I woke up and both doughs had a good rise that did not look over done. I gave them both a fold and decided I'd let them stay at room temp a couple hours with a fold each hour until I shaped. The dough did feel stronger from the folds, so I'm happy I gave it the extra help. Then it was time to shape, place into floured baskets and let rest again. Since I knew the yeast was active I didn't feel bad going right into the fridge. They sat here overnight until the next day.

Day 3 I had work in the morning so i knew they would get extra time since I wouldn't be able to bake them until the evening. Coming out of the fridge the french loaf was a little bigger but not a lot, I was happy with how it was looking. The baguette on the other hand didn't look like it had changed. Into a 450 degree oven they went and to bake. Within minute the kitchen was booming with the smell of sourdough.

When I opened the oven to pull them out I was quite happy. They had expanded a lot (french loaf more than baguette), the scores opened, a nice dark color had formed, it looked successful. They came out and were left to cool a little bit before a cut to see the inside. Once I was able to open them up the crumb was a little more fine than I had expected and there were some larger holes near the bottom. The smell was incredible though. I felt like I was on fisherman's wharf in the city next to Boudin. The flavor? tart sourdough from two nights of proofing and cheesiness. Now I do typically get a slight cheesiness from sourdough regularly, but this was a little stronger. I question if the additional micro organisms from the whey could also increase the amount of lactic and acetic acid being produced to help with the sourdough flavor. In the end I'm happy with the results and I think my family is too. Now we have some good sourdough to enjoy before the next experiment. Here's some pictures of one french loaf to see how much the scored opened and the crumb inside.

Let me know if you have tried anything like this or what you do to help your sourdough flavor to develop further. As for me, I'm going to go make some breakfast with this delicious bread.


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