Many new bakers forget to feed their starter, but sourdough starter is pretty hardy and difficult to kill. However, if it sits too long in your fridge, or even on the counter a dark liquid will develop over the top layer. This is known as hooch and looks pretty rotten. Hooch can be stirred back into the start and then reactivated with flour and water. This will give the start a sharper tang, but if you want it to be milder, just pour the hooch off and then add the flour and water. If your starter is dormant, just feed the way you usually would and if it is not very lively, feed it again every 4 hours until it is bubbly and happy. PJ Hamel warns that occasionally, “starter will attract some ‘bad’ bacteria. It may acquire an unpleasant odor (not its usual sharp acidity, but something ‘off’), and may have a pinkish liquid on top. If this happens, discard your starter and begin over.” I keep both dehydrated and frozen starts on hand for just such an emergency.
I am not one to take to mild sourdough, I want a long-ferment that really breaks down gluten and increases the tanginess in the flavor. The tangy flavor comes from the bacterial interactions with water and flour in the starter. This interaction produces lactic and acetic acid (vinegar) which gives sourdough its distinctive flavor. The folks at Cultures for Health explain that if you want to make your loaf taste more sour for a tangier finished product:
Today I was making another loaf of Malted Rootbeer Sourdough Bread from memory. It was then I realized once again that bread making is not a science but an art. I can tell this loaf is more hydrated than I can handle; it is a sticky mess that I am hoping will work out. The malted rootbeer recipe calls for 85% hydration and since it is loaded with whole-grain I am counting on those grains absorbing more of the moisture.* Nothing affects the texture and look of your bread more than hydration. Because the crumb is naturally tighter in sourdough bread, to get an airier texture you will have to have a wetter dough than with yeasted bread you may make at home. Hydration is calculated as a percentage of the weight of the flour. For two loave of white sourdough, for example, you might use 4 cups (508g) of bread flour, for 75% hydration you would add 1½ cups (380g) water.
“In general, sourdough bread tends to have hydration levels from 65% to 100% depending on the type of flour used. The higher the hydration level, the more open the crumb texture, and the thinner and crisper the crust.”—TrueSourdough.com
I usually make mine between 65–75% hydration, but Abigail’s Oven maintains 79% hydration. That is quite wet for first-time bakers to handle. Some like this level because of the huge bubbles a wet dough yields. So, if you are after that traditional San Francisco Sourdough look, you will have to learn to work between 80–85 percent hydration. The folks at TrueSourdough.com made up this helpful chart that helps you know what to expect as you increase hydration:
Rather than wait all day for your dough to rise, use this brilliant hack to have homemade bread ready in a fraction of the time using a heating pad. (via Lifehacker) What to Read Next: 31 Best Kitchen Hacks Nobody Told You About Hope you enjoyed these baking tips and tricks and at least one or two of them were new to you. What other life hacks posts what you like to see next?
Your guests will be blown away by these lace cupcakes that look so elegant and difficult to make. However, in reality, they are beyond easy! All you need is to sift powdered sugar through a piece of lace that acts as a stencil to create this gorgeous design. (via Sweet Verbena)
Ever try to fish out eggshell and it seems like it takes forever chasing it around. Well, this trick lets you fish it out in the fraction of the time by simply wetting your finger. (via BrightSide)
It can get messy when you are filling up a pastry bag with icing because it can stick to the sides and you end up wasting some of it. Instead, use a cup to easily fill your pastry bag every time. (via Creations by Kara)
With baking, it is so important to make all of your measurements precise. So, an easy way to do this is to add a scoop scraper to your dry ingredient containers using masking tape in just seconds. (via The Kitchn)
Leave no crumb behind with this genius homemade cake pan release using just 3 ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. (via If You Give a Blonde A Kitchen) Speaking of nonstick baking hacks, if you haven’t picked up a set of silpats yet, they are a must have for any baker.
I actually like the look of these parchment paper muffin liners even better! They look like they are straight from the bakery. (via The Kitchn)