Life by Chocolate

Chocolate, white, milk, dark, in all its forms forms life. Chocolate truffles, caramels, and other confections are at the core of enjoyment. This is life by chocolate because death by chocolate is the wrong attitude.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Don't Fear the Sour Dough

Smell the fear! Yum.

When I went back to school for chocolates and pastry, I had one teacher/chef, maybe more, who kept on saying, "Don't fear the chocolate. It will know if you fear it." I still haven't a clue why he was saying that. Even after he elaborated, "Pastry Chefs and cooks who come back to learn about chocolate always fear it. There is nothing to fear if you do everything right." I had no clue. Be afraid of chocolate? What's next, terrified of sugar? Wary of honey? Hostile to flour?

Oh, and he is right about precision. Chocolate is not forgiving. You must do everything right. Especially when making ganache. Ganache season is coming up. So, don't fear.

Likewise, I say to you, don't fear the sour dough. Now, I finally understand that indeed, chefs, trained chefs, fear ingredients or fear techniques as beyond them. If you don't fear, and you love food, you will prevail. The food can't out think you. Only you can out think you. So, don't start from a bad place.

How have I come to this realization? I was interviewing someone, a graduate of a culinary school in pastry arts. She was staying here in a nice room while she looked over the town and I took her measure. She was nice and had some basic skills. Meaning, she wasn't a home cook but had been trained and yet had never worked and hadn't taken her internship. People think that by going to school you can learn a craft. No you cannot. Rather, what you learn are basics. Both academic basics and culinary basics. Those basics are the same basics that a chef or baker or p√Ętissier would take years to teach a young, 8 or 9 year old apprentice. So school gives you a leg up over the old apprentice system but you really only start learning when you start working. This is especially true of crafts and of engineering, the ultimate craft.

One day I mentioned that we were going to do sour dough and she said to me, "I don't do sour dough." She had a wild look in her eyes. "It's too hard." Her eye were white with fright. She feared the sour dough and the sour dough knew it. The sour dough owned her. She passed out. OK. That last didn't actually happen but you get the idea.

There is nothing to fear. But as Bo Friberg has written, "..making bread with a sourdough starter is not completed in a few hours like most other types of bread. Instead, it requires several days while the starter...ferments." So, let me teach you how to master sour dough.

Let's start with the simplest thing in the world. How long do you proof sour dough? Yeast dough is proofed in hours. Sour dough is proofed in days. You could put yeast dough in the fridge and proof it over the course of 12 or 24 hours, something they don't teach you in school. But sour dough must be proofed for days because the little wild yeast and bacteria take days to do the same thing their tame cousins do in minutes.

If you wish to make your own starter, I recommend you to Bo Friberg.

So, first you make a starter, a mother sponge. I would recommend you either buy a live one, say from King Arthur or get one of those San Francisco dry ones. If you get a live one, feed it when you get it.

How to feed a starter. Mix equal parts AP flour and water in a Tupperware and drop the starter in. Shake and let sit out for 24 hours then put in the fridge.

The white pit of yummy. Hi mom!

To use the mother sponge. Take out a cup of the starter plus the fluids. Mix this with the flour and salt and sugar of the recipe, say 6 cups flour, 1 t salt, 2 T sugar and mix together. Slowly add 1 cup warm water or as much as needed to form the dough. Probably no more than 1 1/8 cups of water. Knead for 8 minutes.

While the kneading is going on, feed the mother sponge just as you fed the starter. Replace the cup of goo with one cup flour and one cup water. Let sit out for 24 hours and then refrigerate. You must do this every week.

Then put the dough into a Tupperware and let sit out for 2 days. Shape, say in a bread form, and let rise for 12-24 hours before baking.

Rising away. This has been rising for 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 F. I put a pan of water, 1 cup, in the oven 10 minutes before I put the bread in. You wont get that much oven spring here but you'll get some. When the internal temperature reaches 205F, you are done. About 35-40 minutes. You might want to turn the bread in the oven after 20 minutes, just in case your oven has hot spots.

Take out of form and put on rack to cool Let it cool for 1 hour before slicing. Do NOT leave bread in a bread form, or pan, or loaf pan. Always rack it. Take it out of the rack. Even my assistant pastry chef, Nancy, forgets this detail and she's a baker. And there you have it. Nothing to fear.



Anonymous Tom Aarons said...

Please... No... No... Not the sour dough!!!

Thanks for the tips. I think I have nothing to fear now! :)

August 12, 2008 at 5:19 AM  
Blogger Mark by Chocolate said...

Well, at least you don't have to fear chocolate and sour dough. All you have left is to fear fear itself. No! Wait! Are we still fearing fear? There is nothing to fear except fear itself. Yup. I guess that's still OK.

August 12, 2008 at 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you weren't speaking of me as the interviewee who feared sourdough. We never made sourdough, never dicussed making it, and I certainly do not fear it. If there is one thing I do really well, it is bread.

I don't understand your discrimination against culinary students. I choose to attend culinary school to understand method and science of baking and pastry arts. I KNOW I told you that I was not trained in savory and it was certainly not my passion.

I pretty much feel maligned by your blog. It was a nice room and I did sing for my supper, so to speak. Your place was not my space.

Not cool.

November 14, 2008 at 1:52 AM  
Blogger Mark by Chocolate said...

Since I don't know who you are, and since I had tons of people interviewing, who stayed here and commented, I'm not sure you should feel maligned by anything since I didn't mention names. If you comment back with your name address and telephone number, perhaps then I could tell you if you were who I was talking about and then you could feel maligned but only if you were that person.

(What are they teaching people now-a-days in school? I don't know. It surely isn't like the good ol' days when they taught you how to think. And no you don't get to feel maligned even now because your comment was posted as anonymous and even I don't know who you are.)

WRT savory vs. pastry, I understand that. I've had a bunch of people who wanted to just do pastry. However, my business is, right now, a little of both. Mostly, though it is making chocolates with a little of doing breakfast and dinner. Soon, it will be chocolate 24/7. I exaggerate.

I always mention the possibility of doing dinner to help out. Most people are flattered that I would even let them. I have one pastry arts graduate working for me now who I have not only taught how to cook but also how to bake, even unto teaching her how to bake some of her own cultures delicacies. She too had a strong reaction to sour dough and even bagels. She loves doing bagels and can't get enough of them. I do them with her every now and then just because.

Basically, I've given up on pastry arts students simply because it is much easier for me to hire trained bakers and teach then how to cook or hire trained cooks and teach them how to bake. Even trained people I have to integrate into my kitchen. That is, teach them my way. That is, teach them chocolates.

(This doesn't mean that if you are a student you shouldn't ask me for a job. We are expanding.)

So, who ever you are, please don't feel maligned since you are probably happy in your current job doing well while I am getting new equipment. A Hilliard 240 lb 6" coater is being delivered today. Yippee. So, we are both doing just fine.

Oh, and to everyone who interviewed for my positions, which are all currently filled, thanks for coming in. Don't feel bad, I made up the whole thing to make a point. Though, I must say, the whole don't fear the chocolate thing wasn't made up and I still don't fear it. ;-)

However, the same applies to sour dough and it is a good lesson. But since I made up the encounter, it is actually a composite of multiple people and should not be construed as any one person, you will have to feel maligned on your own time not mine.

Thanks for the post comment. Now go comment on the one post that matters, the donation post.

November 14, 2008 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Mark by Chocolate said...

Wow, I just tried to find this post. It isn't even one the front page.

November 14, 2008 at 9:39 AM  

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