31 March 2011

an epic failure {another bread story, with a very unhappy ending}

about a month ago, i decided that it was high time i tried to make some sourdough bread. i was thumbing through wild fermentation and realized that i have had this book for quite some time now and still hadn't actually made anything from it.  so, sourdough it was.  

i followed the instructions for a rye starter, but something went terribly terribly wrong.  i let the starter grow for about two weeks, all the while being a bit concerned, but trying to reassure myself that maybe this was what it was supposed to be like.  i'd never made sourdough, and the book doesn't provide much of a description of what the starter should be like.  i kept feeding it whole wheat flour, but there was a very pungent odor.  i  tried to convince myself that it was just a strong yeast smell and continued on.  

after about two weeks, it seemed like it might be ready and i decided to use it to make the german sunflower seed bread (sonnenblumenkernbrot) and things completely fell apart.  i mixed the sponge, which was unlike any sponge i had ever made before.  it was thicker than bread dough normally is and i could barely stir it together.  i let it rise for two days, but nothing changed, and it still smelled something terrible.  again, i told myself maybe it's supposed to be like this.  jared encouraged me, given that german bread is often very dense.  so i forged on.  

i added more flour (though not as much as the recipe called for- there was absolutely no way that dough could absorb that much flour--8 cups of flour and 4 cups of sunflower seeds for 2 loaves!) and made a very sorry attempt at kneading it.  i baked it and the next morning i toasted up a couple of slices for me and jared.  if i told you the bread was gross, it might be the understatement of my life.  it was sour, and foul, and pungent in the worst way possible.  i actually wish i had a photo of my face after the first bite.  determined to give it a chance, i slathered it with raspberry jam and somehow managed to eat an entire slice.  jared tossed his after one bite.  he then informed me that i was not to make breadcrumbs out of it (which was what i did with my last bread failure).  i decided that i wouldn't even dare to feed to to the birds and tossed the rest of it completely.  

since then, i read up a little bit on the wild fermentation forums and discovered that others have had trouble with his recipe as well.  i was directed to the recipe in the bread bible, which i have.  i read through it and this recipe could not be more different than the wild fermentation one.  it is extremely detailed and well-explained.  i'm hoping to get a new starter going this weekend using this recipe and will report back soon.  i would like to give the wild fermentation one another go, but i'm thinking it's best to wait until i have a little bit more experience.  i'm guessing that the starter was not active enough, and maybe too thick.  and that it somehow went sour. 

any thoughts on sourdough? have you tried it? what's your favorite recipe?


  1. So sad!! I think I really lucked out for my first sourdough experiment. Someone gave me their starter and a recipe to make bread and then a few tips from a library book really helped me. That said, I think rye starter is a whole different beast. I'm glad you are trying again.

  2. oh no.. what a bummer! it is so rough when you invest that much time into it and it doesn't turn out :( i did my first session of sourdough class on tuesday night, using starter from the teacher, and i'm going to try making my own starter this weekend. will report back shortly with the results!

  3. i'm doing a fake sourdough by never cleaning out my mixing bowl, keeping it wet and constantly having my cheat wet dough added to the old dough in the fridge (make sense, probalby not, but all i can say is every loaf that i make comes off tasting more and more sourdoughy ... , but again it's fake, i add some yeast with every new batch). i should just delete this.