I am sitting at what, I guess, is my quarantine desk. Such a weird idea, quarantine. Cate and I just took an old table from our basement and installed it into our bedroom. If we’re going to be “locked” inside for the next two weeks, we might as well have a place to sit. Pandemic aside, hopefully it will help my posture while I write the last few issues of this newsletter.
In other news, this week I baked sourdough croissants and it worked, though in different ways than last weeks batch. I’ll let the expert explain.
Expert rating: 8 out of 10.
Expert review: I enjoyed these, they had a nice subtle flavor and beautiful layers. They were a bit too dense which is the only reason I’m not rating them higher.
As I mentioned last week, sourdough is yeast you grow at home. I never got this until I was researching for last week’s post. I always assumed that yeast was yeast and sourdough was some weird human friendly bacteria thing. But the truth is that they are really both yeast, though sourdough has bacteria in it as well.
To understand how sourdough doesn’t just become mold or a cesspool, you need to understand what yeast does. Yeast (aka, Saccharomyces cerevisiae) eats simple sugars and produces CO2 and alcohol. In baking we care about the CO2 and in brewing we care about the alcohol. But in sourdough starting, we care about both. We care about the CO2 as it leavens dough. And we care about the alcohol as it kills much of the bad bacteria that also feeds on the simple sugars and would otherwise create a stinky mess.
In last week’s newsletter, I mentioned being unsure about if my sourdough starter was ready. This is because the guidance to know that your starter is strong enough (aka, is mostly yeast and is healthy yeast) is that after feeding your starter it doubles in size and I wasn’t seeing that. A friend (and reader) asked me if I was checking through out the day or if I was only looking just before feeding as she assumed it was doubling long before I was looking. Sure enough, after scraping the jar clean so I could see how far it grew by looking for leftover residue, I found that she was right.
Now, for this week’s bake I had to guess about how much sourdough to use. The advice I found said between 10% and 30% of your recipe’s flour should be replaced with starter flour. I went with 30% as I figured more starter means more yeast and I’ve found it takes a lot of yeast to make fluffy croissants.
As we are working in weights, this means that I needed 150g flour from the starter. But since starter is water and flour, and my starter is 1g of flour to 1g of water I really needed 300g of starter. Cause, you know, half the weight of the starter is water. Which also means that I needed to adjust the amount of water I used in my recipe. In the end, the dough was a bit wet and I needed to add a 20ish grams of flour to the dough to get it to the right consistency.
Part of using sourdough meant letting the dough proof for much longer. Last week I did about 12 hours, this week it was closer to 18. But even at 18 hours the dough didn’t rise. I’m guessing this means that either my starter wasn’t strong enough, or I let it rest in the fridge for too long and so the yeast became a bit dormant. Anyway, I’m pretty excited about how this week’s bake came out even if they didn’t fluff up. I was expecting disaster, I got croissants.
Oh, lastly, in case you are worried the runs on grocery stores will impact my croissant baking. I’ve already got the flour and better for next week, so don’t worry, there will be croissants.