Thursday, 7 May 2015

Project Sourdough: Bumps in the Road, Or Why Home Fermenting is a Bitch-Goddess

Damn you, home fermenting, damn you!!! I've been having a disappointing series of kitchen fails, mostly to do with Sourdough, and now Kombucha. My Sourdough falls flat, and my very first batch of 'buch MOLDED because my kitchen is too cold. Shall I recap? This might be sweary, I'll try to keep it clean.

So, Sourdough:
I've continued to try various bread recipes using my starter, all turning out way too dense. Another malthouse turned out like pumpernickel. I was so disappointed with the rise on a San Francisco-style loaf that I resorted to adding some quick yeast AFTER the second rise and luckily got enough of an oven spring to salvage that em-effer (above). Still, disappointing. Tried the following fixes:

Kept the starter at room temperature for a few days before using.
Changed the jar when the above fix resulted in a tiny bit of mold on the edge of the jar.
Fed more regularly.
Proofed at room temperature.
Checked the dough regularly to suss out the tolerance.
Tried different oven temps, both experimenting and to-the-letter recipe following.

Of course, the answer is obvious. I should get my hands on a known good starter to narrow down the list of potential problems. If I know my starter works, then I must be going wrong somewhere with dough tolerance, or temperature. Have I mentioned that our kitchen is cold? That can't help. What's frustrating though, is that the starter smells good! It smells right! It smells sour and complex, and the dough does actually get some big, sexy air bubbles. What's wrong with it??? 

So my plan is to get some good starter, from where I don't know yet, and try again, all while continuing to maintain my lovely rye starter. I'm also going to get my hands on a proving basket (is it proving, or proofing? I see both on t'internet. Any bread nerds out there?) and do this right. And I do know that there's no turning back - I've made some bread with quick yeast since, and it just doesn't have the flavour or the crust.

And Kombucha! What the hell!! I thought, since sourdough is proving to be a troublesome, erm, Berkshire Hunt, I'll do an easy ferment for the summer. I bought a Scoby (and named it Scobias), and set up what was to be a continuous brew. I happen to like Kombucha, and I get a kick out of making something that's normally expensive for next to nothing. Sounds great! No, mold. MOLD. 

So excited! So naive!


The Internet seems to think that Kombucha is actually difficult to screw-up, unless you're a screw-up, like me. The company I bought the Scoby from, Happy Kombucha, have actually been really helpful in diagnosing our problem, so I am going to try again. I'll have to brew upstairs somewhere, near the goddamn thermostat if I have to, and I will probably wait a few batches before attempting a continous set-up again. Then I shall report back! Hopefully with better results! So today I bought a bottle of commercial Kombucha just to bum myself out further about what I WON'T be making this week. 

Now, if you need me, I'll be over here crying into my guacamole. Not really, I'll be eating it.

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