TIPS - ARTISAN SPONGE STARTER
are used as starters in most artisan breads. If you have never used a sponge
starter you will be pleasantly surprised with the results. Your loaf texture and
feel will be softer, like a sponge. That's where the name comes from. It is a
really nice tool that every baker should be familiar with. By the way, your
crust can still be thick and chewy and crusty with a spongy center in your loaf.
To make a sponger starter mix
equal parts of cold water, bread flour and a small amount of yeast. I use 1/2
tsp of active dry yeast per 2 cups of water and 2 cups of bread flour. Mix
thoroughly, then cover the bowl with a plate and let
sit at room temperature for 18 to 24 hours. You can mix it with a wooden spoon
every once in a while if you like. There are no fixed rules on sponges. You can
make a quick starter by using equal parts warm water, bread flour and 1/2 tsp of
active dry yeast. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour or so. You will
have a quick sponge to add to your next batch of bread.
You can experiment with your
sponge if you want. Try using less yeast. You can also keep the sponge in the
fridge. You can not mess it up whatever you do, but the optimal sponge will peak
at time of use. Yeast is an organism. Its activity will peak at some point in
the baking process. Heat, the quantity of yeast used and the time sponge sits
are all variables. If you use warm water it will peak sooner. If you refrigerate
the sponge it will take longer. Just like bread rising, it will rise to point
and then peak - the rising will stop. If you peak the yeast you will get oven
shoot while baking. If you miss the peak you won't get any oven shoot. Just
experiment. It's fun. It's all part of the learning process.
Now you have a sponge starter.
To make a loaf with your sponge simply substitute starter for flour and water in
the recipe for your next loaf. The sponge is equal parts water and flour so it
is easy. If you use one cup of sponge starter in your next loaf just decrease
the recipe by 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water.
If you were to let the sponge
sit for a few days and feed it every three days some more flour and water it
would sour and become a sourdough starter over time. When I make pizza dough in
my bread machine I leave the dough I don't use in the machine for a few day and
let it ferment (sour). I use it in the next batch of bread that I make.
Sometimes I just pull the remaining dough out of the bread machine and use it to
make another pizza.
Give it a try. Experiment.
Bread baking is a craft. You will never know it all. There is always more to
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