Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sourdough a new adventure with an old friend

I grew up eating sourdough pancakes, waffles, breads, doughnuts etc... so I had a long relationship with it. I raised my older children on it, it was a staple of my life. I came across an article in one of my cook books that I had clipped out and stuck in there years ago. I read it and it made my mind think maybe there is somethings I didn't know or hadn't contemplated on sourdough. I got on the Internet and read all sorts of articles, new and old, love the antique writings that you can find, so I decided to re-establish a relationship with an old friend. Years ago, in middle school, I had done experiments with breads, sourdoughs and gluten's as my science project, won a blue ribbon, I decided to experiment again. I made up a batch of my standard sourdough starter, which is made up of potato water, flour and yeast, I set it aside in a glass, antique wire closure mason jar. I fed it daily, to make it grow, and in short time had a usable new starter. I also followed the instructions on an antique starter, which was made from boiling potatoes setting them aside to get a crust of mold and age a week or so, after the aging you scrape off the mold and throw it away, you use the rest of the potatoes in combination with flour and water to make a starter. Each day I tended both in separate batches.

Once the starters had matured, aged and soured a bit I took out my old faithful recipe and the antique one, that had accompanied the old starter recipe,to make up loaves of bread. I ended up with four very nice loaves. One of each recipe, made from each of the starters, two that tasted good, as the old family recipe had always, but they did not slice well in to toast or for making sandwiches. The other two loaves were nice and firm, good taste and sliced so marvelously that you could toast them. They, by the they, had almost no ingredients in them so very economical too, so we had a winner on making bread that could be a replacement for our daily use. Yes, we make it regularly and do not and have not purchased any bread since.

The recipe for the bread is, first you make a sponge; which consists of  two cups of starter in a large bowl, add 7 and a half cups of warm water, stir in 9 cups of flour, I like a mixture of half ground wheat and half unbleached all purpose flour, but some times I make it all wheat or a mixture of different flours. You let the mixture set 8 to 24 hours to basically become a large batch of starter, or sponge, you also have to re feed your original starter anytime you take from it so I add two cups of four and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of warm water to the starter in it's jar. Once you have allowed the sponge to grow and it should grow up to the top of the bowl and collapse before it is really ready to make into bread, that is why it is 8 to 24 hours, as this can vary depending on warmth of the house or the weather. It is now time to make the bread dough, I add 1/2 cup oil, any good oil, it can be butter, lard, olive oil, canola..., a 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of salt, again any kinds will do honey, molasses, and kosher are all good options. I then add 9 cups of flour, your choice, and stir it up good. I then pour it into a well of flour on my marble bread making slab, on my counter, and knead until it is a nice stiff dough. I put it into a large greased bowl to grow for around 4 hours, sometime longer sometimes less, you want it to double. Once it has doubled in size you can now slice and knead it into loaves, it will make around 6 large loaves or 9 small loaves or 15 chili bowls or 8 flat bread or pizza crusts, or anything you might want to make from it. I bake the big loaves a 425 for around 30 minutes. You can add high heat and stem to your oven followed by moderate heat to get really nice crusty artisan breads too. They are worth the effort.

Our sourdough baking is a weekly ritual and in the summer the girls sell theirs at the farmers market, I did decide eventually to pour the two starters together and I think together they made the best starter of the three. I do once in awhile hibernate my starter by feeding it and putting it into the refrigerator, and remembering to feed it weekly, otherwise when out it should be feed daily for the best starter. I did make a sourdough starter with a kefir recipe later when I was making cheese but that is another blog.....

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