Arte y Aves

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Sourdough

I’ve been on a sourdough kick.

A few months ago I started a starter and have been making sourdough ever since. I have made pancakes, English muffins, whole wheat breads, white breads, pita bread, pizza crust, and even cinnamon rolls. There are tons of recipes available online so I won’t go there. Just do a search for sourdough bread recipes and you will find lots of possibilities.

Now, you have to feed your starter like a pet. However, once you get it going you can keep it in the refrigerator and get it out a day ahead of your project to wake it up. That is a relief to me since I can’t keep eating like this! The homemade sourdough breads are so yummy that it is hard to stay away and the waistline suffers.

I’ve generally been a spur-of-the-moment type person so it has taken some getting used to planning ahead. If you look at recipes online you’ll see that usually you have to mix up some starter, water and flour the night before and leave it all night. They call this a sponge. Then you knead the dough, or not, and add flour, salt, and maybe other things then let it raise. After two or three hours you punch it down, form your bread, and then let it raise again for a shorter time. Meantime you can heat the oven. Its heat helps the bread to raise, ready for baking.

Besides having a great flavor, sourdough doesn’t spoil as quickly as yeast breads. I made some regular yeast bread the other day and before we could eat both loaves, the second one got moldy.

If you’ve thought about making sourdough but have been frightened away for whatever reason, here are some things I’ve learned so far.

Tips:

  • Equipment. Those who blog and post recipes about sourdough are often professional bakers or very dedicated home bakers. They tend to speak about special equipment like earthen ovens, baking stones and special baskets for raising your bread. I have found that these things are not necessary to making wonderful bread.  It could very well be that your bread will turn out better and prettier if you spend the money on those things. But if you’re like me you don’t have the money nor the access to these extra items and your bread will be plenty good without them.
  • Weight. It is said that it is best to weigh rather than measure your flour and starter. That is fine if you have a scale or want to purchase and store it. But I have learned that so much depends on the climatic conditions of where you live, the quality of your flour, etc. that it is more important to adjust the amounts of ingredients depending on that. Do some experimenting and you’ll learn what makes a good bread and what doesn’t. Pick a simple recipe to begin with so you get the idea of it.
  • Yeast. Some recipes call for an addition of yeast. I never add it in. I simply use a tad more starter and expect the raising time to be a little longer.
  • Starter. The recipe found here: http://www.sourdoughhome.com/startingastarter.html has worked well for me. I have tried saving some good starter out (just in case) and doing what others say to do with it, but invariably go back to doing it his way. I have also found that the starter is not super delicate. I have forgotten to feed it so that it went hungry for hours, but fortunately it was fine. (Whew!) I have added a little more to the sponge than a recipe calls for and the bread turned out great.
  • More on the starter. I started out using rye flour and water and after a few days went to whole wheat and then to all-purpose flour. Some recipes call for a whole wheat starter. I just use my white flour starter with no problem. Oh, and I have never thrown any away. They say that you need to remove some old starter when you feed it. I simply store the “throw away” in the refrigerator and when enough has built up I get it out, feed it for a day, then use it.
  • Recipes. Lots of the recipes come with tons of instructions which I find confusing. I read it over to pick up any bits of wisdom the author might have, then rewrite it so it is simple and makes sense to me. I note down on the same paper any changes I want to make to the recipe.
  • Cleanup. I use a wooden spoon when I feed my starter or make my bread. It’s a good idea to wash it right away. Remember that flour and water are also used to make paste and when it dries it is very hard. Use an old plastic card to scrape up any surfaces that have hardened dough.

Anyone interested in joining me in my sourdough kick?

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4 Comments

  1. Dave

    I’ve been enjoying the results.

  2. marycathd

    Wow, Sylvia, I’m impressed! Looks very yummy! 🙂

  3. Ingrid

    I do not see any reason to remove half the starter. I’ve been using sourdough for at least 40 yrs and have never removed and thrown away the perfectly good starter. Neither do I feed it constantly. Good starter has been frozen, shipped across country, carried in a cooler on cross country trips, left in the freezer at one host home. The area in which one makes a starter will determine the taste of your sourdough. One side of town may have better spores than another. Some starters are on the sweet side, while others are very sour. If you get an especially good starter going, protect it. You might never have to start a new one again.

    • Yeah, I wonder why they say to throw some away. Interesting about the starter having different flavors in different places. You certainly have a lot of experience. I don’t feed my starter when it is in the refrigerator. I generally just keep 1/2 cup or so and get it out to warm up, and feed it for a day when I’m planning to use it. Most breads ask for a cup so I feed it enough to have that much plus some to keep.

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