Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter - 21 days old and bursting with a variety of bubbles.
Though I have consumed many sourdough breads in my life I have not had the privilege of making a truly memorable sourdough until now. About 20 years ago I was given a cup of sourdough starter that had a wonderful family lineage and I felt privileged to have it.  I knew nothing about what to do with it except for the fact that I needed to feed it once a week. If I did that simple task, I would be rewarded with the aroma of fresh sourdough breads sliding in and out of my oven impressing my family and friends. Well... that's not what happened. What started out as an amazing opportunity, quickly turned out to be an EPIC FAIL!

I managed to keep my precious starter alive for about 2 months.  Then I got neglectful and it started to get watery and funky with a grayish black coating that assured me - it was time to lay it to rest R.I.P.  It was a sad day.  That's when I told myself that I didn’t have what it took to achieve sourdough stardom, especially since I killed the main ingredient. So I joined the masses and humbly started to purchase my sourdough bread from that day forward.

Back in the day… we didn’t have the internet to ask endless questions.  So when we hit a wall of failure – we just accepted it and waited for the needed information to happen our way. However, that was then and this is now. I needed to figure out this mystery.  I headed to my computer and hit Google hard with endless questions on how to conqueror the beast (sourdough starter and bread).  I was not disappointed.  I gathered up the courage to give sourdough one more try and it worked.  21 days, 12 loaves of bread and dozens of rolls into this project and I’m feeling redeemed!

Meet Henry my magnificent sourdough starter.  I can proudly say that he is quite robust and an active bubbler.  I’m rather proud of him and plan to keep him strong and healthy for as long as humanly possible.  My hope is to share him with as many people who have the same crazy desire to care for one more thing in their busy lives.  Yes, sourdough starters are alive and need care.  That might be the reason that I was so unsuccessful at my first go at it.
Henry's name tag & D.O.B. 12/21/2016
It all starts with a healthy starter.
That's what gives your bread that distinct sour flavor that we lovers of sourdough crave.  Without starter, it’s just bread.

Why? This is what I read;
Glass bowl – it is noted that because of the acid in the sourdough it may react poorly with a metal bowl.  However, many state that as long as you have a good quality stainless steel bowl it won’t matter.  I have chosen to use the glass bowl because there will be less room for error and it also allowed me to watch it bubble on the bottom and sides which made me feel confident that it was growing properly.

Filtered water – from what I understand, the reason for filtered water is to eliminate the possibility of a chlorinated flavor in your starter.  However, if you have good quality water pouring out of your faucet – just use it.

All you need to make sourdough starter is...
flour, water and time.

Start thinking of a name for your new baby, because you will be spending a lot of time with him or her.  As I mentioned above, I named my starter Henry.  I used this recipe by cup measures instead of the recommended weighing.  I highly recommend that you take a look at the original blog post - there's a lot of valuable information.
If you’re up for the challenge-Let’s get started!

Day 1 – In a medium sized GLASS bowl; mix a heaping ¾ cup of flour with ½ cup of filtered water. Stir vigorously until you have a smooth batter.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in an area that maintains about 70 – 75 degrees.  I put mine in the microwave (not turned on, of course) for 24 hours.

Day 2 thru 5 – Repeat day one by adding a heaping ¾ cup of flour and ½ cup of filtered water to the bowl and stir vigorously until you have a smooth batter.
*** What I did different from the original recipe was to stir the starter 2 or 3 times throughout the day.  In my humble opinion… it helped the starter feel and look healthy with small and sometimes large bubbles bursting out of the top.

Day 5 – You did it, your starter is ready to use. (I hope you have named your starter by now)

Day 5 to Eternity – How to maintain your starter
Transfer starter to a clean glass jar or bowl (I use a bowl); cover and keep in your refrigerator
Once a week - Discard or use about half of your starter (see recipes) and feed it as you did on day one; with a heaping ¾ cup of flour with ½ cup of filtered water. Stir vigorously until you have a smooth batter. Place it back in the fridge.

*** To maintain your starter, but not bulk it up – add 1/4 – 1/3 cups flour and an equal amount of water instead of the ¾ cup as before.

*** When you are ready to use your starter – remove it from the fridge the night before - feed it and let it sit covered in a warm place overnight (I just left Henry on the counter). It will be bubbly and have doubled in size by morning. Stir it down before measuring it for your recipe.

*** Every time you use your starter, feed it. If you bake every day, you will need to feed it every day and just leave it on the counter.  If not – only once a week and keep it in the fridge.

Tell me your starter story and of course; what you named him or her.

Recipes I used successfully.

Honey Wheat Sourdough Bread This makes the perfect sandwich bread.

Plain and Simple Sourdough Bread This recipe uses sourdough starter with added commercial yeast and was intended for a bread machine, which I did not use.  Instead, I mixed and kneaded by hand. It produced beautiful tasty bread that was easy to make and used up 1 cup of my starter - I recommend you bake with the added yeast first to get the feel of working with starter. You can have a fresh loaf in about 3 - 4 hours.  After you have mastered this.  move on to... 

Extra Tangy Sourdough Bread - This recipe only uses sourdough starter without added yeast.  When I made this I cut the recipe in half so I would only need to bake 1 loaf at a time.  This bread takes patience.  4 hours on the counter + 12 hours in the fridge + 4 - 6 more hours proofing in the bread pan and 45 min. to bake. It sounds like a lot of work, but its not, its just a lot of waiting and I assure you - It's worth the wait!  The flavor and texture is noticeably improved.

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