Sunday, February 24, 2008

Basic Sourdough Starter

I have always loved sourdough bread and other baked goods. The aroma is the best part of the experience. Years ago I was into sourdough and began a 'starter', which is what you use as the basis of any sourdough recipe. You grow your starter until it begins to ferment, then keep in the refrigerator until you use it. The starter must be maintained by 'feeding' periodically. The older the starter is, the better the flavor develops. The gold-miners in California were known for their sourdough breads; they would carry and protect the 'starter' while they travelled. Starters were known to have been passed down from generation to generation. I had one for a couple of years once and it was really good. It becomes something that is alive, and you must feed and nurture. It's kind of rewarding in a funny sort of way. Once you start it though, you must bake at least every 10 days. So don't do it if you are going to be on a low carb diet. The recipe is from 'Sourdough Cookery' by Rita Davenport. I will follow this week with ways to use the starter and recipes.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast(1 Tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired
2 cups warm water(105F, 40C)

In a 4 to 6 cup non-metal container, combine all ingredients. Beat with a wooden or plastic spoon. Sourdough is very sensitive to metal. Fermentation will dissolve small lumps. Cover bowl with a cloth. You want the yeast organisms in the air to permeate the mixture, so don't seal the bowl off tightly. Set in a warm place, free from drafts(85F, 30C) Let ferment for 2 to 3 days. Stir the mixture several times a day. Check after 3 days that the mixture is bubbly and beginning to smell good. Refrigerate starter until use, in a container with an air vent or hole in the top. Label container. Replenish every 7 to 10 days by stirring equal parts flour and water into starter. Let stand at room temperature overnight. Return to refrigerator. If a clear or yellow liquid forms on top just stir it in. If the liquid is brown or pink, throw it away.

To use: Remove amount of starter needed for your recipe. Let sit at room temp for a while before using, until it looks bubbly again. Keep the unused starter in the refrigerator.

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