Since I had so much trouble this time with my starter I don’t think I should be telling anyone how to make a starter. I will though, just because there are a few things that can go wrong (although, ultimately it is SUPER easy) and maybe you can learn from my mistakes (and I promised). First off, I would like to refer you to Sourdough Bread: How To Begin by S. John Ross, which is where Joy the Baker got her info and where I got my bread recipe. Really, I just want to bring to your attention the cool science experiment that is a sourdough starter. Also, be warned of the myriad of things you can do not only with a starter (pancakes, pretzels, rolls, loaves) but also with just the bread itself. You are just going to be cooking with it all the time.
First of all, this loaf still had its issues. Last year, the wonderful starter I had could rise my dough ready for baking in about 3 1/2 hours total. That was just the time for my first rise this time. I still wish it had risen more but at least it rose enough and cooked all the way through. My first two attempts barely rose at all and were still doughy in center. I think maybe even though I had been feeding it faithfully over a week and it was bubbling and smelled awesome, ultimately my starter wasn’t ready for me to bake with it. I knew the starter itself wasn’t bad, so I just put it in the fridge for the rest of the week and came back to it when I had time over the weekend. I got it out on Saturday and fed it Saturday and Sunday and made the sponge for my bread on Sunday night. I could tell while making this bread that the starter had gotten better. It still did not compare to some weeks I had last year where it bubbled so much, even as I had gotten all the way to mixing the flour in for my bread dough, that I felt guilty baking it because it was so obvious I was killing something (even if it was bacteria) that was so totally alive! It really is the neatest thing. Science in my tummy!
So on Monday I followed my recipe and baked a loaf that was completely edible (third times a charm, right?). A loaf I could slice up and eat with dinner, a loaf I could make toast with, a loaf that I could make a Ten Pound Bun with! Have you ever had those at the fair? A-mazing! Last year, when I made my loaf a week, we would put cheese on the sourdough and melt it in the microwave and have it for a snack. This year after going to the L.A. County Fair, and eating what has been a staple of our fair food for years, it was like being struck by lightning! Sourdough, garlic spread, and colby jack cheese melted with the broiler-how simple, how decadent, and I can totally make this at home!
Don’t let a good sourdough die. Mine died just this spring. I took it out of the fridge to bring it up to room temperature before I fed it (which you don’t need to do) and didn’t get around to feeding it for three days! Then I could smell that I had killed it. Still so sad.
Keep trying. Although I had a great easy experience last year, this year has been more difficult. Remember, the longer it lives the easier it will be to bake or cook with it. You WILL get a feel for the health of your starter.
For good rising use your oven. Turn it on for a minute or so, then turn it off. If you accidentally make it too hot, crack open the door to cool a bit before placing your dough inside.
It really is easy. After your initial commitment of feeding it every day for a week or so, you stick it in the fridge to be fed once a week (after awhile, even less). If you bake a loaf once a week like I did, the whole thing becomes a no brainer.
Please ask questions if you have them. I hope I can answer any you might have, if not I am sure we can figure it out together. So if you haven’t started your starter yet, get cracking and if you have, get baking! You won’t regret it.
My GeekyLink this week is Hogwarts house stereotypes from my Pinterest page. I like it because it addresses some of the concerns that were brought up in the review of PotterMORE on the Nerdist website. I pretty much agree with the entire review. But she brings up something that I didn’t realize, apparently lots of people that were sorted into Hufflepuff abandoned their accounts. I was sorted into Hufflepuff (I was completely honest in my answers to the questions that decide where you go) and yes, I was kinda bummed about it but not enough to not try out the potential awesomeness that is Pottermore! Then I ran across my GeekyLink picture and I had totally forgotten that Cedric Diggory, the only legitimate Hogwarts candidate for the Triwizard Tournament, was a Hufflepuff. Then I felt much better about it.
from How To Begin by S. John Ross
1 cup warm water
1 cup flour (you can use many kinds, I use all purpose)
Mix the two together and place in a large container with the lid slightly ajar. Glass works best but I have two plastic containers I use and haven’t have any trouble. Do not use a metallic container or a metallic spoon to stir or feed your starter, some of them are reactive and can ruin your starter. Keep your starter in a warm place, 70-80 degrees Farenheit. Temperatures above 100° or so will kill it. Every 24 hours, feed your starter. You do this by throwing away half of it and then adding a 1/2 cup of flour and a 1/2 cup of water. After about a week or so, when your starter develops a bubbly froth, it is done. This is more than just bubbles but bubbles and the yummy smell, mean you are on the right track. Keep your starter in the fridge once it is done. Still keep your lid ajar and keep your starter healthy by feeding it once a week. One question I had was with the “hooch”. The layer of watery liquid that builds up in your starter. You can pour it off or stir it back in. If your starter is a bit dry stir it in, if it is watery pour it off.
from Sourdough Bread by S. John Ross
2 cups of sponge (proofed starter)
3 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil or softened butter (optional)
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
First you need to proof the sponge. Take your starter out of the fridge and put it into a large glass or plastic bowl (I have two starter containers, and at this point this is when I switch them). Add a cup of warm water and flour, stir well and set in a warm place for several hours (I leave it overnight). The longer you let your sponge sit the more sour flavor you will get. After using the two cups for the recipe, you should have some leftover sponge. This is your starter for next time. Feed it and place it in the fridge for next time.
To the sponge add the oil, sugar and salt. Mix well, then add one cup of flour and mix well. Continue adding flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well between each addition. After a certain point, you will no longer be able to mix but will have to knead it. I can usually knead it in the bowl but feel free to put it out on your counter if need be. Knead in enough flour to make a good, flexible dough (I never use more than 2 1/2 cups). Use your judgement in the amount of flour you use, the amounts are approximate. “Trust your hands and eyes more than the recipe, always.”
Let the dough rise in a warm place, in a bowl covered loosely with a towel. Sourdough rises more slowly than yeast bread so be patient. The dough still needs to double in size, just like a yeasted bread. Punch the dough down and knead it a bit more. Make a loaf and place it on a baking sheet lightly greased or sprinkled with cornmeal (I do both, grease with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal). Slit the top if you like, and cover the loaf with a paper towel (I wouldn’t do this if you slit the top, because then it will stick to the paper towel. I lightly cover with plastic wrap, even if it sticks a bit it does way less damage than a paper towel.) and place it in a warm place to rise again, until doubled in bulk.
Place the pan with the loaf in your cold oven, and then turn your oven to 350° and bake the bread for 30-45 minutes (it takes my oven 10 minutes to preheat and then I add the 30-45 minutes on top of that). The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Let it cool an hour before slicing (the longest hour EVER!)
S. John Ross notes that for good rising, he uses his oven. I do too. Turn it on for a minute or so, then turn it off. If you accidentally make it too hot, let the door open to cool a bit before placing your dough inside.
Homemade Ten Pound Buns
2 slices sourdough
1 tablespoon garlic spread (mine is dry and I mix it with softened butter to make about 1 tablespoon)
2 -3 slices colby jack cheese (I just slice off bits from a block of cheese)
Spread your garlic spread on your sourdough and place under your broiler for about 5 minutes (it took me this long because my oven was cold, if yours happens to be warm it shouldn’t take so long) till your spread is melted in and the edges of your bread are a bit toasty. Cut up your cheese to cover the entire surface of your bread and put back in the broiler for about two minutes or until your cheese is melted and bubbly. Once it is cool enough to handle, stuff this in your face!