I've mentioned in the past my grandma's 30+ year old sourdough starter and how I used to have a chunk of it back when I was a teenager. (I also went on a Mormon Youth Conference trip at the age of 14 to Navoo and bought an old pioneer cookbook that had loads of sourdough recipes, and spent a lot of time making chocolate sourdough cakes, sourdough breads, French bread with the starter cast offs, etc.) I like baking, is what I'm getting at. I've gotten out of the habit, and want to pick it up again. Now that I have the Fancy Sandwich Maker - IT'S ON SALE GUYS - I'm all about what bread can I melt some cheese and stuff on.)
If you're not familiar with the basics of baking, yeast is everywhere. It's just a microorganism that lives all over the place. You can buy it from the store freeze dried or slowed down in chilled cakes, or you can grow your own. Most modern starter recipes have you begin with a package of yeast, water, and flour. FOOLS. That's like filling your sink with bottled water. Here's how I did it, methodology from an old cookbook I dug up.
WILD YEAST CATCHING: Ze Process
Getcha a Mason jar or other glass or ceramic jar that can be covered/closed. DO NOT USE METAL. Never proof yeast of any kind in metal. It dampens the ability for it to make a proper sponge. AFTER that it's okay to mix the bread in metal, just not the proofing/sponge stage. I stick to Old School methods of the pottery Bread Bowl of my ancestors.
In this jar/crock you will add 2 Tablespoons of WHOLE GRAIN FLOUR (spelt, rye, whole wheat - I love love love Bob's Red Mill brands. They can be pricey, but man, do they taste amazing) and 2 Tablespoons of fruit juice. This should be something acidic like orange juice or pineapple juice. I had a pineapple, so I cut it up for the family and poured the dripping juice into a Tupperware container for just this purpose. Mmmm. Whisk it together with a fork, close the lid, and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. (The wild yeast is on the grain - if you bought wheat berries and ran that through a mill/coffee grinder, you would end up with the same results.)
On top of the liquidy-looking mix add another 2 TBSP of whole grain flour (I stuck with spelt) and 2 TBSP of juice. Stir well, cover. (It might look a little bubbly, or it might look like mush. This is fine.)
Repeat the 2 TBSP each of whole grain flour and juice. Stir well, cover, let it sit on the counter for 24 hours. You might notice that the starter looks like it's separating into solid and liquids. That is what you want - that's the fermentation happening! HOORAY AND CONGRATS.
Get ready for magic. Stir it down first (hopefully you're seeing more liquid sitting on top. Don't panic if you're not. Give it a few more days.) Measure out 1/4 C of this starter and set aside. Toss the rest (notes on this after!!). To your 1/4 C you saved add: 1/4 C flour - go for something like All Purpose at this point. You need something with a lower pH like AP flour, not the high protein of whole wheat/rye. Also add 1/4 C filtered or spring water, NOT TAP. (there are enough beasties in your tap water to throw this off.)
Mix well, cover, let sit on the counter.
Repeat Day Four's instructions until you see that it's bubbling and growing up the sides. IF IT LOOKS LIKE IT'S GONE FLAT AND DEAD, do not worry. Add 1/4 tsp. of apple cider vinegar to drop the pH to where the yeast get active again alongside your 1/4 C AP flour and filtered water.
The longer you feed it and let it sit on the counter - I'm going two weeks with non-refrigeration, so I'm repeating Day Four's instructions every day until it goes into the Frigidaire - the better developed the flavor will be. Then you refrigerate it in order to slow down the yeasts, and simply feed it before you plan on using it. (Say you're going to need 2 C of starter for your sponge making? You'd add 2 C AP flour and 2 C filtered water to your starter the day before so it would grow and develop. Then you're not using ALL of it and have some left to keep going. DO THIS AFTER YOU'VE GROWN IT FOR A WEEK OR TWO. You have to be patient to get the best flavor.)
Things to watch out for:
- If at ANY TIME your starer is PINK, throw it out. That is not bread yeast, but a dangerous and deadly bacteria not unlike botulism.
- You want your kitchen/where you're letting this grow to be at least 70F or 24C. Colder and you'll stunt the growth. (Warm rooms will speed it up, so that's not a problem. I'm in Texas, it's 104F this week.)
- you could eliminate the juice and just use water if you don't have it, but the juice adds both sugar and inhibits Bad Bacteria Growth (You only use the juice for the first 3 days, remember)
- Before refrigerating your established starter, add a ROUNDED 1/4 C AP flour and 1/4 C filtered water to make it thicker, stir well, let sit for about 2 hours, THEN refrigerate.
What to do with those discards as you grow your starter
- Make another container of starter to share with a loved one!
- Add to your favorite pancake/waffle/muffin recipe, let sit for few minutes, then bake off
- mix in to corn bread for the moistest corn bread of your life
- add to doggy treat dough (good for dog tums!)
- make banana bread with it (just add to your recipe) or any other quick breads like Naan! Mmmm.
- pour down the sink and feel ashamed of yourself. (Hahaha, I'm kidding.)
Now you have your ready-to-bake-with starter, now what?
NOW YOU MAKE THE BEST BREAD OF YOUR LIFE. But you're going to have to continue to exercise patience. The best bread comes from sponge (before you add in all the flour and knead before shaping) that has been allowed to sit and rise for hours. When I make pizza dough, for example, I prefer mixing the sponge the night before and letting it proof in the fridge all night long (all night!) before baking it off the next day, ditto for bread dough. If you can get into the habit of this, you'll find that your bread has so much more flavor. MMMM!
An amazing Sourdough Bread recipe from Italy that I love and like to make on special occasions:
Braided Sourdough Loaves with Poppy, Pumpkin and Sunflower Seeds (Pane a Treccia con Pasta Madre e Semi di Papavero, Zucca e Girasole)
(makes two GORGEOUS braided loaves)
Strong white flour, 475g (Non-baker types: this means BREAD FLOUR, specific bread flour, not AP)
Dark rye flour, 25g
Fresh yeast, 5g (You CAN skip this. I have. It just adds a touch more volume.)
Some fine semolina flour for the bottom of your tray (or use parchment)
Poppy, Sunflower and Pumpkin seeds
Egg white for brushing
In a large bowl, mix the flours and the water. Cover with cling film and let it rest for about half an hour (not less than 20 minutes). Add the yeast and the ferment and mix well.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface (if you're a cheater!) and knead for about 15 minutes. The mixture is SUPER sticky. Slap the dough onto the counter, flip the ends up, scoop up, slap down again. This is how you work sticky dough. (Ahh! How freaking gorgeous is that dough?!?!) Add the salt and work for further 2-3 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball, transfer to your mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave it to rest for an hour.
Turn out the dough onto your work surface, fold again, bringing the outside edges to the center a few times, rotating the dough and forming a ball again. Put back into your bowl and leave it to rest for 30 minutes.
Turn out the dough onto your work surface and cut into 6 pieces (to make 2 braided loaves). Cover and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 250°C/ 475°F. (I know, but trust. This is where good crust comes from.)
Roll the sections (3 at a time) into approx. 12-inch long ropes. Brush the ropes top surface with the egg white, and sprinkle one with poppy seeds, one with pumpkin seeds and the third one with sunflower seeds. Press the ends together and braid the sections, pressing the ends together and slightly tucking under to seal. Repeat for second loaf.
Place the loaves on a baking sheet (sprinkled with semolina flower or covered in parchment) to rise for about one hour and a half or until doubled in size.
Quickly open the oven door and mist with water spray OR: TOSS IN AN ICE CUBE AND SKIP SECOND MISTING. Slide the loaves inside and quickly mist again - mist the oven, not the bread. (I prefer the ice cube method for crispy crusts.)
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Knock on the crust - did you hear it? IT IS READY.
Holy smokes I am so hungry right now...
And look at this sourdough crumpet recipe!!! AHHHH!!