Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Homemade Sourdough Starter...

Sourdough Starters Done the Chef Tess Way

Sourdough leavening is as old as the rocks
. Maybe because someone ages ago decided they didn't like the heavy bread. Was it an accident from dough left out too long? Probably. I don't know the exact time in history it was started, but it goes way back! Yeast got on some dough. It fell in Love with the wonderful environment and stayed. Kind of like me and Arizona (...at least in the winter). Yeast is everywhere. If that shocks you I apologize. If you have a fancy air filter that gets all the yeasts and spores and stuff out of the air, you will have to use a pinch of commercial yeast (by this I mean the dry stuff you buy at the store).

Personally, I prefer starters made without commercial yeast, just the spores in the air. It is a longer process, but the flavor is gorgeous. The longer the sourdough has been going, the better the flavor. Yeast is different everywhere too, so my Arizona sourdough will never be San Francisco, because airborne yeast is different here. Not bad, just different. My starter has been around my house going on 15 years. I love it! Feed it every couple of days. It's better than a pet goldfish!

This is a real old fashioned way but basically you take 2 cups flour, 2 cups water and let stand uncovered (or covered with cheesecloth to keep bugs away) and out of a draft for several days until it bubbles (mine took about a week). Do not use a metal container! The acid reacts to the metal and it's really scary. Like a bad horror movie.
* The temperature of the room is important. I call it the 85/90 rule. not higher than 90 degrees for best flavor.
*Stir it a couple of times a day when you think of it.
* If you want it to go a little faster, add 1/4 tsp yeast and it takes a few days to get bubbly and perfect.
Now you have your own baby starter. It is everlasting yeast!

Most recipes you will find use sourdough starter more as a flavoring agent than a leavening agent. It just depends on what your prefer. I like a pretty tart sourdough. I have some fun starters. 4 I keep going on a regular basis: Raisin, Apple, white, and whole wheat. Those recipes will follow in the next few weeks.

First you need to know how to "set a sponge" , also referred to as a "start" for a recipe:
(I do this with most of my recipes...here are the ratios)
12 hours before planning to mix a recipe, mix 1/2 cup starter, 2 cups flour, 2 cups water (I use white grape juice). Cover bowl (Important non metal!!) with cheesecloth. Just before mixing the recipe, take 1 cup of batter to replenish the starter in your crock for the next batch. Use the balance in your recipe.

My Basic Recipe Sourdough Bread
1/4 tsp yeast (optional, but it speeds things up a bit)
2T sugar
1 cup water (body temperature)
1 1/2 cup sour dough *starter (this is the sponge you set 12 hours in advance)
3 1/2 cup- 4 cups Bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 egg (for egg wash)

Mix starter* (the sponge you started 12 hours ago, minus 1 cup) yeast, and warm water, and sugar. Add remaining ingredients except eggs. Knead 300-400 strokes by hand, or 5 minutes med. speed kitchen aid mixer. Form into a ball and place in a covered crock allow to raise until doubled, about 3-4 hours if your room is between 75 and 80 degrees. Punch down and form into loaf. I roll it out and fold it into thirds, and then roll it into a loaf. Cover with a little oil, and then cover with plastic until doubled again, about 1 1/2 hours. A deep dish baker is perfect for a good crusty loaf. Beat egg and brush over unbaked loaf. Put 2 T water in the baker with the bread. Bake at 450 Degree covered 15 minutes, and then uncovered 15-20 minutes more, or until internal temp. reaches 170 degrees.

Keep sourdough starter in plastic or glass, as it will have a nasty reaction to metal (have I said that enough times already?!). Stir with clean utensils. Not the ones you have stacked in the sink from cooking chicken or whatever. Yuck. Keep loose cover. Sourdough starter may be kept in the fridge for several weeks and fed periodically (I give it 1 cup water, 1 cup flour). Take it out for a date, feed it, warm it up for a day or so, and then put it back in the fridge...not unlike my dating life before I met ACE!!

Note: I do my best to make recipes usable for home cooks. If you want the weight conversions I will post them. Please let me know. I make no apologies for trying to bring it home. Have fun and try something new! Also, if your flour has been exposed to a lot of moisture in the air, it will take less flour to make a good bread. If your flour has been exposed to air conditioning or extreme dry (like the dessert) you may need more moisture. Measurements are not exact, but very close.


Huck's mama said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog...I love that a chef enjoyed my fiasco of a gingerbread house experience. I really enjoyed your post on sourdough starters- it reminded me of making sourdough bread with my grandmother and asking her how she got the starter started. Seems like she said something like, "it came across the plains with the pioneers, and I've just kept it going." I think she was foolin me, and I figured starting one must be a daunting thing. Maybe you have inspired me to bring back the memories and make some. There is nothing like toast made from sourdough bread!

Chef Tess said...

Thanks for stoppin' by too!! I hope I have inspired you!! That is what I live for!!... As for your grandmother's starter,it probably did come across the plains with the Pioneers! So did a lot of things, like great faith! I learned a lot about that faith over a lump of dough across from my mamma. The Kingdom of Heaven is like that little lump! I would love to get a little bit of that starter! The older the better! God bless! Merry Christmas!!

crazy burnett6 said...

so after the starter...is started :) where do I store it? on the counter or fridge?

Chef Tess said...

Great question. Store it in a non-metal container (plastic or glass) with a lid that is not air-tight (fermentation of gas will cause the jar to explode) I use glass jars with plastic lids, loose. Fridge is great for storage for long term, especially if you're not using it every day. It can also be frozen in smaller quantities and refreshed as needed. Add equal parts water and flour to the frozen starter and set out 24 hours or so, until bubbly. If stored very long in the fridge, it will get a separation of liquid from solid. It's okay to just stir the starter together and use it. It's a natural thing. I have, like I say, about 4 different starters that I use regularly. So...I keep most of mine in the fridge. It's warm enough in Arizona to need to do that.