Seasons and Sour Dough
You can feel it in the air. There is a dry crispness. The sunlight is also changing. The days are getting shorter and the shadows are creeping out longer to the north as sun descends to the southern regions. The days just feel different.
Not only do the days feel different, but also I feel different. Where in the spring I’m aching for activity. To be elbow deep in the gardens and feel the soft warm soil under my bare feet. Now, I’ve started to want to slow down. Now, I want to wrap my hands around a hot cup of tea instead of a glass of ice water. I feel like taking a little longer to do things with more breaks. Now, I’m hungry!
The food I eat is different from summer to winter. In the summer I look forward to that first food off the grill and we cook outdoors almost every day. With the cooler weather and less sunlight I opt for slower meals. Meals that take a little more time to prepare. Roasts, Potatoes, and Carrots slow cooked in the crockpot, homemade Egg Rolls, Spaghetti, and all types of stews and soups. Best thing of all is homemade bread! It makes me happy.
I love sourdough bread. The flavor is wonderful! I remember my Grandma always having a jar of sourdough starter in the refrigerator. If she wasn’t making bread soon she would feed the starter and use the castoff for the best pancakes and biscuits. I also remember my first experience with sour dough starter.
A neighbor, who had just moved in gave me starter for Friendship Bread. Included were instructions on how to care for the starter, the recipe for Amish Friendship Bread, and a loaf of the bread. It was great!
I placed the starter on my counter and followed the instructions for caring for it, after a few days I made my first bread and it was also very good. As the days went on I kind of forgot about the starter on the counter. It repaid me by blowing its top off and climbing all over the counter. Its amazing how far a cup or so of sour dough starter can ooze. It’s really a good thing that I cared for my children and animals better than I did that starter. Even though I swore I’d never make sour dough starter again here I am craving it.
Sourdough starter is not rocket science though since I’ve had one mishap and killed 2 starters I’m beginning wonder. Sourdough is also not an exact science. I’ve found it to be a living organism with a personality that you have to get to know. When it’s happy and well fed it behaves very well. It also makes really good bread.
Sour dough starter was used before commercial yeast came on the market to make bread rise. Actually, someone’s grain probably got wet and “Viola!” You have sourdough. It’s not hard to start your own starter. All it takes is flour and pineapple juice. The naturally occurring wild yeasts that are in the air do the rest.
Making Sourdough Starter
Starting the Starter: First of all you need to have every thing that comes in contact with the sourdough very clean. Even if the spoon that I use to stir the starter with was just taken out of the drawer I run it under very hot tap water and wipe it with a paper towel. Bacteria will ruin a good sourdough starter and can make you very sick. Now, in a 1-Quart wide-mouth canning jar mix 1/4 Cup of Whole Wheat flour and 1/4 Cup of unsweetened Pineapple juice. This is the juice usually labeled as no sugar added. Cover the jar with a square of cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Use a glass or ceramic container to avoid having the sourdough react adversely with a metal container. Let the container set at room temperature, about 70 to 75 degrees, for 24 to 48 hours. Stir occasionally, at least 2 to 3 times a day. Next add 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour and 2 tablespoons of Pineapple juice and again cover a stir for the next 48 hours. You should start to see some bubbles appearing on top of the mixture. If you don’t you may want to throw this batch out and start over.
Now that the Starter is bubbling a little add 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour and 4 Tablespoons of purified water. Some tap water contains a lot of minerals and things that may inhibit the Starter. Cover and set on counter for 24 Hours stirring a couple times a day. Some separation is normal when the starter sets for awhile. As long a it isn’t tinged red or fuzzy and has a pleasant kind of alcohol yeasty smell it’s fine. Finally, add 4 Tbs. whole wheat flour and 3 to 4 Tablespoons of water to the Starter. Stir and cover, let set on the counter for about an hour. Congratulations you are now the parent of a nice healthy, bubbly Sourdough Starter.
Initial feeding: Like all living things sourdough has to be fed. At this point I start using half Whole Wheat flour and half unbleached flour. After the first 48 hours add 5 Tbs. flour and 4 Tbs. water, stir well. Let the container set at room temperature for another 24 hours. The mixture should keep bubbling. After another 24 hours feed the mixture again and let set for 24 hours. If the starter seems too thin add a little flour a tsp. at a time and if it seems too thick add water a tsp. at a time until it feels right. It should be thick and mixable but not doughy.
Sourdough and cast-off: Now empty the mixture into a bowl and thoroughly wash the jar. Put 1 Cup of starter back into the jar and add 1 cup flour and ¾ cup water and leave it at room temperature for 1 hour, this is your sourdough starter. What remains in the bowl is called Cast-off. Though it can be tossed on the compost pile and it isn’t strong enough to raise bread, it can be used to make pancakes, pizza crust and is good added to muffins or cakes. You also can give it away to an agreeable friend with instructions on how to care for it
Caring for Sourdough Starter
To make a strong sourdough starter that will raise bread keep the starter at room temperature and feed ever 12 hours for three more days. This helps the sourdough become well established, though it also creates more cast-off. At the beginning of the 2nd day I add 1 Tbs. of honey. Always make sure you have a large enough container so that the sourdough can expand and not overflow. On the morning of the 3rd day place the starter into a bowl and put 1 cup back into the clean and washed jar. Feed the starter in the jar with equal amounts of flour and water and allow to rest at room temperature for 1 hour then place it into the refrigerator. Measure what you need for your recipe from the contents of the bowl and the rest is cast-off. If you don’t use the starter within 5 to 7 days: Remove it from the refrigerator, allow it to come up to room temperature, feed it with equal parts flour and water, leave it on the counter for an hour, and then return to refrigerator. Caring for sourdough starter is kind of like caring for a baby, but with out all the diapers and crying
Your sourdough starter is now ready to use in bread recipes. Always keep a cup to feed for future use and experiment with any cast-off in your everyday recipes. There are a lot of recipes to be found in cookbooks and on the Internet. I’m off to bake bread!