Oh man. Sourdough Bread. Nuff said.
Ok. I’ll elaborate some because I know you want me to and I aim to please.
My mom sent off to Alaska for a wooden spoon dipped in sourdough starter. Bless her soul, her beautiful, beautiful soul.
I am now addicted to all things sourdough and if that’s wrong, man, I don’t want to be right. And I’m not even sure it’s wrong. I’ve read some pretty convincing arguments that due to the good bacteria in the starter, homemade sourdough bread is pretty healthy. Google it.
Sourdough starter is the greatest thing since before sliced bread. For minimal commitment and not much time anyone can keep a starter happy and providing for years and years and even more years after that. Generations. I bake bread once a week and we try to use the starter at least once more for pizza dough, cookies, corn bread, biscuits, or something each week. There are so many things you can make. If you want it, you can find a recipe for it. Check this out:
All because my mom is a genius.
G o o g l e it, people.
I am now a firm believer that everyone should keep a bit of starter. You can find directions to make a starter, or you can buy it online. But the very best way to get starter is to find a friend (like me) with a healthy one and force them to give you a cup of theirs. If you know me, I’ll be happy to share. But once you have it, you must care for it. (Aurora, Carl, I’m talking to you… Ben, Cindy, you hear me?) It’s a living thing and it needs nourishment. If you care for it, it will provide you with delicious eats for nothing more than the cost of the flour and a tiny bit of salt and sugar.
Here’s the process I use for keeping my starter happy.
To “Feed” your starter (whether you bake or not, you must feed your starter weekly):
First, I need to say, rinse off everything that gets starter on it as soon as possible. Period. Dried starter in your measuring cup or on your wooden spoon handle is like super glue. Please trust me; you do not want to deal with it.
Keep your starter in a glass or ceramic container that is NOT airtight. Healthy starter will produce gasses and they need to be able to escape. All you need to begin is one cup of starter. To that one cup of starter, add one cup of flour and 1/2 cup water. Stir it vigorously with the handle of a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds to a minute. While stirring, add more water if needed, one tablespoon at a time until it is the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Each week remove one cup of starter (bake with it, make pancakes, give it away or throw it away), then repeat the process, add the flour, water and stir. Leave it out for a few hours, or overnight if you want, then stir it down (it will rise while it sits out) and stick in fridge for another week. If you do just that, you can’t kill this thing…
The fridge slows down the activity of the starter; leaving it out in room temperature will make it as active as Lady GaGa’s butcher before the VMAs (that’s really, really active if you don’t catch my drift). You can leave it out all the time, but you’ll need to feed it every day and bake a lot.
Now, to bake:
I usually bake on Saturday, so here’s how it goes down.
Friday pull the starter out of the fridge and let it get to room temperature. Remove one cup of the starter and feed the jar following the instructions above. Put your jar aside, you’re done with it. Add three cups flour and 1½ cups water to the one cup starter you pulled out and mix it really well in a ceramic or glass bowl (not metal). Cover the dough with a cloth, let it rise for four hours in a warm place and then put it in the fridge overnight (12 hours).
Saturday morning, mix together two more cups flour, one tablespoon sugar and 2¼ teaspoons salt. Oh, and remove your rings. Again, just trust me on this people; I am a force for good, not evil. Combine, then knead, that mixture with the dough you started last night. If it’s still really sticky when you start kneading it, oil your hands, but if you fold the flour/salt/sugar in with the wooden spoon long enough before you knead, you shouldn’t have to. When it’s mixed together well, cover and leave out or put in a just warm oven for 2-5 hours till it doubles.
Carefully break the risen dough into two equal parts and put on parchment lined, or greased baking sheet. Cover and leave out in a warm place or put in just warm oven again for 2-3 hours till it doubles. On cold nights at my house, I’ve put mine on the hearth not directly in front of the fire, but to the side, in a warm, not-too-hot area to double.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees when the loaves are looking puffy. If you let it rise in the oven, remember to pull the dough out BEFORE you preheat. Please don’t ask me why I feel it’s necessary to share this bit of info.
Carefully cut two diagonal lines in each loaf, and then spray the loaves with lukewarm water- for a browner crust brush with butter instead of spraying with water.
Bake 25-30 minutes until crust is brown.
In the picture below I got creative and put pads of butter in the cuts on the dough. Bad idea. It made beautiful bread, but the dripping butter made smoke pour out of the oven. Not recommended, just take my word and brush melted butter on the dough like I said.
Sourdough. Who in their right mind would want to live without it?