Thursday, August 9, 2007

Sourdough Starter - gets things going

But how do you make the sourdough?" Mrs. Boast asked. "You start it," said Ma, "by putting some flour and warm water in a jar and letting it stand till it sours." "Then when you use it, always leave a little," said Laura, "and put in the scraps of biscuit dough, like this, and more warm water," Laura put in the warm water, "and cover it," she put the clean cloth and the plate on the jar, "and just set it in a warm place," she set it in its place on the shelf by the stove. "And it's always ready to use, whenever you want it." Laura Ingalls Wilder: By the Shores of Silver Lake
Making your own sourdough starter is really easy and cheap. You will never have to buy yeast again! Plan ahead though - initially it takes a couple of days before the starter is ready to leaven your bread. After that your "sourdough pet" just needs a little care every day - feeding and changing. Start with 2 cups of rye flour (works best). Mix it with 2 cups of filtered, cold water in a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover the bowl with a bandanna or cotton napkin and leave the bowl in a warm area. The next day transfer the dough to another bowl and add 1 cup of rye flour and more water to get it to the same pancake batter consistency as before. Cover and let it rest again. Follow the same procedure for the next couple of days. You should notice that the sourdough (we call ours 'Jim') will go through a bubbly stage and then calm down. If this doesn't happen you might have to start again from scratch. After a week you can use the sourdough starter for making bread. Add another cup of flour and a little water every day until you are ready to make another bread. If you would like a break, store the sourdough in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Just take it out a day before you want to use it. More questions? This site has some good recommendations and recipes:
Update: Maybe I got tired of feeding and changing my sourdough starter every day and in summer it got also a little too sour, so here's what I'm doing now. I feed the starter after making bread with flour and water and let it sit on the counter overnight to get nice and bubbly again. Then I store it in the refrigerator. Feed it again once or twice during the week depending on the amount of starter I need. The evening before I bake pizza or bread I take the starter out and let it warm up at room temperature. The dough still rises wonderfully, the bread is a little less sour and the kitchen smells better!

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