This week I attempted my very first sour dough starter experiment. The plan? To “catch” live yeast, nurture it until it smelled like beer and then bake it up into a delicious loaf of bread. Did I succeed? Oh yes…yes I did.
Here is the process I followed after doing a copious amount of online research and then finally referencing my food bible – The Joy.
I started with a nice, clean, hand made crockery piece (my mother is a potter so these things abound in my kitchen!) and mixed in one cup filtered water and one cup unbleached all-purpose flour. The flour I use is a coarsely ground local flour that has been known to froth and bubble in a pancake batter so I had high hopes. It did not disappoint!
To be honest, the information I found online regarding feeding the starter was so varied and the Joy, as much as I love it, mentioned nothing, so I was forced to improvise. Basically I did nothing the first 24 hours except stir it down, as it actually formed quite a nice crust immediately. The next day I noticed that it had a thin layer of liquid on top, though there were bubbles underneath, and decided to feed it some sugar. I put in about a half teaspoon, stirred it down, liquid included, and let it be. The next day I simply added a teaspoon of flour and stirred it to mix. I repeated this process with the flour for two more days.
On the fourth day, the liquid layer did not appear, and instead the surface was nice and bubbly and beautiful. When I stirred the mixture, I noticed the air bubbles were present throughout. I decided this meant it was done and put it in the fridge to bake later.
Unfortunately the next two days were ridiculously warm and I was forced to put off baking the actual bread until this morning. The process I followed for the dough is a modified version of the information found on this website. It should be noted that I did not follow the starter feeding instructions on the above web site because I couldn’t bear to throw out half of my starter every day. It seemed an enormous waste to me.
The first part of the process involved adding one cup each of flour and water to the starter in order to make a sponge. This is then allowed to proof – mine took about two hours before I deemed it ready, as the surface was bubbling and frothy. According to much of what I read, this was a very quick proof, and as you will see in a moment, may not have been enough time. Because it was a cool day, I turned the oven on briefly and then placed the sponge mix inside the oven to proof after it was off. I was forced to place this note on my oven so as to avoid any…accidents:
Once out of the oven, I measured out two cups of the proofed sponge and retained the rest to which I added one half cup each of flour and water so as to replenish the “mother”. I then added approximately 3 cups of flour to the sponge as well as one teaspoon salt, about two tablespoons of evaporated cane juice, three tablespoons of olive oil and one quarter cup of millet which had been soaking in a buttermilk dilution for a day.
The dough was initially quite dry and the kneading process began rather messily…especially when I slipped and spilled a pot of espresso all over the counter. So actually, to be completely accurate, there is also approximately one tablespoon of coffee in my bread.
Once it was thoroughly mixed, espresso and all, I placed it in a bowl greased with olive oil and put it in a warm spot (once again, my oven) to rise.
This is where the whole process became less than perfect. I let the dough rise for over two hours and it barely increased 50%. Since by that point it was nearly 8 pm, I decided to go ahead and bake it anyway. I scored it, placed it in a dutch oven and popped it in at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. I did not pre-heat with the hopes that as the oven came to temp the bread would rise a bit. Luckily it did and the results can be seen here:
All in all, I would say that this was a very successful first attempt and I am looking forward to trying again with my reserved starter! I hope you all get a chance to do this yourselves.
More recipes and other blogs about real food can be found here at Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday’s blog carnival.
Enjoy and Happy Eating!