As I promised earlier in the month I would share my successes with you after the workshop on baking with sourdough.
Sourdough is a fermentation of flour and water which is used as a leavening agent for bread. The product is a slightly sour bread. The older the sourdough starter is the sourer the baked product is. I tried several starters and had many failures. This fermentation occurs as the starter absorbs yeast spores from the air and the moisture in the mixture allows them to grow.
I discovered that the temperature of your house is important for getting a starter going. Yeast needs warmth, moisture, and food to grow. When I started playing with the starters, it was November. I was trying to get the starters going in the evenings and we turn our heat down to low at night. The first ones did not work.
The two starters that worked the best I started by placing them in jars on the counter over my dishwasher after I turned it on (the counter top is warm when the dishwasher is on), then I moved them to a inside wall so they would stay warmer overnight. In the morning I moved them to a table where the sunlight streams in. Seventy to eighty degrees is prime growing temperature. The successful recipes that I used had yeast added to the flour and water. This gave the fermentation a boost.
Before mixing your starter, it is important that you sterilize the glass or plastic container that you will be using. The sourdough starter will cause a chemical reaction with metal and stain it. You do not want to have a lid on the jar while you are trying to get the starter going. It needs the air. One extra hint. put your container on a plate as it will rise and may grow outside your container.
USDA research shows that sourdough fermentations are safe from food borne illnesses if the following steps are taken. 1. Equipment is clean and sterilized. 2. The starter is stored in the refrigerator when not in use. 3. Starter may be left out of the refrigerator if it is being used and fed every day. Adding yeast got the starter in shape enough to use after 48 hours of fermentation.
To use the starter if you do not have it out, remove from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Then feed it and let it ferment 12 hours before using. Be sure to save at least 1/2 cup for your next batch of bread. I found that since most recipes call for 2 cups of starter it is best to save around a cup of starter. And when feeding it to bake with feed with a cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water. If I am feeding it to put back in the refrigerator, I use a 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of warm water.
Starter stored on the counter will need to be fed everyday. Starter stored in the refrigerator will need to be fed once a week if not being used. Do not keep more than a quart of starter as it will weaken the yeast action. If you have an adequate supply of starter, and you are not going to cook with it, you may either place a portion into another clean and sterile jar and give to a friend or just dump in the trash.
We do not bake bread every week, so I remove and feed my starter on Sundays, It is best if you can choose a day of the week and take care of your starter that day.
The other thing that will help your sourdough bread rise is a chemical reaction with baking soda. Baking soda should be added after the first rise as you are shaping your loaves. Be sure to mix it in well as some of my loaves ended up with brown streaks from not getting the soda mixed in well.
Remember that sourdough bread does not have preservatives. Place what you can not eat in a few days in the freezer.
Bread made with sourdough needs many hours to rise, so plan ahead and start early in the day or you will be us late waiting for it to bake. Our favorite bread was the french bread. We also enjoyed flap jacks and biscuits. Here is the french bread recipe.
2 cups sponge (active sourdough)
2 cups flour (or more)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon warm water
Sift dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) into a bowl; make a well in the center and set aside. Mix oil thoroughly with sponge. Add this to the well in the flour. Add enough flour to make a soft dough for kneading. Knead on a floured board for 10 to 15 minutes. Place in a greased bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for two to four hours or until doubled in size. Dissolve the baking soda in warm water and add to the dough. Knead it in thoroughly. Shape dough into loaves in bread pans and set aside to rise. When doubled, bake at 375°F for 50 to 60 minutes.
Sourdough French Bread
Prepare as for Sourdough Bread, but add 1 tablespoon yeast to the starter. Shape into two loaves by dividing the dough in half. Roll each half into a 15×12-inch rectangle. Wind up tightly toward you, beginning with the wide side. Seal edges by pinching together. Place rolls diagonally on greased baking sheets that have been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rise until doubled, about one hour. Brush with cold water. Cut with scissors or knife to make one or two lengthwise or several diagonal ¼-inch-deep slits across tops of loaves. Place baking sheets in a hot (400°F) oven with a pan of boiling water placed on a rack below the bread. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush again with water. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Brush a third time with cold water and bake two to three minutes longer. Makes two French loaves.
Note: The addition of the commercial dry yeast helps give a lighter, airier texture to the bread.
Here is a great resource with some good recipes.
Link to Sourdough Publication from Alaska Extension