Let me introduce you to sourdough baking, now I'm sure some of you have already dabbled in the almost forgotten art of sourdough cookery. If this is your first time, it won't be your last, I can promise you that much. I've been playing with sourdough for almost 30 years, gee that makes me sound really old, but then again some starters are pretty old too. For beginners, you must start by making a starter, you will need a gallon size, clean jar, glass or plastic container, no metal. I like to use the biggest mason jar I have or a flour holder like the one above. They are under $10 at Walmart and I suggest you invest in one if you are serious about sourdough, and you just may be after this post, I hope so.
3 pkg. dry yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large plastic container, add sugar. When yeast bubbles, about 10 min. stir in flour till you have a smooth paste. Cover loosely to allow gases to escape and place in warm spot in your kitchen for 2-3 days. This mixture will bubble and give off a sour smell, which is good. You will need to stir your starter once a day, making sure to stir in any crust that may and does form. After this point, you can store your starter in the fridge, or leave it out in a cool, dark place.
Now, that you have your starter all set, you will have to feed it, you do this by adding 1 c. flour and 1/2 c. water everyday if you leave it out and every few days if it's refrigerated. Once the starter has grown a few weeks and has reached full strengh, you can decrease feedings to once a week. Take note, if you don't use your starter regularly, it will get unruly and burst out of it's container, but you can always share your starter with family or friends. I usually make a starter for fall/winter baking. I have also froze my starter with good results.
Now, to get to the good stuff, the bread! Keep in mind, with time comes a stronger sourdough taste, which I love but some esp. beginners might not so I suggest trying to make your first batch of bread within the first week of making your starter. This classic bread recipe is easy and once you get the hang of sourdough cookery, you can try other goodies, but for now this simple bread is perfect for your first season of sourdough. Better things are ahead, sourdough pancakes are the best!
1 c. sourdough starter
2 1/4 c. warm water, divided
5-7 c. all purpose flour, divided
2 pkg. dry yeast
1 t. sugar, divided
2 t. salt
Mix sourdough starter, 2 c. water and 5 c. flour in a large bowl. Mix well; cover with a dish cloth and allow to rise 8 hrs. or overnight. I prefer overnight, much easier
Combine yeast, 1/4 c. warm water, and 1/2 t. sugar. Let stand 5 min., till it bubbles. Pour yeast mixture into the flour bowl and mix well. Knead while adding up to 2 more cups of flour, 1/2 c. at a time. Knead till a smooth, soft dough is not sticky. Place dough in a oiled bowl, cover with a dishcloth and let rise about 2 hrs. Punch down and divide in half for 2 large loaves. Knead each portion on a lightly floured surface, cover with dishcloth and let rise another hour or till doubled in size. Preheat oven to 375. Bake for about 45 min. or till loaves sound hollow when tapped on. Makes 2 loaves.
I know this is time consuming but if your home for the day, this bread is worth all the fuss and wait, believe me. Mother Earth News got me hooked on sourdough some 30 years ago, and I've been making it ever since, mostly in the winter months. There are many books devoted to sourdough cookery, I have one and the recipes are endless! Let me know your thoughts on sourdough, I'm sure I'm not alone here?