Sourdough Starter... and Walnut Bread.
I've been meaning to make a sourdough starter for a VERY long time now. Every so often I would stumble upon a great bread recipe and realize that I needed a starter. Sadly I would look at the recipes, but couldn't try any of them without a starter. I guess I was a bit hesitant to attempt making my own starter as the process looked and sounded too complicated. And even though I am never put off by long or complicated recipes, I had a hard time when it came to making my own starter. Why, I wonder? Well, at first I had wanted to make a wild yeast version....you know the one that has no commercial yeast added to the starter...it's simply made from flour and water and the natural occurring yeast that's found in the air as well as in the flour. But there's always that small risk that the starter won't work...so that was one of the reasons why I put it off. Then I was scared the bread would end up being too sour...I like sour, but don't prefer an overly-sour bread. And probably the biggest reason for not making my own starter was that I felt I would have to bake bread all the time... just so that my starter would be kept alive and well. Most times I have plenty of bread in the freezer, and actually don't need to bake bread every week. But after doing a bit of research, I realized that the starter could be fed weekly (or so) with a just a tablespoonful of water and flour....and a few weeks can go by without actually using the starter...so that wasn't such a valid fear anymore. I also realized that I could use the starter in other recipes.... in pancakes, pizza dough, flat breads, quick breads, muffins, cakes etc.
In any case, those were some of the things I was struggling with...
So while I was contemplating making the sourdough starter, I ended up talking with my sister on the phone. And in the course of our conversation, we ended up talking about what we had been baking... about breads...and sourdough starters. She mentioned how she had great success with her current sourdough starter and thought I should give it a try. As always she's good about sharing her recipes with me...and even mailed me my own copy:).
At the same time, I "talked" with my friend Megi from LindenTea and loved her enthusiasm over sourdough breads...the health benefits when using a sourdough starter... and appreciated her helpful tips. Then I kept thinking about the walnut bread that I had seen earlier on her site. It looked so good and I knew I had to make it. Really wanted to make it. Kept thinking about it. So I finally decided to attempt making my own starter...with a bit of help from commercial yeast:). I had the recipe...used what I had in the house... and proceeded to make my very own starter. It was a success...and it wasn't difficult at all!:)...
Now, I am definitely not an expert in sourdough starters...I am continually learning. But I thought I would share how I overcame my fears over sourdough starters:)... and in the process share a beginner's version which gave me incredible results. Not to mention that it's also fascinating to see how a tiny bit of yeast can multiply and multiply and multiply...and continue to do so as long as you feed it some flour and water.
I have to say this bread was incredibly delicious...we just LOVED it! In any case, I am posting it for my own personal reference, and in case some of you would like to try it. While the recipe looks complicated...with lots and lots of writing...the actual recipe is quite simple to make. So please don't be put off by the very long post....I've tried to make it as simple as possible...with lots of explaining along the way:). Maybe I've over-explained it... Hope you enjoy...
Note: I had taken pictures of the whole starter process and somehow, the memory card failed to record my pictures:(...so I was only able to take photos of the final stages of baking. On the other hand, I have tried my best to explain the process in words...hope it helps a bit.
To date: I meant to post this recipe some time ago...and never did. But after a few months, my starter is still doing well and I absolutely LOVE using it to make breads... epecially pizza dough/flatbreads....the only thing is... I don't seem to be using my regular yeast as often anymore:).
Sourdough Starter... adapted from EHow Food
2 cups flour*
2 cups warm water
1/4 tsp active yeast( original recipe uses 1/2 tsp)
*unbleached white, whole wheat, spelt or rye... or a blend of a couple of flours.
I used 1 1/4 cup unbleached bread flour and 3/4 cup rye flour, as that is what I had at the moment.
1. Mix the flour, water and yeast together in a large ceramic/glass bowl until thoroughly combined.
- Use a clean glass/ceramic bowl. The acidity of the starter will discolor any metal as the dough ferments... including stainless steel. Try to use a large enough bowl as the starter expands a bit.
2. Cover the bowl with some plastic wrap....make sure it is loosely covered....I like to just place a large plastic bag over it. Do not cover the bowl with a lid or tight cover.
- CO2 gas is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process...so it needs to vent.
3. Place the bowl in a warm spot in the kitchen....I like to place it in the oven( I briefly heat it up for a few seconds ...just until it feels a bit warm, turn the oven off and place the starter inside...some people leave the oven light on. You basically want a temp of high 70's or low 80's). Let the dough ferment for 3 days, stirring once daily.
On day 2, I added 1 teaspoon sugar just to make sure it had a bit of food:)...this is totally optional.
- You will notice some liquid accumulating on the surface of the starter... with a few bubbles. This is a natural byproduct of the fermentation process and is simply mixed back through the dough.
On the evening of the third day( or 12 hours before actual baking) "feed" the starter by adding 1 cup warm water and 1 cup flour....or equal parts of flour and water.
- Leave the starter out( loosely covered) at room temp.... and do not refrigerate.
The following morning the starter will be ready to use in the recipe.
HOW TO USE THE NEWLY MADE STARTER:
If your recipe only requires one or two cups of starter, you can use the starter immediately, or after the third day( no feeding required) and store the remaining cup for another use.
However, if your recipe requires more than two cups you will need to stretch your starter before you bake....see step 4 above, or below.
HOW TO "STRETCH" YOUR STARTER:
To stretch your starter begin the evening before you plan to bake and add enough equal parts flour and warm water to provide starter for your recipe plus one cup to reserve. Mix thoroughly, cover loosely and allow to rest over night.
- Your dough won't need any further yeast... it makes its own yeast colony during the time it ferments.
HOW TO MEASURE FOR A RECIPE:
You will need to thoroughly stir the entire starter before you want to measure the amount required in a recipe.
- It is important to reserve at least one cup so that you can stretch and use it for your next recipe.
HOW TO STORE YOUR STARTER:
Store your starter in a glass container, making sure it is loosely covered... Store it in the refrigerator.
- The starter is a living organism... and will live if you feed and use it regularly.
HOW TO FEED THE STARTER:
To feed the starter( or yeast colony) and to make sure that it remains active and healthy, just add about 1 tablespoon or so of flour and equal amounts of warm water once every few days or once a week. Make sure you give the starter a good thorough mix and place it back in the fridge.
- If you are not planning to bake with your starter, do not leave it outside the refrigerator.
- If you do not use your starter often, it will keep in the fridge with a weekly feeding.
Sourdough Walnut Bread Recipe
You will need: adapted from LindenTea...do check out Megi's blog for the original recipe which includes different flours.
Yields: 2 Large Loaves
550 grams(2 1/4 cups) sourdough starter, fed
600grams(4 cups) unbleached bread flour( you can also use a variety of flours)
220 grams(1 cup) just-warm water
2 TBS sugar( you can use 1 TBS, if you like.)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1-2 cups chopped walnuts*
* the walnuts will give the bread dough a slight lavender/bluish tinge...so don't be alarmed.
1. In a mixer bowl, add all the ingredients.... except the walnuts. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth. The dough is a bit sticky, but shouldn't stick to the sides of the bowl too much.
2. Add walnuts and knead till the walnuts are combined throughout the dough. Cover and let rise for about 2 hours... or until double.
3. Cut dough in half and shape dough gently into a round /oblong shape.
4. Place shaped breads on a lightly greased parchment lined rimmed baking sheet. Cover with a greased plastic wrap.
5. Preheat oven to 500 degs. and heat for 30 minutes.
6. Let the formed bread dough rise again( in a warm spot)...while the oven preheats and heats for about 30 minutes. The dough should proof a bit more during this time.
7. Slash the bread dough gently... and sprinkle a bit of flour if you like...for a rustic look:).
8. Lower oven to 450 and bake bread for about 40-45 minutes...inside temp. should be close to 205 degs. F when checked with a thermometer. Timing depends on your oven. Cool completely.