As I mentioned in last week’s breadblog, I’m really not a huge fan of sourdough beyond pancakes. Since I’m exploring bread baking I feel I should make some sourdough simply to understand the process, also all this wintry weather has be missing waking up to sour dough pancakes cooked on the wood stove in old Wyoming.
Also can we really call our home, home if we havn’t take the step of starting a sourdough sponge? I mean what better way to establish ones connection to a place than to mix some local honey, grain, and wild yeast into a bread and consume it as a family. Perhaps share some of your starter with neighbors and hope for a reciprocal offer. Bind families and neighbors together, following a pattern as a old as civilization. Yeast after all made it possible to store grain and make flour into bread. This cycle is what led us to settle in the valleys of Mesopotamia, grow crops and set us on the course to suburbia.
With these thoughts in my head, I resolved to make a simple sourdough rye today. After getting my starter going a few days ago I’ve been nursing it with flour and watching it build some impressive bubbling action. I chose a flour only starter, reasoning that this would make a less tangy starter which would probably be better for my unsophisticated pallet.
The results were less than spectacular. The dough stuck to the pan, and did not rise as well as I would have liked. The whole thing fell apart coming out of the pan. On the plus side I devoured most of the evidence, as it was still fairly yummy.
So I’ll have to try this recipe again and refine it. On the positive side it did fluff up pretty well in the oven, the combination of steam and whatever air pockets were in there seemed to do the trick. I’m going to let the last rise in the bread pan go a bit longer. Hopefully as my starter gets more established it will get a bit better. I might also toss in a bit of gluten flour, since I think that will help it fluff up.
I’m a bit under the weather so my bread making work has been stalled. So I’m going to point you over to the Things to Eat blog. I love sour dough pancakes so I’m including a recipe below. I am not a huge fan of sourdough bread but in the interests of a thorough exploration of bread making I do intent to explore the loaves.
To make sourdough anything you will need a starter. This is a living colony of various microorganisms that live off your flour and provide the leavening action for your breads. Over time your sourdough starter will take on a distinctive character based on the flours you feed it and the temperature, humidity of the local area. It is also not uncommon for there to be starters that have been running for some time. Growing up in Wyoming I recall a number of families that had sourdoughs going back generations handed down from baker to baker or shared from one friend to another. I think that there is probably a great deal to explore in the communal nature of bread baking.
Matt’s starter recipe
Want to know how easy this is? Put a cup of flour and a cup of water in a container. Leave it out until it bubbles. That’s your starter!
If you leave it out in the warm air, you have to feed it every 6-8 hours–almost more than I feed my dogs. So refrigerate it and feed it fresh flour once a week.
Here are a few sourdough things to try out
Sourdough Pancakes — this is really my favorite thing. We had an old wood cooking range in our house back in Wyoming and occasionally we’d get the treat of sourdough pancakes. When we went skiing in Jackson Hole we’d always make a point of getting a big breakfast at Jedediah’s Original House of Sourdough and load up on flapjacks, sausage for a full day of skiing up in the Tetons.
Sourdough Rye — is the classic sourdough bread. It was a staple of many family tables from the early middle ages on due to rye’s ability to be planted as an overwinter crop and suitability for cultivation on lower quality land. Ergotism was once a widespread disease caused by the infection of rye by the ergot fugus. This isn’t really a concern any more but makes for an interesting trivia and reading while you wait for your dough to rise.