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Sourdough Bread Starter – Make Your Own!

by on December 4, 2012
Sourdough working

Sourdough working

My bread baking began as an outcrop of what we and our friends were doing in the 80’s, growing, canning and freezing our own food, raising chickens for eggs and meat, raising turkeys, goats for milk, butter and cheese.  But I digress.

There is nothing that makes a kitchen smell better than a good batch of sourdough starter fermenting in the kitchen, or loaves of bread rising and cooking in the kitchen made with that fermented sourdough.

Sourdough is basically named for the fermented starter that is poured into the bread ingredients.  It has a distinctive beer-like aroma.  My recipe came from a cookbook I’ve had for a good 43 years.  To make the starter, use a large glass bowl (it really does do a little expansion-boiling-like thing and needs the room); it needs to be non-reactive.  Dissolve 1 package of active dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp if you buy it in bulk) in 1/2 cup warm water (less than 115 degrees).  Add 2 more cups warm water, 2 cups of flour, 1 tbs sugar or honey.  I stir this up with a wisk at this point, cover with cheese cloth and place it in an out of the way place in the kitchen for 5-10 days.  You need to stir it 3 times a day until it’s finished.   There really isn’t an out-of-the-way place in my kitchen, so I move it if I have to.  I usually find that mine is done in 6-7 days.  You’ll notice a strong beer-like aroma, and it will settle down.  It will stop the bubbling you see here, and the liquid will start to sit on top of the starter.

Once the sourdough is ready, it can be stored in a quart jar in the refrigerator, covered with cheesecloth.  Do NOT cover it tightly with a metal lid.

The bread recipe requires 1 cup of starter.  Once that cup is used, the starter can be replenished (at room temperature) by adding 3/4 cup water, 3/4 cup flour, 1 tsp. sugar or honey.  Stir with wisk, cover with cheesecloth and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.  Can then be put back in the refrigerator.  If you don’t use it for 10 days, it needs a tsp. of sugar or honey mixed in to keep it happy, again at room temp for a day.  I can keep that starter going all winter.

Before you make bread, bring the starter to room temperature.  Mix 1 pkg active dry yeast with 2 1/2 cups flour.  Heat 1 1/2 cups water, 3 tbs sugar, 3 tbs butter and 1 tsp. salt to about 120 degrees.   If it gets too warm, let it cool a bit.  Mix that liquid with the yeast/flour mixture.  Add 1 cup starter.  Mix with mixer (I use dough hook on Kitchenaid Mixer) at medium for 30 seconds, wipe down sides of bowl and mix on high for 3 minutes.  Mix 2 1/2 cups flour with 1 tsp baking soda.  Add to rest of mixture and combine.  At this point it might get a little sticky if you’re not using a mixer with a dough hook.  Then you have to flour your board and knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth, and a finger poked in a little leaves a mark.  If you are blessed with the dough hook, work the dough on low speed as you add flour 1 tbs at a time, up to another 1/2 cup.    When done (it loses it’s sticky-ness), turn it out on the lightly floured counter and knead three or four times until it’s smooth & comes together.  Place in greased bowl, turning once to grease top, cover with a dishtowel and let rise 45-60 minutes or until double.

When doubled, punch down.  Cut in half, form into a ball and place on counter, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.  Here it goes.  Grease your sheet, form each piece into a ball, flatten slightly until it’s around 6 inches in diameter.  Place on your sheet.  Cut criss-cross pattern with a sharp knife on top.  Let rise about 30-45 minutes or until double.  Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes.   YUMM!

Finished loaves
Finished loaves
Finished Bread
Finished Bread
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