A ‘wild side’ dare — sourdough starter

BY DEBBIE MATTHEWS, The Curious Cook
Posted 1/31/20

This week, Gentle Reader, I have a dare for only the brave and steadfast. This project is neither for the flighty nor the dilettantes.

My challenge for you is to create a sourdough starter using …

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A ‘wild side’ dare — sourdough starter

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Posted

This week, Gentle Reader, I have a dare for only the brave and steadfast. This project is neither for the flighty nor the dilettantes.

My challenge for you is to create a sourdough starter using only flour, water, and the microbes living in your house — and when I say that, I’m not referring to your children. I mean the wild yeast that is in the air all around us.

Years ago I had time on my hands and was looking for a culinary project. The Kid had gone away to college and I needed distraction and a challenge. I did tons of online research and decided to grow my own sourdough starter.

After about three weeks of coaxing and worrying I had success. I felt like I’d birthed a baby unicorn and invented the wheel.

(And it shouldn’t take you anywhere near three weeks—I’ve learned a lot since then.)

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at dm@bullcity.mom.

Sourdough Starter

Starting out, it’s best to use whole wheat flour, for extra nutrients. Never use metal with your starter, and always use bottled or filtered water. Never, ever refrigerate.

Day 1: In a small glass bowl, stir together 1 cup flour and 1/3 cup water. Cover loosely and put in warm (72-78°), out of the way place.

Day 2 and until you have a lively starter: Discard half the starter and stir in 1 cup flour and 1/3 cup water.

Between 3 and 7 days you’ll see bubbling after feeding. You have created sourdough. Now you can add regular flour to it, stop discarding, and let the amount accumulate so you can use it for cooking.

Feed every day and once a week, add a tablespoon or so of some sweetener — sugar, agave syrup, honey. This gives a boost of energy.

The eggs and fat in the bread recipe act as a dough conditioner, which means an easier rise and a nice high oven spring. Feed the starter 24 hours before making the bread. To rise well, it needs to be hungry, but not starving.

Sourdough Egg Bread

Ingredients:

1 cup starter

1/2 cup water or pineapple juice

3 and 1/3 cups bread flour

1/3 cup vital wheat gluten (available in some grocery stores and online; I use Bob’s Red Mill)

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup softened butter

1 egg + 2 yolks, lightly beaten

Topping: egg for egg wash, and sesame seeds

Add everything but toppings to bread maker set on dough cycle or mixer fitted with dough hook.

For mixer, mix until fully incorporated and it turns into a ball. Knead dough until it comes into a clean ball and return to bowl which you’ve lightly oiled. Lightly cover and set in warm place until it has doubled in size.

After dough cycle finishes or mixer-made dough has doubled, put on counter and knead until is smooth and stretchy. Place into greased loaf pan, put a thin coat of oil on dough and lightly cover.

Let rise in warm place. Test for baking readiness by pressing in with finger. When the dough doesn’t spring back quickly it’s ready.

Preheat oven to 405° for 30 minutes. Place inside your oven a large oven-safe vessel filled with water — steams helps form a good crust. Leave water in oven throughout process.

Before baking, paint with egg wash, and heavily sprinkle with sesame seeds. Then slice down the middle about 3/4 inch deep and 1 1/2 inches from either end.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn oven to 350°. Place probe thermometer into center of bread set to 200°.

When done, remove from pan and place on cooling rack until completely cool — or until you can’t wait anymore.

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