January 8, 2012

Sourdough

One thing you may or may not know about me is that I like to cook and that my Maternal Grandmother's Father was essentially a Master Baker.  That is a long story, but essentially he was raised by a German Master Baker but since he wasn't family he couldn't actually go through the certification.

That was turn of the century Germany.  As a young man he "emigrated" to the US and built his own bakery.  Since I'm here it means that he had some measure of success.

When it comes to baking, I'm not so successful.  Don't get me wrong, I do a decent enough of a job, especially when you factor in how infrequently I bake....or how frequently I bake compared to most "normal" folks.

Back in 1998 I went on a vacation of sorts to visit my old supervisor in Alaska.  It was a great trip where we were supposed to go Caribou hunting, but had to "settle" for rabbit and grouse.  Great hunting and even better eating.  My buddy's wife had this cookbook which contained recipes for pretty much anything that can be hunted or gathered in Alaska.  After trying the white sauce for one of the grouse recipes I had to have a copy of this book....it was that good.

Courtesy of Wikipedia
Contained within this book's fountain of knowledge is a whole chapter devoted to sourdough.  I've not really gotten any use out of recipes for utilizing currants or salmon sperm, but the sourdough chapter has received heavy usage.  As soon as I got back home to Texas I started a batch of sourdough.  That first batch pretty much died in a couple months because I didn't quite know what I was doing.  The second batch I've had going since then, which means I've managed to keep a culture "alive" going on 12 years now.

There are plenty of websites and people who think they've got the whole sourdough bit figured out.  I'd agree with them to a point.....they know what works for them.  The sourdough culture is kind of like having a pet.  Outwardly they all seem alike, but they all have their own unique personality which is derived from their environment.  Some cultures can be dried and then reconstituted.  Others can be frozen and survive.

I try to feed my "pet" every week or so regardless of if I use it.  It'll do alright if left alone for too long as long as I nurse it back with several feedings before using it again.

Here is part of my usual "go-to" sourdough recipe, from The Old Homesteader (and reprinted in Cooking Alaska):
Picture compliments of www.yourpersonalgourmet.com/chef.htm
Basic Whole-Wheat Sourdough Bread
1 package dry yeast
1- 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup (sourdough) starter
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons softened butter
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Soften yeast in water in large mixing bowl, blend in whole-wheat flour, starter, molasses, salt and butter.  Combine 1 cup of white flour with soda and stir into larger mixture.  Add enough flour to make a stiff dough, turn into floured board and knead 6 to 10 minutes or until smooth an elastic.  Shape into a ball place in well greased bowl, ensuring the ball is greased as well.  Cover with a cloth and let rise until double in bulk.  Punch down and divide in half.  Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before shaping into loaves.  Let rise until they double in bulk again, roughly an hour.  Bake at 375* for 35 to 40 minutes.

I like to bake the loaves above a small pan of water which helps to brown and form a good, solid crust.



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