Adventures in Drool: The sourdough experiment
Friends, I have been on a homemade voyage lately. Since adopting a whole foods approach to eating, I have been experimenting with making as much as I can from scratch.
Our grandparents couldn't run down to the local Walmart to get all the processed, pre-made food available to us today.
We are losing the ability to create food from ingredients, and in the process we are turning more and more to fake, chemically engineered ingredients found in most pre-made convenience food products.
This is the basis of the whole foods movement - only eat things that you could make yourself at home.
This doesn't mean that you make everything at home. Obviously I am not going to grow olives to press my own olive oil, but if I wanted to, I could.
For the past month I have been engaged in a sourdough experiment.
First, you have to make a sourdough starter or get one from a local baker. To make one at home, get a large Mason jar or glass bowl. Add two cups white or wheat flour and two cups warm water. Cover with cheesecloth. You will need to feed your starter every day with a half cup flour and a half cup warm water.
Do this for five days. You will see some bubbles and liquid settling on the top. That's fine; you can stir it in or pour it off.
When you are ready to bake, pour two cups of the starter into a bowl. Feed the remaining additional starter with a half cup flour and a half cup warm water. You can store it in the fridge or on the counter to keep it going.
Add to the starter in the bowl:
2 tsp. sugar
2 TB olive oil
2 tsp. salt
Additional packaged yeast if desired.
I found that my starter did not rise much the first time I used it. It got better over the course of the next two baking cycles.
Stir your starter mixture and start adding more flour. Add about 3/4 cup to start and keep mixing. If you have a stand mixer then break it out. I wish I did!
Once the flour is incorporated, keep adding flour a half cup at a time. In the end, I needed about 2 cups, but it really varied. You are looking for a soft dough that isn't sticky.
Once the dough is in the right state, knead it for about 10-12 minutes. Then place it in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and place in a warm spot for two hours.
After two hours punch down your dough. It should have risen but not necessarily doubled in size.
Knead it for another few minutes and shape it into a loaf. Or you can cut it into biscuits at this point - using the traditional biscuit process of flouring and rolling. Place the loaf on a greased pan and let it rise for another hour or two.
When it's time to bake, place the loaf in a cold oven and set to 350 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes.
Keep feeding your sourdough every day as long as you keep the starter. There a tons of recipes online using sourdough - check them out and experiment!
I also made an Italian flatbread that I served with flavored oil. It was delicious!
Now that I know the basics of sourdough, I can try new recipes and feel happy knowing I am making my family good food from scratch.