Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sourdough Starter - The Gift that Keeps on Giving

        It's great to have a gift that has an endless supply of surprises.  Check my post about my birthday gift of sourdough starter.  This starter is a wonderful adventure for my tastebuds.  We love the French Bread, Pancakes and French Toast recipes.  Tried and true, these are made more frequently now.
        The latest success story was a batch of Cinnamon Rolls.  Holy Cow, these are good.... I mean really, really GOOOOOOOOD.  Light and tender, perfectly sweet - I felt guilty not sharing.  Not!

          Back to my standby cookbook, Sourdough Jack's Cookery, there it was under the heading Fruited Sourdough Breakfast Rolls just waiting to be whipped up.   All I can say is you gotta try this recipe.
¾ cup starter
1 cup evaporated milk
3½ cups flour
¼ cup soft butter
3 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp soda
1½ tsp salt
3 tbsp melted butter (I needed 4)
¼ c packed brown sugar (I needed ⅓ cup), mixed with
1 tsp cinnamon (little extra never hurts)
Stir starter, milk, and 2 cups of the flour in a large mixing bowl.  Cover and let sit overnight in a warm place.
First night's dough
         Next morning, beat ¼ cup butter, 3 tbsp sugar and egg.  Beat into the sourdough mixture.  Sift together the remaining 1 ⅓ cup flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.  Add to the mixture.  Turn onto flour board and knead until soft and satiny.  Keep enough flour so the dough doesn’t stick  Roll out to 16” X 8” (mine was 16” X 24”).  Brush with butter, sprinkle with brown sugar mixture; add some raisins, dates, pecans if you desire.  Roll, starting with long side.  Cut into 9 (12) slices.  There was no way this was fitting in a 8" square pan.  The rolls were crammed into a 7" X 11" pan.
         Cover and let rise until doubled.   They were smelling good at this stage.
Rolled and Risen - one of these I cut a little too big.
        Bake 375 F (preheated oven) for 35 minutes.  Serve warm, if you want to wait that long.  Hot was good.

I made an icing with 1 tbsp butter, 1 cup powered sugar and some of the remaining evaporated milk and a splash of vanilla.  The icing was a little thick so it wouldn't melt and run off the roll.

        Yep, these were a huge success - definitely doing these again.  Next batch of this sweet dough may become kolaches.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sourdough Pancakes and French Toast.

The experiments continue.  I can't bring myself to discard sourdough starter only to replenish and keep the starter alive.  I pulled out my trusty book and hunted for the next test.

This book is a very good sourdough reference.
The next batch of starter was made into pancakes.  Once again Magic Man was missing from the homestead.  This recipe makes enough pancakes to feed a crowd, but it was only me at the house.  So I cut back - a lot.  The batter starts Saturday night.

I added 1/2 cup of starter to a glass bowl.  To this I added 1 cup warm water and 1-1/4 cup flour and mixed well.  It was a little thick, a little lumpy just as the recipe described.  Covered with plastic wrap and a tea towel, the bowl sat in a warm corner in the kitchen until daybreak.  

The first thing Sunday morning, after a cup of coffee and a quick reread of the instructions, 1/2 cup of starter went back into the starter jar.  By now the started had thinned and was quite bubbly.

To the remaining starter I added 1 egg, 1 tablespoon oil, 2 tablespoons powdered milk and beat this well.  In a separate cereal bowl mixed 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  This mixture was sprinkled over the batter, and gently folded in.  Step back and watch the magic.  The mixture started to foam and grow.  
Pancake batter before the baking soda
It was quite an amazing moment.  It was time to let this sit for a moment while the cast iron skillet (or comal) was heated and lightly coated with oil.  If it's not thin enough, you can add a little milk.

By now the batter was really bubbly.
Pancake batter after the baking soda was added
Sourdough Jack advises making small pancakes.  Use a tablespoon of batter at a time.  It should sizzle when it hits the skillet.
Side 1 Sizzling. 
The cakes don't take long to cook.  Flip when the cake is filled with exploded bubbles.
Side 2 Finishing
This recipe made about 15 pancakes.  I thought there would be plenty left over.  These are the lightest, fluffiest pancakes I'd ever eaten.  As a matter of fact, I ate 8 of these in one sitting drowning in fresh maple syrup.  They were so good.  The rest of that batch went to Mom's house.  She hid them for her breakfast the next day.  She enjoyed them as much as I did.  
Mmmmm... Pancakes!!

My friend suggested the next week I use sourdough starter for French toast.  He ran short of milk one day so he subbed starter for milk in his French toast batter, setting out 1/2 cup of starter the night before.  Mix in an egg, a bit of sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon.  The toast was so delicate and delicious.  I wolfed it down so fast, I didn't think about taking pictures.  You'll just have to trust me on this one.

Sourdough French Bread

For my birthday this year, I received a jar of Sourdough Starter.  Sourdough French bread would be my first project since Magic Man was traveling.  It was the perfect time to experiment.  Taking a deep breath, I ventured into uncharted territory.

Per the instructions, I measured 1-1/2 cups of warm water into my bread crock, added 1 tablespoon of yeast, 1 cup of room temperature starter, 4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons each sugar and salt.  Then beat vigorously for 3-4 minutes and set it aside to rise for 1-1/2 hours to rise.

My first batch didn't absorb the flour and was a little thin for the initial rise, but it still worked well in the end.  I added more flour with the baking soda step.  Batch number 2 looked better, but the end results were the same.

Before rising
After rising

Now it's time to mix 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 cup of flour, keeping an extra cup of flour handy.  Knead in the flour & soda mixture to the dough, working in additional flour as needed to minimize the stickiness.  Knead 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and satiny.  Shape into loaves, lightly grease baking pan, then lightly coat pan with cornmeal.  Gently place dough on prepared pan and score the loaves.
Shaped and Scored Loaf
Cover and let this rise until double in size again.

Loaf Doubled, Ready for the Oven
Here's where the book and I part directions.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Place the baking pan on the lower 1/3 part of the oven.  Spray the inside of the oven with water to create steam.  Close and bake 15 minutes.  Spray a second time and bake another 10-15 minutes.  The loaf will be a deep golden color when done.

Baste the loaf with butter.  Wait impatiently to be cool enough to slice.

Finished Sourdough French Loaf
Second Batch Finished.
I love kneading sourdough.  It is the softest, silkiest dough I've ever handled.  It kneads and shapes beautifully.  

A Most Unusual Gift

My buddy from the Big City North, where we now reside, and I have May birthdays 21 days apart - so we celebrate together.  Our families exchange gifts for the honorees.  This year we gave him a large gift bag filled with home dehydrated foods for his weekend hiking get-aways: pineapple slices, cinnamon apple rings, banana chips, "orange cookies" as our granddaughter calls her dehydrated orange slices, cinnamon apple fruit leather, and much more for snacking.  Then he dug up dehydrated refried beans for burritos and green beans with new potatoes for a couple of experimental trail meals.  

I, on the other hand, that same evening received a jar of sourdough starter and sage advice.
  1. Keep the starter in the refrigerator.  
    1. Take the starter out the night before and let it warm to room temperature.  
  2. Remove and either use or discard 1 cup of the starter every 7-10 days.
  3. Replenish/Feed the starter with the same amount removed.  Take out a cup, add back a cup.
    1. If a cup of starter was used, then I mix 2/3 cup of flour and 2/3 cup of lukewarm water with a pinch or two of sugar.  Sometimes a little extra water is needed.  The mixture should be slightly thinner than pancake batter.  Mix this into the starter jar.
  4. Let the starter sit, uncovered, on the counter in a warm spot until the starter gets "happy."  Here in the summer, 2-4 hours is adequate.  
    1. I added rule 4.1 to this list.  Place the jar in a bowl.  Sometimes the starter gets so happy it bubbles over the top.  This is a much easier mess to clean.
  5. Secure the lid, with the breathing hole covered with paper toweling on the happy starter.  Place back in the fridge.

Pint Jar of Sourdough Starter (sitting on Granddaughter's placemat)
Hole in the Jar Lid
During the first week, I looked through my cookbooks.  Somewhere in this house I had to have sourdough recipes.  Then I found what I didn't know what I was searching for.  Marie gave me this book several years ago, but I never had a reason to use it.  Oh, how I wish she were alive so we could share some of these pastries with a cup of coffee.  This book is a wealth of information and recipes.
Sourdough Jack's Cookbook

That's pretty much all there is to maintaining a sourdough starter.   Mom loves the smell of this starter.  It has a fresh, yeasty smell.  It's not a tangy as some starter recipes, but is delicious nonetheless.

Things to note:

  1. A liquid forms and floats on top of the starter.  This is a type of alcohol and simply needs to be stirred back into the starter.  You can control the amount of this liquid by skipping the sugar when replenishing the next batch.  
  2. If a more sour or tangy taste is desired, then let the starter sit on the counter longer, approximately 24-48 hours.  
  3. If the starter is too sour, sweeten it by removing a cup of the starter and replenishing it with 1 cup flour and 1 cup tepid water.  
  4. Add baking soda as one of the last ingredients to add to a recipe, especially a recipe like pancakes that needs to sit overnight.  Baking soda has a tendency to turn batter yellow.