I got out my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and followed the directions. It never did start. So I dumped it out....again.
In the meantime I contacted a relative that I knew had a starter that she had been using for years to see if she could send me some. She was more than happy to do so and it arrived Christmas Eve, a nice present.
This is a starter with a history. It was given to my relative in 1986 when they moved to Anchorage, Alaska. They met some friends who were part owners of a lodge on the Iliamna River. These friends had gotten the starter from an elderly man who had lived on the river for years. At that time, 1986, the starter was 85 to 90 years old. It has made several moves from Alaska to their current home and now to ours. I think that is really neat. Now, if I can just keep my part of it alive.
I am brand new to sourdough and caring for a starter so this is a very introductory post. When we got it from the post office, we brought it home and fed it. This consisted of giving it 1 cup of white flour and 1 cup of water. I stirred it up well, covered it with some cheese cloth and crossed my fingers. Throughout the day, I checked it and stirred it up a few more times. It worked! It bubbled up a little and looked like the descriptions I had read. Yea! So far so good.
After it's arrival and apparent living state, I began to look through my cookbooks. I actually thought I had a sourdough cookbook, but found I didn't. There are some recipes in Cookin' With Home Storage that I looked at. Then I searched online and found some information and recipes. Then I went and found a couple of cookbooks and ordered them. In the meantime, I fed the starter on Christmas again and it looked healthy so I decided to try it out in a bread recipe. The first one I tried didn't rise. Well, it may have risen half an inch. So we got another taste of brick bread. This is what Frank calls the bread I make that doesn't rise well and is very heavy. The taste was fine, it was just very dense and heavy. Disappointing, but not too surprising since I was using starter and no yeast for the first time.
So for the next loaf I tried a different method. I found a recipe that had me start the sponge the night before. So I took one cup of my starter, added two cups of fresh ground whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup of water. Stirred very well, several times, covered with cheese cloth and let sit out all night.
The reason I have wanted to learn how to maintain a starter and be able to bake without yeast is because one day I fully expect to run out of yeast and not be able to get anymore. This is another step I have wanted to take in becoming more self-reliant. Just like learning about and maintaining kefir. I will one day run out of yogurt culture, but want to be able to produce a product that will help maintain our digestive health. The funny thing is, after we received the sourdough starter and I started looking for recipes online, I ran across this information on "the health benefits of sourdough bread." God works in mysterious ways. No doubt about it. I had never even considered the possibilities of sourdough having added health benefits compared to regular yeast breads. I was surprised. So here are the health benefits listed from that article.
- the longer rising/soaking time [like making the sponge overnight] breaks down the gluten making it more easily digestible, therefore making it better for those with gluten intolerance
- the bacteria present in the starter eat the starches and sugars in the grain lowering the carbohydrate content of the bread, thus helping to regulate blood sugar; also increases vitamin and mineral content of the grain
- lactic acid predigests the grain for you
- bacteria present activates phytase, an enzyme that breaks down phytic acid which can strip your body of minerals and be hard on your digestion
Amazing! That is what I thought when I read this information. I had no idea. It reminds me of the wolf spider and finding out they carry their babies on their back. The world is just full of unique opportunities for learning and I cherish them, especially if they prove useful to our endeavors to be healthier and return to a more natural state.
The bread we made from the overnight sponge was great! I only made enough for one loaf just to try out the recipe. When I turned it out, I thought it was a little much, but I didn't know if it would turn into brick bread again, so I left it all together instead of dividing it into two loaves. Well, it just about fell out of the pan it rose so much. So here is a comparison of my first two loaves.
I have since made another batch with the overnight sponge, this time dividing it into two loaves. It didn't rise near as much and since we had company and I wanted to bake it for lunch, I didn't wait on it as long either. The loaves were smaller, but still had a great flavor.
I have left the original starter out on the cabinet since it's arrival, feeding it everyday. A few days ago, I took about a cup and a half of it and put it in the frig to see if I can keep it alive. It's next to my extra kefir grains that I am also experimenting with to see if I can store them and keep them alive as well. Both will need to be fed once a week, so that will be one of my Saturday chores.
We have been provided with many different opportunities to be self-sustaining when it comes to food. There have been many things produced by man in the past decades that we are not able to reproduce and we didn't give them a second thought for many years. Now the more I
read and learn, the more I realize how important the 'old knowledge' and skills are. Like gardening and heirloom or open pollinated seeds that will reproduce themselves, unlike the hybrid varieties. Speaking of which, have you ordered your seeds yet? When you do, order or buy more than you will ever need in a couple of lifetimes. I truly believe they will soon be worth more than gold. Do you know how many people you can feed with just one seed?
Learn all you can. Books, online sources and easy access to information may not always be around. Be ready, be diligent, be vigilant. Wolves may come knocking in sheep's clothing.
Until next time - Fern