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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Trying to Get Things Started....


Since I've moved to the Bay Area (we are at the very southern tip of the Bay) I've been meaning to get a sourdough starter bubbling. I'm not sure why I've put it off this long, I'll blame general spaciness or forgetfulness. Anyway. A sourdough starter is actually very simple to put together. It's just waiting for the wild yeast and the little bacteria to form that takes a bit of patience. Basically what you are doing is hoping to harness some of the wild yeast that already exists in the world around you (germaphobes, stop reading, or you will be spraying everything with bleach). It's pretty much everywhere. In the air, on us, on fruits and vegetables (that strange dusty looking stuff on the skin of grapes is yeast). It's just waiting for a nice mixture of flour and water to live in and feed on. There is a bit more to it than just that. You also want to invite some bacteria to the party. Lactobacillus (where I am it would be lactobacillus san francisco-well, maybe lactobacillus silliconus vallus- which is what makes San Francisco sourdough so distinctly sour) are the bacteria that create the acidic environment that wild yeast so loves to live in. These little critters live everywhere as well, just in different forms. When I was living in Wisconsin, I was able to get a fabulous sourdough starter going, it had great flavor and was very active (sadly I made the mistake of going out of town for a bit and leaving a friend to baby sit my starter....he forgot to feed it and didn't chill it..I returned to a sad dead hooch filled batch of ick).

( after mixing it looks like paste, but not as appealing:)
There are different ways to try to boost your starter when you begin. One thing some people like to start out with is water that has had organic raisins soaked in it. This isn't necessary, you may get some of the yeast off the raisins, but if you are starting with a good organic rye or whole wheat flour you should have enough to go with. Another way to do this is to add some diastatic malt powder(which helps to break down the starches in the flour for the yeast to feed on). This is also not necessary. I'm just whisking some flour and water together until it is somewhat smooth (small lumps are fine) and then storing it in a plastic or glass container (some metals will react with an acidic starter, so it's best to avoid most of them). This mixture will be sitting for about 24 hours, at which time I'll have a look at it and then discard half of the mixture (if you don't discard, you'll end up with a monster starter, and unless you have a few hundred gallon barrels, I suggest discarding..or you can always share with a friend). So, here's what I'm using (we'll see how it develops in the next few days!):

Sourdough Starter:

8 ounces of water (I've got a bunch of bottled water that needs to rotate out of our earthquake kit...don't ask...so I'll be using this for the starter. Bottled water doesn't contain certain chemicals that live in tap water)
8 ounces of organic whole wheat flour (the next feeding will begin changing the starter over to unbleached bread flour..I just like to start with wheat. Rye works as well)
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-Whisk together the flour and water. Scrape the mixture into glass or plastic container and cover. It will be a bit of a paste consistency.
-I like to take a nice thick rubber band and put it around the container where the mixture rests so I can see if there has been any movement.
-I don't like to name my starters until day two or three...I already have a name picked out for this one, but I'll keep that to myself for now.

(rubber bands from asparagus or broccoli come in handy:)
Let the mixture sit for 24 hours at room temperature(70 and above is ideal, but cooler will work) and then it will be time for a feeding, stay tuned...


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7 comments:

Dogma Central said...

omg, if I wasn't a food safety consultant I'd say "THAT'S GENIAL". Can't your starter develop tentacles or the like?

Jen the Bread Freak said...

Ooooh, it would be awesome if it developed tentacles! I'd have to choose a different name though.....;)

Dogma Central said...

Now I'm just thinking about your starter and those kinky hentai movies. lol.

Jen the Bread Freak said...

Oh my, tentacle monsters....Yikes! :P

Culinarily Curious said...

Welcome to the bay area Jen! Just found your blog and I'm looking forward to enjoying your mental irregularity. :)

Jen the Bread Freak said...

Thank you Culinarily Curious one! It's been a good year and a half out here in the Bay area so far. I do try to keep my irregularity in check :P..well, maybe just thinly veiled. Enjoy :D I'm going to have a nice read over at your blog :).

eyeshoot said...

I'm reading all of your sourdough posts with great interest, I'm starting my very first starter today and am v. excited and expectant. I love the rubber band idea - I'll be stealing that!

I'll be blogging my experience too....