Having a sourdough bread starter recipe at your fingertips means two things:
1. You can experience the pleasure of sourdough's exquisite taste and aroma any time you please.
2. You never have to admit to your friend that you somehow botched the precious sourdough starter they gave you.
Mmmm... fresh homemade sourdough bread. Can't start without the starter!
Sourdough starter is a batter-like substance made from fermented flour and water, and in this case, yeast and sugar. Sourdough aficionados make San Francisco sourdough starter, the way the early miners did, using only flour, water, and the "wild" yeast found in the flour and in the air. Making "something from nothing" takes a while but it is fascinating. If you want to try it, instructions are easy to find on the web.
Most of us are pretty happy with our non-aficionado version. And, if
need be, we can always justify it with the premise that if the ancients
had had supermarket yeast, they'd have used it, too. Stop chuckling.
Preparing and maintaining your sourdough bread starter is actually pretty simple and straightforward. Once started, you can keep the same batch going indefinitely. In fact, there are commercial sourdough bread makers, like Boudin's in San Francisco, above, who have been using the same sourdough starter for over a hundred and fifty years.
1 tablespoon fresh active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (105°-115°, no more)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
In a non-metallic bowl, or a large glass jar, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Stir in the flour and sugar. Loosely cover the bowl or jar and let the mixture stand at warm room temperature (70-80°) for 2-3 days.
When ready, the mixture will be bubbly and a little frothy, and
smell sour. If bubbles have not started forming after 24 hours, though,
start again. Your water may have been too hot, or your yeast not fresh
and active. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Maintaining Your Sourdough Bread Starter
Once you have successfully prepared the sourdough bread starter recipe, store it in the refrigerator, loosely covered, in your jar or other non-metal container. (They make crocks just for sourdough starter.)
Replace the amount of starter you use. Most recipes call for 1 cup of starter; replenish it by adding 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup warm water to the remaining starter. Return it to the refrigerator. Should you need more starter, add the flour and water first, and let it ferment for 24 hours, at least 12 hours.
Sooner or later a dark liquid will collect atop your starter. This is called the hooch. Just stir it in. It's a good thing.
Big-Game Food Idea
There is no one best kind of food for watching the big game with friends, but Sourdough Breadsticks with Gumbo is certainly a nice departure from average. Your friends will cheer you.
1 batch sourdough pizza dough
1 tablespoon water
Tear off biscuit-size pieces of dough and roll them into long,
skinny sticks of uniform size. Cut them in half if you prefer smaller
breadsticks. Place them on lightly oiled baking sheets, 1 inch apart,
and let them rest for a few minutes. Beat the egg and water together.
Brush the unbaked breadsticks with the egg mixture and bake them in a
preheated 350° oven until golden brown, 15-30 minutes, depending on the
size of your breadsticks and desired crispness. Serve with delicious Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, the real deal, or quick and easy Shrimp Gumbo.
Breadsticks are just one of many, many great things that can come out of a sourdough bread starter recipe. Have fun discovering the rest of them.