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January 30, 2016

Fermentation I can't stop won't stop

Fresh baked sourdough can't be beat. I mean it can be kneaded, punched, and folded but never beaten in the flavor department. Several months ago I binge watched Julia Child's Master Chef series and low and behold there was a chef there demonstrating beautiful handmade traditional artisan breads. Specifically sourdough, from the creation of sourdough starter, to baking a beautiful loaf. Those closest to me know that I've had many a bubbly, yeasty, brewing jar of fermented yum yums around my home. However, after actually making the starter for my own sourdough creations; I could not find the time nor will power to "get my bake on". [life took over] Thank God ferments are living beings that need a break from time to time and don't mind being tucked away in the back of a very cold fridge. Which, is exactly what happened to a very large jar of starter I'd previously made months ago. I'm talking at least four months.... 

To be quite honest I'd forgotten all about the sourdough starter. It was only upon cleaning out the refrigerator that I excavated it and honestly thought for sure the whole lot would have to be thrown out. But being the curious home-scientist wanna be I am, I opened the jar, did a sniff test, then grabbed a large spoon to stir the wet grayish liquid that had risen to the top back into the thicker 'batter' on the bottom. The smell was a little sour, kind of fruity, and the color was quite right. It was then I decided to keep it and move forward with feeding/reviving the mixture. I did this by adding a thick slurry of flour and water to the jar and covering the jar with a paper towel and a canning jar ring so it could  "breathe".  I then let the mixture sit on the counter for the night in a warm place. 
By the afternoon of the following day the starter was alive and kickin! I mean it kicked its way out of the top of the jar. The video below shows just how bubbly the batch was before I started making my first loaf (minus the mess I had on the counter).  I proceeded to make two loaves, one an extended proofed loaf in a pan and the other a standard proofed free form loaf baked on a pizza stone. I will update this post with pictures of the loaves but want to let you know that will power is necessary to allow these baked goodies to cool before slicing them. I know that they're going to be good because number one they're homemade with all of the patience, love, and bad a$$ little yeasties grown with care in my kitchen from a Julia Child master chef recipe. And number two I've been taking my time to get this fermentation thing down pat. There are always little hiccups in the culinary world but consider this, fermentation has been a tried and true method of preparing food for centuries. Well before the Internet, well before PBS, and so on and so forth. Common sense, a clean kitchen, and a little diligent research go a very long way. That is why I will keep doing what I do and brewing what I brew. In this case baking after I brew/grow on my counter-top.. you know what I mean! Be brave, be bold, and bake some sourdough bread with this delicious starter I'm gifting you with below. It's so easy and flavorful you'll smack yourself on the forehead. I'm not sharing my bread recipe because it is pretty standard and I find it's much easier to let people make their own flavor sensitive decisions on some things and that it is more important to know how to create your very own starter and begin playing around in the kitchen from there. That being said, enjoy this starter recipe it's super easy and involves grapes so it is real 'old world' which I love.

How To Make A Sourdough Starter:
  • ·         1 or 2 of Grapes with stem attached (wild/organic)
  • ·         4 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • ·         Lukewarm water (filtered, spring, or boiled and cooled)
  • ·         1 tablespoon sugar or honey (or another natural sweetener like agave)
  • ·         Large Jar or bowl
  • ·         New pantyhose that have been thoroughly washed in hot water and vinegar or cheesecloth
  • ·         Coffee filter, Paper towel, or tea towel
  • ·         Rubber band, canning jar ring, or string
Two Loaves Down - Free form has potato and both were yummy!
Place 2 cups of the AP flour into the jar or bowl with ½ cup to 1 cup of water. You are basically making a thick pancake batter consistency. After washing your grapes and leaving the stems attached, you’ll want to place them into a pair of pantyhose or secure them inside a bundle of cheese cloth then place in the jar.

Using the back of a spoon, smash some of the grapes up while mixing into the batter.
Cover the jar with a tea towel and rubber band or coffee filter and canning ring to keep dust/bugs/and other ickies out. Place the bizaar mixture out of the way on or in the cupboard where there are no cool drafts. The next morning give the mixture a good stir and let sit for another day.
When you see bubbles and activity you know you are on the right track. A whey like liquid separates from the batter and it is time to remove the grape sachet and start feeding your new starter. You did this by stirring in 2 more cups of flour, the sugar, and a cup or 2 of lukewarm water. DON’T use cold water! There are living yeast in this jar which make the numminess that is fresh sourdough bread happen.
Cover the jar again with a clean tea towel or coffee filter and place it out of the way until you witness clear signs of fermentation. (bubbles and sweet but soury smell) you may have to give the batter a stir. Continue letting things become more lively in the fermentation department for at least 3 or 4 days. When you have achieved a sour aroma and/or taste if you’re brave enough, then put your jar with a lid into the refrigerator. As I stated this mixture is pretty resilient and will survive by staying dormant for quite some time in between feedings.
A feeding consists of you adding a flour and water slurry (I prefer a thicker one) to your starter every time you remove some. i.e. If your recipe calls for removing two cups of starter, you’ll replace it with two cups flour 1 ½ cups water mixed together and poured in. You could also just add to the jar then mix. It’s important to distribute the yeast from the bottom to the top every once in a while.