It was a cold, lazy weekend afternoon early last year. The little one was happily tucked away into her blanket for a nap and dear hubby was watching football. I was flipping through one of the baking books I had bought recently and a recipe caught my attention – Sourdough bread. We both love this bread and always bought it from the store. Can it be made at home? Then, began an extensive research for methods and ingredients on the internet.
What I found was quite fascinating. You mix all-purpose flour and water and leave it in a warm open place for a few days with frequent monitoring. The batter picks up yeast and bacteria from the environment, starts bubbling and turns sour. This would be the starter. The quality of a starter would depend on where you live and whether the batter picks up the right guys. San-Francisco starters are supposed to be the best. Also, once someone has a starter going, it is fed periodically and kept alive for a long, long time – for generations sometimes.
I tried. The first time, nothing happened. February was a cold month (Yeah! sometimes, even in Florida) and so, I decided to wait for the spring. I gave it another shot in March. This time it looked like things were happening and I saw some bubbles on day 3. It was exciting! I added half a cup of all-purpose flour and warm water everyday, for the next 4 days. It got bubblier. It was time to try out my very own bread….or so I thought! I mixed more flour, sugar, salt and waited for it to rise to twice its size. I waited, waited and waited even more! It rose but not to the extent described in the cookbooks and internet sites. With a heavy heart I punched it back in for the second rise. Waited for 3 more hours for the rise and baked it. What came out was a shame. The crust was too thick, the inside was no-where close to being called soft and the taste…I had…ahem…added a little too much salt.
Totally frustrated with my first attempt, I put off the thought of baking bread for a while. I still kept the starter alive for a few more months. It was not before June, that I made my second unsuccessful attempt and dumped my starter in disgust and decided not to venture into the bread making business anymore.
Then, in September, THIS happened! I read through the post at least 3 times before I left a comment. Few days later, she baked her first biscuits. Now, this was exciting. I left another comment and she replied ‘Thanks, Hema! If you want to give it a shot, I’m more than happy to pass along some starter anytime’. Really? I wrote back to her with my mailing address and sure enough received this package with some dried starter and a lovely little note with instructions. She actually took time and dried some starter for me. Yes, she is our very own ‘Out of the wor…garden – Linda!’.
Thanks Linda! You are awesome!
I stored the dry starter in the refrigerator for over two months before I got a chance to get working with it. I followed Linda’s instructions and pretty soon the starter was bubbling with activity.
A day before I decided to take the plunge, I added a cup of flour and half a cup of warm water to the starter. Next morning, I took a cup of starter for the bread and stored the rest in the refrigerator. With it went in ½ tsp sugar and 1 tsp salt. Then, I cheated (blush). Well, you see I have had horrible sourdough experiences in the past and really wanted soft bread this time. So, I added some commercial yeast…just a pinch, actually (blush, blush). Dissolved it in a tbsp of warm water and added it to the dough after 5 minutes. Then I added flour(about 1 cup), one spoon at a time till the consistency felt right – soft and workable, but not sticking to your hands. I brushed some olive oil on it and let it rise in a warm place (oven with lights on).
It rose to twice its size in about 2 hours! YAY! I punched it back in and this time put it into my loaf pan for the second rise. 2 hours later, I made a slash on the top and popped it into the 425 F preheated oven for 8 minutes and then reduced the temperature to 375 F and baked it further for another 20 minutes till the crust turned golden brown.
Out came my precious bread, with my home smelling like a bakery:) I let it cool and gave hubby the honour of cutting my first bread and taking this picture.
It was soft and tasted almost like what we get at stores..a little less sour, but that maybe because of the extra yeast I added. Now, I can proudly say baking bread is not a big deal’. Thanks Linda. Could’nt have done it without your help.