What if you could simply conjure ingredients out of thin air? It sounds like something out of a Star Trek episode, but it's absolutely possible in one instance: sourdough. This tangy, fluffy bread gets its start as a simple fermented flour and water mixture that pulls its yeast fungi straight from the air! While you can certainly bake delicious bread using the dry active yeast that comes in sealed packets, fermenting your own sourdough starter at home will give your loaf a distinct flavor from, say, a baker in Maryland or North Dakota, thanks to the yeast organisms indigenous to your area.
Yeast and its naturally forming bacterial friend lactobacillus also help to keep out the bad stuff that causes food to rot. As long as you regularly "feed" your starter mixture, you can leave it out on the counter without fear of poisoning bread fans. And while it makes a fine loaf, don't be afraid to try it out in pancakes, pizza crust, biscuits, cakes, and other baked goods. That sour flavor that develops from the starter's lactic acid makes everything taste delicious!
Though cultivating your own culture sounds like a mad scientist's experiment, this petri dish will only take 10 minutes out of your day while yielding a bounty of baking options. So read on for this simply sour recipe.
Roughly 3 1/2 cups flour (see note above)
Roughly 3 1/2 cups warm water
You can use bread flour, wheat flour, white flour, or a mixture of the three for this starter recipe. Wheat apparently ferments more efficiently, but I used all bread flour, and my starter turned out wonderfully.
- Begin with 1/2 cup warm water and 1/2 cup flour. Mix well in a glass bowl, then cover with a tea towel fastened with a rubber band. Leave it out at room temperature.
- Check on the starter after 24 hours. It should be forming bubbles and have a fermented (but not rotten!) aroma. Discard about half of the mixture, then add another 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour, cover, and let sit. If it has gone bad, throw out the entire batch and start again.
- Repeat the feeding process (discard half and add another 1/2 cup each water and flour) for about a week. Once it has a nice beerlike smell to it, it's ready to use. The starter can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, but bring it back to room temperature overnight and feed it again before using.
Makes about two cups sourdough starter.
- Sourdough, Breads