Saturday, January 10, 2009

Taste & Create XVI: A Sourdough Named Virgil

Every month, I try to participate in Taste & Create, a wonderful monthly event created and hosted by the lovely Nicole of For the Love of Food. Food bloggers are randomly paired off, and tasked with choosing and creating one of their partner's recipes. It is so much fun, and the recipes are so tempting. You never know who you might be paired with, and what new techniques and ingredients are just waiting to be discovered! (If you'd like to sign up and participate in February, go here by Feb. 8!)

For the December/January Taste & Create event, I was paired with Grace of A Southern Grace. After much perusing and deliberation over Grace's fantastic recipes, I was all set to make
Grace's Monkey Muffins and Bunny Bread recipe. I enjoyed reading how the recipe evolved.

And then. It came down to the wire (okay, 10 days til deadline may not be down to the wire for you, but for me, it was down to the wire). **I thought the deadline was Jan. 15th. Really, it's Jan. 24th. It's all good.**

And then. I decided to take one last look around. I kept seeing all the fabulous things Grace does with her precious Ebenezer, her sourdough starter.

And I thought:

Exactly what kind of cowgirl doesn't have a jar of sourdough starter?

Can I actually claim to be a cowgirl, having never made a loaf of bread from my own starter?

Does Grace have a recipe for sourdough starter?

Will this sourdough starter really, truly be hard to kill, as Grace alleges?

Please let it be hard to kill, and easy to maintain.

What should I name it??

And I made a list for Number One and sent him off to the store.

And then when I read through the recipes with all the sitting and rising times, I was thankful for my "10 days = down to the wire" feelings that guided me toward these fabulous recipes.

Sourdough Starter
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) dry yeast
3 tablespoons instant potato flakes

To make starter:
Mix water, sugar, yeast, and potato flakes. Let ferment on counter for two days. Then feed with starter feeder and continue with the instructions found in the link below.

Starter Feeder
Mix together:
½ c sugar
3 T potato flakes
1 c warm water

Add to jar of starter, (I mixed mine a little with a wooden spoon) and let sit on the counter for around 8 hours.

Grace says: Eb lives in the fridge until feeding time, which can be anywhere from 3 to 14 days after his last meal. (I've actually gone longer than two weeks without feeding him and he still did fine.) Upon feeding, he sits on the counter for about 8 hours, and then he's ready to go.

After sourdough has been on the counter for 8 hours, proceed with any number of sourdough recipes.

The sourdough starter went off without a hitch. It sat and fermented and bubbled and stewed on the counter. I added the starter feeder, and it bubbled away some more. I decided to name it Virgil, which means "growing."

When it was time, I decided to go ahead with the most basic recipe, Sourdough Bread. I followed Grace's recipe to the letter, because a bread baker I am not. Yet.

Now is the time for Total Honesty. (I already told you I am not a bread baker). I thought I followed Grace's recipe to the letter. But somehow, when I was looking at the recipe on her blog, 1 1/2 cups of water looked like 1/2 cup of water, and I was confused. My mixture was dry, it certainly wasn't sticky...I added another 1/2 cup of water, and it got better, but wasn't holding together. I looked at the recipe again, saw that it was really 1 1/2 cups!! Duh! So then I was worried that I had overmixed it. We'll see.

12 hours later, the dough had risen, but certainly wasn't overflowing out of my bowl like Grace's was out of her trifle bowl. Perhaps my bowl was bigger, or there was the overmixing thing.

I decided I'd make just two loaves instead of three loaves like Grace made. And I'll probably try again over the weekend. I left the loaves in the oven for 8 hours, just like Grace recommends.

My bread turned out lovely! Perfectly risen, (see above!) golden brown on the outside. The very middle was just a bit doughy, so next time I will preheat the oven to 350 before I start the timer! I think that will take care of that little problem. But, this bread is delicious and easy, and I think I will just have to start baking more of my own bread! I can't wait to try some of Grace's other recipes, and tonight I even got my neighbor started with some starter of her very own!

I am sold and converted. Now I'm a real, live cowgirl with real, live sourdough starter in the fridge. Howdy, Virgil. Thanks for coming into my life! I know we'll make some beautiful things together.

Grace's Sourdough Bread
1/2 cup oil
1 cup sourdough starter
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
5 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons wheat germ

Combine all ingredients in a large non-metal bowl. Stir everything together, adding more bread flour as necessary to create dough that's no longer sticky. Transfer the dough into a second non-metal greased bowl.

Roll it around so the entire ball becomes glorious, set it in a warm place, cover it with sprayed aluminum foil...and watch it grow for about 12 hours.

After 12 hours, punch down the dough once, right in its middle. Turn it out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knead it a few times.

(Although Grace divided her dough into three, I only felt like I had enough for two loaves this time).

Divide the dough into two or three even hunks, and knead each a bit more.
Place the dough into greased loaf pans.

Place the pans in the oven, cover with sprayed foil, and leave to rise again for around 8 hours.

Grace says: Just FYI, the pans are put into the oven to rise so they don't have to be moved later and risk collapsing.

After the second rise,
remove the foil and bake the dough at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Preheat the oven before you start the timer!


Becky said...

Glad you're getting hooked on bread baking. Sourdough is one of our favorites and I have a grand recipe that I have adapted from a old Sunset mag. recipe. If you are interested I would love to share it with you. I have a starter that I purchased from a resturant in Jackson Hole, Wyoming over 25 years ago. It is hard to believe that I haven't let it die. Still many more years ago I used to get my starter from our cowboy, Chet. I made sourdough bread last week and Brian was a happy man!
Happy Baking!

Min said...

I would love starter recipes, bread recipes, anything. Sourdough is so interesting...and I've heard the old cowboys made the best!

This bread recipe is nice and tasty, but to me it's not a "true" sourdough-tasting bread.

We tried a different sourdough starter last summer, but it molded. Maybe it was just too hot down here?

grace said...

i'm thrilled and elated that this worked out for you! and virgil is a terrific name. :)

Min said...

Oh thanks, this is so fun!

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