I took it into my head to start baking sourdough bread. Last night, while watching Alton Brown’s “Good Eats,” and largely due to the fact that he was baking bread, I started to consider creating my own “starter dough.”
I am not new to the whole bread baking world, and I have even made a sponge (a dough starter, left out over night) before, but as I began to read more on the subject of sourdough bread, I became aware of the process of catching your own wild yeast. Instead of using store-bought yeast, which is apparently all the same variety, therefore having only one taste, one can actually catch this wild yeast, which varies from region to region. So, as it stands, a sourdough loaf made in Brooklyn would have a different flavor than one made in Philadelphia (assuming both bakers used wild caught yeast.
Before running off to grab my butterfly-net and catch me some of that dern yeast, I decided to read on. It seems that to catch the yeast, all you have to do is mix equal parts water and flour, and let it sit out in a warm area of the house. Okay, there is more to it, but I’m not going into now.
I needed a container to keep this starter in. It had to be sturdy because if you do this whole starter thing correctly, you’ll actually be keeping it in the fridge, “feeding” it to keep it alive so you can use it over and over.
I know, it’s starting to sound like one of my horror stories.
I think that’s actually what interested me about this whole thing. You’re growing your own yeast. It will have it’s own characteristics and flavor. It will be unique, and the longer you keep it, the more the flavor will change and mature. Heck, it’s like brewing beer or making wine.
So, I mixed my flour and water together, and as I type, the mixture sits in a Cool Whip container on the mantle of my down stairs fireplace (don’t worry, not too hot).
I’ll post pictures through this journey. That starter has a good 3-7 days before yeast develops and becomes active. Once that happens, if it happens, the dough will take on a frothy appearance and a beer-like smell. I hoping it will be ready to test it out on Christmas eve or day. The flavor won’t be fully developed, but once the yeast is active, you can start using it.
I can’t wait.
I took a picture, but blogger won’t let me post it…sorry.
I have since moved the location of my starter, but not very far from that original spot. Also, I started a second starter with two and a half tablespoons of wheat flour mixed into a half cup of unbleached bread flour. Sort of a fail-safe, though I’m not sure how it will work out with the wheat flour involved.