Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sweet on Sourdough

I've been working a lot with sourdough since we arrived in Rwanda.  I prefer to use sourdough in my bread and baked goods because it breaks down some of the gluten in the flour, making it easier to digest, as well as reducing the phytic acid so minerals are more easily absorbed.  

Before we left for Rwanda I decided to dehydrate the starter I had been keeping on in my kitchen.  Since I don't have a dehydrator I came up with a different solution that worked for me.  I poured out a thin layer of starter on a piece of parchment paper.  It was August and we were having 100+ degree days, so I put the parchment paper inside our barbecue (with it turned off) in the morning.  The closed lid kept the bugs off, while being inside the metal of the barbecue magnified the heat and dehydrated my starter for me.

I also brought along a small amount of Oregon Trail Sourdough starter I got from "Carl's Friends".  Once we got here I mixed the two and rehydrated by mixing with a little bit of water, and then adding small amounts of flour and water each day.  I started out with a white flour starter (that's all you can find in the stores here) and then ended up switching it over to spelt flour (after some friends brought me a supply of spelt flour).  I've been trying all kinds of recipes made with sourdough starter: pancakes, crackers, cinnamon rolls, rolls, pizza crust and even chocolate cake!  Here in the next few weeks I hope to share several of these recipes with you.

You can help to keep your starter happy by using it a lot and feeding frequently.  I feed mine a minimum of 1/4 cup of both flour and warm water twice a day when I'm using it, and it works even better if the last feeding I give it (several hours before I use it) is 1/2 cup each (this would be different if you're keeping larger amounts of sourdough than I am- I only have a jar about the size of a mayonaisse jar).  When not using it for a few days I may feed it & put it in the fridge.  When I'm ready to use it again I pull it out at least 8 hours ahead of time & feed it.

Here is my "go to" bread recipe.  It worked well for me both back in the US as well as here.  We are at a high elevation in Rwanda (around 5 or 6 thousand feet) which I've learned causes baked goods to rise more (not as much air pressure pushing down on them).  I'm able to do a shorter rise time (6 hours first rise, 2 hours second rise) which also keeps my bread from getting too sour.  You can experiment to find out what works best for you.  Make sure you use enough flour to make a nice firm dough, because it will get very soft and sticky after souring.  Slash the tops of the loaves before baking to keep them from exploding out the sides! 

Sourdough Bread

1 cup flour (plus additional)
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup warm (not hot) water
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup oil (melted coconut oil, or olive oil)
2 Tablespoons honey

Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  Add additional flour: 1/2 cup at a time, up to 3 or 4 cups.  Let dough rest for 10 minutes before kneading, then knead for 5 to 10 minutes and place in a greased bowl.
Let rise until doubled: about 8 hours, then punch down and form into loaves (flatten and roll up burrito style).  Let rise for an additional 2 to 4 hours.  Heat oven to 350 and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.  (If making rolls check after 20 minutes.)


P.S.  If you don't already have a sourdough starter you can make one in just 7 days.  I used the pineapple juice method when I made another one here.  Give it a try!  (Start with low rise items when your starter is young like pizza crust or crackers.)