Monday, May 26, 2008

Back in action

Greetings from Brooklyn, New York. I'm home for the summer after graduating from college yesterday. Allow me to brag for a second as I share that Barack Obama was my class's commencement speaker. Score!

Anyways, with higher education over and done with, I turn my attention to food (as if that's not what I was thinking about all along). I don't know how much time I'll have to cook on a daily basis this summer, so I'm going to take on a few more long-term culinary endeavors that I can focus on when I have the time. One of them is learning how to bake bread. As I noted in this post, that's not something I have much experience with, but I want to get better. At the inspiring bread-baking workshop I talk about in that same post, we were each given ball jars of sourdough starter to take home with us, and I've been diligently "feeding" mine (read: adding more flour and water) twice a week since then. Unfortunately, I left that jar of goodness in my fridge when I moved out of my apartment in Connecticut yesterday. WHOOPS. Way to go.

But that brings us to this post. I'm making another batch of starter, hopefully. And what exactly is that, you ask? Well, it's basically just a mix of flour and water that you leave out for a few days so it can become a natural bread leavener. What happens is the mixture absorbs the natural yeast in the air and gets bubbly and fermented. The starter I had at school seemed promising. It was full of air and smelled like wine, which is what you want to happen, as the starter adds that distinctive sour tang to bread you bake with it. Unfortunately, I never got to use that starter, and now it's gone (you can make lots of things with sourdough starter besides bread, like sourdough pancakes, which I plan to try).

So I mixed myself up a batch of starter just now: one cup of all-purpose flour mixed with one cup of warm water, in a wide-mouth glass jar. I used organic flour because I figured it might have more flavor, and bottled water because it's more pure:

And that's it. You leave the mixture, uncovered, at room temperature for a few days (usually 4-6), feeding it 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour every day, until it gets the way it should be, described above. Then you refrigerate it and can use it anytime. You keep it alive by feeding it once or twice a week. Dead simple, right? I hope so. My recent yogurt failures have shaken my do-it-yourself confidence to the core (as an aside, I finally purchased a candy thermometer, and I hope to try making yogurt again very soon). Anyway, here's what I have now:

So yeah, it looks pretty much like exactly what it is: goopy flour. But it's latent with promise! If all goes according to plan (cross your fingers for me), I'll be showing you pictures of bubbly, yeasty, full-on starter in a few days, and then, hopefully, the beautiful bread it will help produce.


Malcolm said...

I threw out that Sourdough! I touched greatness...

Lauren said...

And you'll never, ever be the same.

Come over soon to eat fresh bread and homemade ice cream on my deck.

Sarah J. said...

Fresh bread and homemade ice cream? That is enough to lure me back out to the east coast....

Tell you sourdough starter to be good and ready by the 26th!

Anonymous said...

in my future--definitely a salsa, perhaps guacamole, maybe some margaritas to take advantage of those limwinning
sboes. And I better get to cooking, because I still have a ton of produce left over from last week's pickup.