This in itself is something of a minor miracle because it requires daily feeding, and I can be decidedly absent minded about things like that. However, daily feeding also means daily growing. This is my first problem. It keeps growing and I continually need to do something with it so that it doesn't outgrow it's crock.
One possible solution would be putting it in the fridge to slow it down. But I don't have room in my small refrigerator for it! So it resides in our unheated back room "cold storage," quite happily, but still growing. Under the circumstances there is nothing for it but to use it.
My first couple of experiments using my starter weren't that great, as I tried to use the starter itself as a batter base. Then Sharon gave me a sourdough applesauce cake recipe and I began to understand how to use my starter. The basic process is to mix the starter, flour, and liquid, and let stand for several hours at least, if not overnight.
I have to confess that even though I've used her recipe quite a bit, I still haven't made it with applesauce! What I have done, is to modify it and substitute things like some of my rehydrated figs, canned pumpkin, or unsweetened carob chips....
Sourdough Carob Chip Cake
1 C sourdough starter
1 C unbleached white flour
1/2 C milk
Mix and let stand about an hour and a half. Then cream
1/2 C organic palm shortening
3/4 C raw sugar
Mix with starter mixture and add
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Mix well. Lastly, fold in
1 pkg unsweetened carob chips
Pour into greased and floured Bundt pan and bake at 350° F about 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Unsweetened carob chips are naturally sweet, so I was able to cut the sugar by 1/4 cup. We loved it! I do plan to try the original recipe with applesauce soon. If you'd like a copy of that, you need to ask Sharon.
While experimenting with this, I began to wonder why the starter couldn't substitute for buttermilk in pancake, muffin, and biscuit recipes. Like buttermilk, it contains lactic acid, which reacts with alkaline baking soda to create carbon dioxide bubbles, causing the batter to rise. I reasoned that it should be able to replace buttermilk in any baked goods recipe.
With that in mind, I started using starter in my muffin and pancake recipes, without allowing the batter sit and rise. I found that I sometimes have to add a little more liquid, but it works well, uses up some of the starter, adds fermented whole grain flour to our diet, and makes things mighty tasty.
Between these two things, the problem of ever increasing starter was solved.
The most challenging thing has been bread. Do you remember my first loaf? I was delighted that it rose, but the texture was more like muffins than bread and the taste was distinctly sour. I needed to work on the recipe.
I found that by using less starter, say 1/2 cup for 3 cups of flour, I could get a dough that rose well and produced a better textured bread. I felt this may be the answer until DH told me he really didn't care for the sour in the sourdough bread. This was my second problem and it was devastating because I thought I'd found the answer to natural bread baking!
I was still puzzling over this when I read this post, at Chiot's Run blog. In it, Suzy mentioned reading that baking soda is supposed to help reduce the sourness of sourdough pancakes. I had definitely noticed that all the recipes in which I'd been using both starter and baking soda (muffins, pancakes, cake, etc.), really didn't taste like sourdough. I hadn't realized it was the baking soda however.
I decided to experiment with my bread recipe. The result?
Beautiful whole wheat bread with no sour taste to it! Second problem solved.
Here's what I did...
Sourless Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
The night before:
1/2 C sourdough starter
1/2 C warm water
3 C whole wheat flour
Mix to form a soft dough, adding more warm water if needed. Grease or butter the surface to keep it from drying out. Cover with a clean dishcloth, and let sit overnight.
Next day add:
Big glob of honey
Big blob of organic palm softened shortening
1/2 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tbsp baking soda
Enough unbleached white flour to make a stiff dough
Knead well (I cheat. I use my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook). Shape in bread pan and let rise until double in bulk. This takes quite a bit longer than yeast bread and I could have let mine go a bit more if I'd wished. Bake at 350° until done (I use the baking cycle on my bread machine.)
Problem solved! DH is happy with the taste of the bread, and I'm happy that I'm baking beautiful bread without yeast.
Problems With My Sourdough text and photos copyright