Thursday, February 15, 2018

New Starter In The Works

New Starter In The Works

I love wide open spaces like what you get just north of where I live in Eastern Idaho. Montana! There is nothing bigger and they grow a lot of wheat. So I am in the process of activating a new starter, Big Sky - The Montana Sourdough Starter.

Sometimes I think I have too many starters. This will be Number 12! The cool thing is all my starters are different. Different smell and taste. Some are mild and some are strong. Almost too strong. It takes a stronger cook to master some of these but when you do, oh man!

It's hard to believe I have been doing this as a hobby most of my adult life and I just started selling them five years ago. I don't make any money doing this because it's a hobby and my opinion is you are not going to get rich selling sourdough starters. It's the love of sourdough that keeps me going.

The yeast you buy in the store or is used in the loaves of bread on the store shelves is highly modified. I would go so far as to call it a GMO product. It's like the chicken breasts you buy in the Meat Department, genetically modified chickens that get slaughtered at just six weeks old because they grow at an alarming rate. If they were not butchered they would no longer be able to walk and they develop cancer quickly. Should we be eating  this stuff?

Sourdough yeast is natural. The yeast is a naturally airborne organism that attaches to wheat, grapes, berries, etc. It has not been modified in any way. The sourdough yeast in 100% Non-GMO and it tastes really good.

It was not all that long ago when pretty much EVERYONE at some form of sourdough bread on a daily basis. Today we mostly eat bread made from modified yeasts that are designed to do one thing fast and die. It's impossible to take a package of yeast from the store, activate it, feed it and dry it for future use. It's specifically been modified so that it cannot be grown at home. But sourdough is a freely given organism which does not care if it is refrigerated, frozen or dried for long term storage and use.

There are disadvantages to sourdough for sure because it has to be fed every day or stored. Luckily, once fully thriving, your sourdough colony can be fed a tablespoon of flour a day to keep it active. When you use it you can pretty much dump out almost the entire jar of starter and feed it and it will thrive very quickly. The old tradition was to save half of your starter when feeding it. I found this to be nonsense. When I made bread once several years ago I accidentally dumped 99% of my starter into the mixing bowl without thought. When I realized my mistake I tried a normal feeding of 160 grams of flour and 160 grams of bottled spring water. It thrived! I was so relieved.

Anyway, I will be posting my Big Sky sourdough starter on my order page real soon. Go make some sourdough something! Bread, biscuits, pancakes, a cake or whatever else you can think of and enjoy. Later.

How To Order

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A New Unnamed Starter From Eastern Idaho

I have a new sourdough starter that's been in the works for the past few weeks now. It is mode from local wild yeasts found in my own backyard. I don't have a name for it yet.

It is baking in a bread maker I picked up in a thrift store for $3.

In a bread maker pour 1 cup starter, 1 cup bottled water at room temperature, 1 teaspoon salt (more or less) and 3 cups white enriched flour (not bread flour). Select Dough. Let it rest until it is done rising which is about 4 or 6 hours. Then select the medium white bread setting and Start.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Just Make A Batch of Sourdough Bread!

I am calling this post, Just Make a Batch of Sourdough Bread, because sometimes you need a little encouragement. We all need it sometimes.

I have been running low on some granules of Valentina's and Babo's San Francisco Sourdough Starter. My last post was of a batch of bread using Valentina's because I reactivated her and once ready spread the starter on a large plastic tray to dry and since Valentina's was now active I also made a couple of batches of bread and made pancakes too a few times.

Next I activated a batch of Babo's. In fact, right now I have four loaves baking in the oven and it smells oh so good. 

Valentina's and Babo's both come from San Francisco but they are different. Babo's needs a little more care after making the dough. I let the dough rest for twelve to fourteen hours in a cool environment of about 60-65 degrees F before dividing into loaves. I then let the loaves sit at 80 to 85F for a couple more hours before placing in the oven.

I use the same basic recipe for all of my sourdough starters:

1 Batch of Starter doubled in size 
3 Cups room temp water
1 to 2 Tablespoons Salt*
8 or 9 Cups Unbleached Flour

I combine all the ingredients in my Bosch mixer and let the machine run for ten minutes after the last of the flour is added. Pour 90 percent of the starter into the mixing bowl. You only need a little starter left in the jar when feeding it. I am not of the school that says to only use half. In my opinion that is ridiculous and can lead to weak starters. By using all but some scraps in the jar you are promoting healthy vibrant sourdough starters.

Then I remove the dough and place in a large plastic Tupperware bowl that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Then I place the lid on top but not sealing it and let the dough rise overnight. The next day I divide the dough into 4 or 5 round loaves and place on a tray that has been lightly oiled and sprinkled with a little corn flour. 

In my oven I have a Travertine tile from Lowes that I pre-heat to 450F. I also have a small cast iron frying pan that I pour in 2 cups of boiling water. Wear large oven mitts for this because you may burn yourself at this stage. Always be careful. 

I either transfer the loaves to the travertine directly or I just lay the tray I am using on top of the stone, add the boiling water and then close the door and reduce the temperature to 400.

Making your own homemade sourdough bread is very rewarding. If you would like to order one or all of my starters you can click here.

* Use of Salt for those on a salt restricted diet. Check out Chef Don's site for his sourdough recipes.

Pictures of today's batch of bread are coming.

Babo's SF Starter
35 Minutes in the Oven so far

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Restoring A Sourdough Starter From Long Term Refrigeration

Restoring A Sourdough Starter From Long Term Refrigeration

I like to store my sourdough starters in the fridge and I tend to do it long-term without feeding. Whenever I am ready to reactivate a sourdough starter I take it out of the fridge, stir the liquid on top back into the starter and scoop out a small spoonful. I then drop it into a jar and add one cup all purpose white flour and three quarters cup water which is about 70 degrees F. It will feel just barely cool to the touch. Then I stir it all together and loosely cover my jar and then place it in a good location that's not too cold. In this case I chose my mantle above the gas fireplace because it was about 65 degrees. My kitchen is about 50. For this sourdough starter I used tap water. Your use of tap water may get different results.

Look at the photo below. This is Valentina's after a day and a half! From the fridge it takes roughly 36 hours to become fully active. You can tell the starter is going to be ok because after 12 hours the sourdough starter is stringy. I stir it up and dump it down the drain leaving about a quarter cup still in the jar. I feed it and let it sit for another 12 hours. Then after 12 hours I dump out most and feed it again. within the next 12 hours it will be very active.

Click here for ordering info.

My Valentina's San Francisco Sourdough Starter.

Friday, February 26, 2016

My Current Thoughts

Current Thoughts.....

Feeding a starter.
You do not need to dump out half when feeding. Sometimes I make pancakes and so Ill use a larger jar to feed the starter without dumping any down the drain. Sometimes I add just a tablespoon or two rather than dumping it. It all boils down to the fact that starters are very forgiving.

Try this next time. Start a new jar of starter with 1 cup active starter that was fed at least in the last 8 hours. Add 1 cup unbleached flour and 3/4 cup bottled water. Stir. The next day add 1/4 cup unbleached flour and stir. Maybe add a little water if needed. The next feeding dump out most and feed with 1 cup unbleached flour and 3/4 cup water, stir. Next day add the 1/4 cup flour and a little water. an day 3 dump out most and start over.  Less wasteful.

I have fed in stages without dumping for a week. Made pancakes and bread from the starter and it was fine.

Storing in the fridge.
Pour starter into a clean pint jar and place in the fridge. You can scoop out a tablespoon of the starter at anytime to reactivate it.

Pour some starter onto a plastic plate spread thinly and put it up in the kitchen to dry it out. I usually do this on top of a cabinet or in a windowsill. After a few days it should be dry. If there are parts still moist be patient until dry. Take the dry starter and break it up and place in a pint jar and store in the fridge.

Baking Bread.
Stick to the basic recipe. Do not increase the starter and decrease the water. I cup of starter is all you need for a batch of bread. Do not add too much flour. If it is dense it can affect the taste and texture. Another thing is how long the dough sits in a bowl before forming into loaves. 60 to 85 degrees for 12-14 hours is perfect. If the dough is not dense enough after 12 hours, make a note to add more flour next time. I make my dough just a little denser because sourdough tends to liquefy as it ferments.

How to order my starters.... CLICK HERE

Monday, March 16, 2015

Fresh Sourdough Today from Wasatch Willy's Great Salt Lake Sourdough Starter

I made a fresh batch of sourdough bread today using my exclusive Wasatch Willy's Great Salt Lake Sourdough Starter.

Normally I make boules but the last two times I made bread I have been too lazy so instead I used my nice long Norpro pans my daughter bought me. Came out fantastic.

I have mentioned the recipe several times before in this blog but I'll repeat it for those who would rather just see it now and not have to search for it.


1 batch fresh Starter (at least 8 hours after feeding)
3 cups water
8-10 Cups Unbleached White Flour. DO NOT USE BREAD FLOUR.
1 Tablespoon salt

When I say one batch I mean dump it all into your mixer bowl. Do not scrape the jar. After dumping most of it out go ahead and feed it. You do not have to save half like most Traditionalists will tell you.

Mix the starter, water and salt together until blended. Start adding flour one cup at a time. Until AFTER the dough comes away from the bowl. Knead for ten minutes.

Place the dough in a greased large plastic bowl and lightly cover and let it sit for twelve to sixteen hours in a cool place. I like to use our basement because it is always cool enough down there all year long. You can place it in the fridge but be prepared to let it sit for at least 24 hours or more until the dough hits the top of the bowl. I use one of those large Tupperware bowls. We have the older and the newer Tupperware bowls. The older bowl is wider and not as deep and the dough always hits the lid. The newer large bowl is deeper and the dough never hits the lid.

When the dough is ready to divide into loaves I like to turn on the oven at 350 for a minute and turn on the light. This prepares the oven for the loaves to sit and rise until ready to bake.

I usually divide the dough in thirds. On my scale that's about 850 grams per loaf. Divide the dough and place in loaf pans. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for a couple hours.

If you used the oven to let your bread rise take it out and move your oven racks to the bottom two slots and heat your oven to 450 F. Place a small pan on the bottom rack. You are going to pour two cups boiling water into this pan after the oven is heated up and after you put the bread in the oven,

Be sure and use a Lame to score the tops of your bread before placing them in the oven. This is really easy if you make boules. If you use bread pans like I did it's more of a challenge unless you use more dough per pan.

Boil two cups of water.

Place your bread in the hot oven.

Wearing oven mittens, pour the boiling water into the pan and close the oven door.

Reduce the heat to 400 F and set your timer to 55 minutes. It takes a a lot longer to n=bake a loaf of sourdough.

When done, remove from the oven and let it sit for 20 minutes, The bread will continue to bake in the middle of the loaf.


To order one of my sourdough starter packages click here for more info.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Always Make a Backup!

I have been dealing with computers since before the first IBM PC was introduced and one thing I cannot stress enough is, ALWAYS KEEP A BACKUP! Someday that hard drive is going to quit working and today we have access to the Cloud via Google Drive, DropBox and others. But when it comes to Sourdough we have to rely on simpler methods to make a back up.

Let's face it, things happen. Right? 

What are some of those things? Bugs, heat, feeding and so much more can affect our starters which is why I always keep a small jar of starter in the fridge. It does not take much to reactivate a starter that's been stored in the fridge and my experience tells me a starter will last almost forever in the fridge.

Here is how you do it.  When you feed your starter and you normally dump it down the drain instead pour it into a small clean canning jar and tightly close it up. Use a canning jar with appropriate lid. Fluid will separate but don't worry about the fluid. 

To activate a starter from the fridge, scoop out a heaping tablespoon of cold starter and place it in a quart canning jar. Add 1 cup flour and (room temp) 3/4 cup spring water. Stir it up. Let it sit overnight and dump out half. Feed it another cup of flour and 3/4 cup water. Let it sit again. It does not hurt to feed it every twelve hours when reactivating your starter. Most starters will be very active in less than 36 hours.

Are you old enough to remember yeast cakes? A small package of yeast stored in a foil wrapping? When starter has been stored in the fridge for a while it has that consistency. Shows my age I guess.

All my starters (except two) use normal unbleached white flour. I do not use bread flour because I find my breads do better without the added wheat gluten. The exception to this rule is Chef Don's Megaheart Starter. He created his starter from grapes grown in the California foothills of Auburn, California and he used bread flour. I have tried to wean his starter off of bread flour to no avail. The other starter does is based on an Organic Dark Rye flour (Tara's). 

So remember! Keep a back up in the fridge, no matter what. I use these flat canning jars because I can stack them three to four high on the shelf in the fridge.

How To Order My Sourdough Starters