Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Made Bread Today

A Starter Almost Forgotten

For years I had kept Valentina’s San Francisco Sourdough Starter in dried form and sitting in a sealed container in the freezer. There it sat for years untouched until I decided to bring it back to life. I am so glad I did. I have been using Parley’s for years and it’s a nice mellow flavored starter but I had forgotten how good Valentina’s really is. How to purchase your own Valentina’s is at the bottom of the article after the San Francisco Sourdough Bread recipe I made today.

I was working in Tulsa, Oklahoma until April 2012 for the biggest telecommunications giant based in the Northeast. The company decided to move over seventy-five percent of our jobs to the Philippines because they could pay these people a small fraction of what we were paid. A telecom worker in the Philippines makes $600 a month and receives no benefits. No sick time, no paid time off and no health care. Enough of that, back to my story.

So there we were in April 2012. No job. So we decided to slim down and move in with one of our daughters in Northern Utah. When we were packing I found the nearly forgotten jar of dried Valentina granules in the back of the freezer. It was practically forgotten. So when I got to Syracuse, Utah I decided to revive Valentina and start making really great tasting bread. Parley’s was OK but did not have the sour taste I missed.

In 2011 I flew to California for my mother-in-laws funeral and while there we made a trip to The Presidio where I was stationed in the late 70’s. Afterwards, we went to Pier 39 and had dinner at Boudin’s. White Clam Chowder in a bread bowl. The chowder was OK but the bread bowl was fantastic.

So there I was last April with the freezer cleaned out and about a cups worth of dried flakes of Valentina’s and about the same amount of Parley’s. Getting to Utah was a long process via Columbia, MD before finally settling down last July in Syracuse.

Almost Lost

Busy looking for a job, I forgot about the starters until I opened a box and found the jar with the dried starter. The jar had been in storage from May until last November when I found the jar in a box. You know how old flour can go rancid? My beloved Valentina’s smelled like this. I was sad and depressed but had heard how dried starter can last for thousands of years but I had heard of settlers using sourdough to calk the cracks in their log homes and how over a hundred years later the starter pops right back to life.

She Lives!

I was so relieved when I placed a tablespoon of Valentina’s in a jar with a cup of water and flour. The next day there was this wonderful sour smell in the Jar. I stirred it up, dumped out some and re-fed her. The next day I had a wonderfully bubbly starter.

I made a batch of bread and the flavor was so good. I was back at Boudin’s in my mind.

Still Looking for a Job

Since I am still looking for a job I decided to start this blog and sell my starters on the side. I’m not planning on getting rich. Who can make a living selling Sourdough Starter via a blog? But every sale helps and if you decide to purchase one of my starters I would be very grateful.

Today’s Bread Bake

Today started off yesterday, actually. We decided it would be nice to have some nice sourdough bread with our dinner on Sunday and so I decided to make two batches of bread today. In order to make both batches I would need two batches of Valentina’s which is what I did yesterday morning. By last night, just in time to make the dough, both batches had expanded to the neck of their respective jars.

Following is the recipe I use when making San Francisco Sourdough Bread. One batch make three medium bread bowls.

While the bread was rising I made everyone delicious Sourdough Pancakes without eggs using Valentina's San Francisco Sourdough Starter.

Valentina’s San Francisco Sourdough Bread

Before starting this recipe be sure your Valentina’s San Francisco Sourdough Starter is good and ready. If it’s in the fridge, pull it out the night before and leave it on the counter. In the morning, before going to work, dump out ninety percent of the starter and add 2/3 cups water and enough flour to make it thicker than pancake batter consistency. Leave it on the counter loosely covered all day. It should double in size.

When you get home add enough water to add a heaping tablespoon of flour to the starter. Stir and cover.

Start the bread around 9pm The Night Before You Bake

Dump the contents of the starter into the mixer bowl. Do not clean out the jar. Set the jar aside.

  • Add 2 and ½ Cups bottled spring water to the mixer bowl and using the dough hook mix up the starter and the water.
  • Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt.
  • Add 1 cup white wheat flour while the mixer is running. White flour is acceptable as well.
  • Add about 6 and ½ cups white flour and when mixed ( the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl) leave the mixer running for ten minutes.
If you use all wheat flour, be careful to not add too much flour. Stop adding flour just as it is starting to clean the bowl. If the dough is sticking to the hook, add a little more flour. If it is a big solid lump and bouncing around the bowl you have added too much wheat flour. Add ½ a cup of water and reset the timer to 10 minutes.

While the mixer is running, get a large bowl and spray it with Veggie Oil spray. I use P*m and the generic from Costco. It does not matter which. If the bowl has a lid, spray the underside of it too. Instead of a lid you can use plastic wrap but spray it before covering the bowl.

Rest the Dough about Twelve Hours

When the ten minutes are up, place the dough in the prepared bowl and cover. Let it rest overnight. I usually let it rest between ten and twelve hours. Make sure the bowl is in a cool place other than the fridge. I usually use our basement which runs under 70 degrees.

Feed Your Starter: Now is a good time to feed your starter. To the starter jar add 2/3 cup water and about 2/3 cup white flour. Stir and loosely cover overnight. The next morning place it in the fridge until you need to use it again.

Next Day - Shape Your Bread

My favorite shape is the bowl (boules). To form I cut off a section of the dough and flatten it out. Then I pull the dough into the center and pinch it together. I do this until the skin of the dough is nice and tight but does not tear. The pinched side will be the bottom.

Take a lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle with corn meal. Place the bowls onto the cookie sheet.

Let the dough rise for about two hours until double.

Before turning on the oven, place both racks to the bottom two positions.

Place a small cast iron pan or ceramic dish on the bottom-most rack in the cold oven.

Pre-heat the oven to 425° F.

Boil some water.

Place the bread in the oven and add two cups BOILING water to the pan on the bottom rack. Do not add cold water and do not put the water in until the oven is good and hot.

Bake 30-40 Minutes. Bread should be a golden brown.

Makes 3 Bowls.

The Starters

I have tested this recipe using my two other starters, Parley’s and Tara. Parley gives you a nice mellow sourdough flavor but is not as sour. 

I recently received a starter from a friend in Alaska and cannot wait to try it. I am going to call it Alaska Sam’s Sourdough Starter. It’s been a day and a half since I started reactivation and smells nice.

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To simplify the updating process of my blog entries I have created a single ORDER page you can go to by clicking here. As the blog slowly grows in size (a few posts each month) it becomes an arduous labor updating each and every one of them so hopefully this will make the pages easier to peruse and more enjoyable. Thank you.

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