Sourdough Starter and Sourdough Bread Recipe

This is a somewhat minimalist approach to making a sourdough starter: Nothing else needed but flour, water, and time. Scroll down to find the bread recipe if you already have a starter going.

Sourdough is probably the oldest form of ‘raised’ or ‘leavened’ bread that we know.  The dough sours by ‘catching’ wild yeast out of the air, basically.  Columbus brought some with him when he crossed the Atlantic, and it has been used by European settlers in this country from the very beginning.  Even when commercial yeast became available, the pioneers continued to use sourdough at every new frontier, including the prospectors of the Yukon during the Alaska Gold Rush of the 1890s, which might be why sourdough became associated to a degree with all of the ‘Old Alaska’ crowd.

It’s fun to make your own starter.  You can get fancy with it and use 1 Tbl of sugar and 4 Tbl of buttermilk along with flour and water in your initial starter, or just use flour and water as described below.  The time it takes varies, so don’t worry if your starter isn’t quite going on Day 2: It just might surprise you on Day 3!

How To Make Your Own Sourdough Starter
Makes 4 cups of starter

Ingredients

  • Flour
  • Water (preferably filtered)

 

Instructions

Overview

Making sourdough starter takes about 5 days.  Each day you “feed” the starter with equal amounts of fresh flour and water.  As the wild yeast grows stronger, the starter will become more frothy and sour-smelling.  On average, this process takes about 5 days, but it can take longer depending on the conditions in your kitchen.  As long as you see bubbles and signs of yeast activity, continue feeding it regularly.  If you see zero signs of bubbles after three days, you might want to start over.

Process

Day 1: Make the Initial Starter

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 scant cup, or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl)
  • 4 ounces water (1/2 cup)

Measure out the flour and water, and combine them in a 2-quart glass or plastic container (not metal).  Stir vigorously until combined into a smooth batter.  Scrape down the sides and cover the container loosely with a clean kitchen towel.

Place the container somewhere with a consistent room temperature of 70°F to 75°F (like the top of the refrigerator) and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 2: Feed the Starter

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 scant cup, or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl)
  • 4 ounces water (1/2 cup)

Take a look at the starter:  You may see a few small bubbles here and there.  The bubbles mean that your starter is beginning to sour according to plan.  At this point, the starter should smell fresh, mildly sweet, and yeasty.

Measure out the flour and water for today, and add them to the starter, stirring them in vigorously again.  Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container again.  Place the container back where it was and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 3: Feed the Starter

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 scant cup, or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl)
  • 4 ounces water (1/2 cup)

Check your starter.  The surface of your starter should show bubbles and look visibly larger in volume.  If you stir the starter, it will still feel thick and batter-like, but you’ll hear bubbles popping.  It should also start smelling a little sour and musty.

Measure out the flour and water for today, and add them to the starter, stirring them in vigorously again.  Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container again.  Place the container back where it was and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 4: Feed the Starter

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 scant cup, or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl)
  • 4 ounces water (1/2 cup)

Check your starter.  By now, the starter should be looking quite bubbly with large and small bubbles, and it will have doubled in volume.  If you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and honeycombed with bubbles.  It should also be smelling quite sour and pungent.  If you taste a little, it should taste sour, sort of vinegary.

Measure out the flour and water for today, and add them to the starter, stirring them in vigorously again.  Scrape down the sides and loosely cover the container again.  Place the container back where it was and let sit for 24 hours.

Day 5: Starter is Ready to Use

Check your starter.  It should have doubled in bulk since yesterday and look practically frothy.  When you stir the starter, it will feel looser than yesterday and be completely webbed with bubbles. It should still be smelling quite sour and pungent. 

If everything is looking, smelling, and tasting good, you can consider your starter ripe and ready to use.  If your starter is lagging behind a bit, continue on with the following instructions.

Day 5 and Beyond: Maintaining Your Starter

  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (1 scant cup, or 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl)
  • 4 ounces water (1/2 cup)

Once your starter is ripe (or even if it’s not quite ripe yet), you no longer need to bulk it up.  To maintain the starter, discard (or use) about half of the starter and then “feed” it with new flour and water as described above.

If you’re using the starter within the next few days, leave it out on the counter and continue discarding half and “feeding” it daily.  Whenever it is actually frothy and smells a little sour, you have what sourdough bakers call a sponge (see below), which is what goes into your bread dough.

If your sourdough starter will not be used for a while, cover it tightly and place it in the fridge.  Remember to take it out and feed it at least once a week!

How to Reduce the Amount of Starter

If you don’t need all the starter we’ve made here on an ongoing basis, you can feed it with half the amount of flour and water.  Continue until you have whatever amount of starter works for your baking needs.

Sourdough Bread

Now, in order to bake with your sourdough, you need to make what they call a ‘sponge’, and it needs proofing before you can bake with it.  If your starter is just five days old and looks and smells as described, you can use it as your sponge.

If you take your starter from the fridge, it needs proofing first:

  • Take your starter out of the fridge, pour it into a large glass bowl and add a cup of warm water and a cup of flour.  Stir well and let sit on the counter.  In the meantime, wash the jar the starter was in and rinse it well, even with boiling water.  You want only your sourdough growing in that jar!
  • Watch for froth and sniff: When your sponge is bubbly and has white froth, and smells a little sour, it is ready.  The longer it sits, the more sour the flavor will be.
  • Proofing time varies: Some starters can proof to frothiness in an hour or two, some take 5-8 hours.  Just go ahead and experiment to see how long your starter takes.  If you want to bake in the morning and your starter is slow, letting it proof over night just might work for you.

The Actual Recipe (for 1 two-pound loaf)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sponge (proofed starter)
  • 2 Tbl olive oil (can be substituted for soft butter, or omitted)
  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour, preferably unbleached

First, take care of your leftover sponge: You should have some as it is your starter for next time.  Put it into its nicely rinsed jar, give it a fresh feed of half a cup of flour and half a cup of water, stir it well, close it tightly and keep it in the fridge until next time.  Or, if you will bake again quite soon, leave it on the counter/ top of the fridge and continue feeding it as described above in the section ‘Day 5 and Beyond’.

Directions

In the same glass bowl in which you proofed or grew your starter, add sugar, salt and oil to the sponge.  Mix well, then knead in the flour half a cup at a time until you have a good, flexible bread dough.

First rise

Let dough rise until it doubled, approximately an hour.  This might take longer than yeast dough, depending on your starter.  Your dough is risen when you poke a finger into it and create a pit that doesn’t spring back.  If it still springs back, you can let is rise a little longer.

Second rise

Punch down your dough and knead it a little more.  Make a loaf and place it on your (lightly greased or sprinkled with corn meal) baking sheet.  Slit the top if you like.  Cover and place in a warm place to rise again until doubled in size.

Bake

DO NOT PREHEAT THE OVEN.  Place pan with (now uncovered) loaf into the oven and turn to 350ºF.  Baking will take 30 – 45 minutes.  The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with your knuckles or a wooden spoon.

Let cool on a cooling rack and enjoy.

 

Cinnamuffins

Quick and easy and done in a blink.

If you like molasses, these muffins are just right for you.

Cinnamuffins

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Mix the three wet ingredients.  Sift together the dry ingredients, making sure there are no soda clumps.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until blended.  Fill into the muffin tin and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until an inserted wooden toothpick comes out clean.

These are rather soft muffins, so have a care when you take them out of the tin or they will look somewhat squished.  But truth be told, they taste great one way or another.

Variations:  Add half a cup of raisins into the dry ingredients before mixing it all together, or substitute a can of drained mandarin oranges for the applesauce.

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This is a slightly modified version of the Cinnamuffin recipe from The New Laurel’s Kitchen by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders and Brian Ruppenthal, published in 1986.

Elephant Stew

Leave it to the Amish…

Elephant Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 elephant
  • brown gravy
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 rabbits

Directions

Cut elephant into bite-sized pieces.  This will take about 4 months.  Cover with brown gravy and cook over kerosene at 535º F until tender, about 5 months.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  This will serve 3,800 people.  If more are expected, add rabbits.  Do this only if absolutely necessary as most people don’t like to find hare in their stew.

Recipe courtesy of Toby R. Miller

Bacon Bread

How’s this for breakfast?

Do you cook with cast iron pots and pans?  It’s my favorite cookware.  Especially skillets, be they big or small, round or square, deep or with molds, they all come in equally handy.

Cast iron skillets are quite versatile.  Whatever we fry, we fry in cast iron.  We poach eggs in them, too, or bake cornbread and Yorkshire pudding.  Chops turn out great if you fry them for a short time in a very hot skillet and then transfer them to the oven to cook through.  On the pictures, you see how versatile a griddle with round molds is: 2 egg sandwiches with sauteed onion in the make, all in one skillet, and the Sunday version is made with bacon bread.  Here is a quick recipe for it:

Bacon Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • milk
  • sifted flour
  • bacon (maple bacon is particularly delicious)

Directions

Beat egg and salt together in a bowl.  Add milk; the amount depends on how much you wish to make.  Mix with the egg, then add sifted flour until the batter has the consistency of pancake batter, but really, you can make it anything between fairly thick and runny, it will turn out anyway.  The thicker the batter is, the sturdier the bread will be.  Thinner batter will produce ‘floppier’ bread.  If you are not using a skillet with molds, don’t make your batter too thin or it will run every which way in the skillet.

Cut slices of bacon into pieces.  Put one piece in each mold, or, if you are not using a skillet with molds, put 3-5 pieces of bacon in a skillet.  Fry them on one side.  Turn the bacon and add batter, approximately a spoonful per mold, or a spoonful on each piece of bacon in your skillet.  Fry like pancakes: When the top is mostly dried, you can flip them and fry the other side.

Of course, you can also make pieces of bacon bread the size of your skillet.

Enjoy!

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Savory Shepherd’s Pie

This recipe also works well with leftover Bolognese/ spaghetti sauce.

Shepherd’s Pie has the vegetables already in the sauce, but you can also make them (or other vegetables you like) separately.

Savory Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

For the mashed potatoes

  • 6 medium to large potatoes
  • 1 Tbl butter
  • some milk (don’t make the mashed potatoes too thin)
  • salt to taste

For the sauce

  • 2 Tbl butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 Tbl flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn
  • paprika

Directions

Peel and quarter 6 medium to large potatoes.  Place in a saucepan, cover with water (just about) and bring to a boil.  Boil until the potatoes are soft.

In the meantime, sauté celery and onion in butter in a large frying pan.  Add ground beef and brown.  Stir in garlic and flour.  Add broth, herbs and corn.  Stir gently until the ingredients are well combined.  Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Then spoon the mixture into a large casserole dish.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Drain potatoes and rinse them and the saucepan well.  In the same saucepan and while the potatoes are draining, heat some butter and milk, add salt to taste.  Add potatoes when the butter is melted and the milk hot.  Mash potatoes, then spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture.  Sprinkle the top with paprika.

Bake the Shepherd’s Pie until it heats all the way through and turns golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

* We left out the paprika, hence you cannot see it in the pictures, and we had our veggies, corn and green beans, on the side. *

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Marinated Chicken

We did not use either the raisins or the chutney, but tried this recipe once as cubes and once as steaks. Very tasty indeed if you like tangy sauce.

This chicken does not have to marinate for very long, and if you are in a real hurry, you can skip the whole marinating process altogether.  Or marinate it longer for stronger flavor – your choice.

Marinated Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbl vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbl curry powder
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/4 cup flaked almonds (optional)
  • 2 Tbl mango chutney (optional)

Directions

In a bowl, mix the tomato paste, oil and curry powder to make a paste.  Add lemon juice and yogurt to make a marinade.

Cut the chicken breast into cubes of about 1 inch, or pound it flat and cut it into several larger pieces.  In larger pieces, the chicken needs to fry a bit longer.

Stir the chicken into the marinade, season with salt and pepper, cover and let marinade in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Heat a skillet and fry the chicken in it for about 3-4 minutes.  Then add almonds and raisins (if using) and fry some more until the chicken is not pink on the inside anymore.

Serve with Mango chutney, shredded lettuce and plain yogurt as well as toast or any other kind of bread on the side.

Perfectly Puffy Pancakes

If you do not like baking powder, this pancake recipe is not for you. Otherwise, it’s wonderful, and suitable for sweet or savory toppings.

We found this recipe in an Amish cookbook.  Works out great for us.

Perfectly Puffy Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbl plus 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups of milk

Directions

Sift flour, mix together with salt and 1 Tbl baking powder.  Add melted butter, eggs and milk until the batter has the consistency you desire.  Just before baking, add the last 1 tsp of baking powder for extra thick, fluffy pancakes.

Bake in a skillet in batches.  You can slice apples and add to the pancakes in the skillet, or add slices of bacon and onion, or tomato slices and onion, or just fry plain and use sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

In this family, applesauce and maple syrup are a favorite for sweet pancakes, bacon and onion for the savory variety.

Beef and Cheese

Here’s a quick and easy spaghetti casserole recipe.

No vegetables in this dish, so plan on making some on the side for a complete meal, or serve with a salad, or both.

Beef and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked spaghetti
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cups cheese

Directions

Cook spaghetti until tender.  Brown beef and onion in butter.  Add flour and milk, mix well.  Cook until thick.

Mix 1/2 cup of cheese with the spaghetti and place half of the spaghetti in a baking dish.  Put in the meat mixture.  Add remaining spaghetti.  Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.

Bake at 350ºF for 25 to 30 minutes.

 

 

 

Scrumptious Scottish Scones

Eat them while they are still warm!

These scones are much like (sweet) biscuits, and hence will do well for a delicious breakfast, especially if you make them with raisins.  They will also do well as a dessert if you substitute the raisins for chocolate chips.  But the dough is less firm than normal biscuit dough, so don’t expect to roll it out.  Just padding it flat will do just fine.

Scrumptious Scottish Scones

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp cold butter
  • 1/2 cup raisins OR chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup milk

Topping

  • 1 tsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • pinch of rolled oats

 

Directions

  • Stir together the dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, oats, baking powder, salt and spices).
  • Cut in the cold butter and pinch until the lumps of butter are about pea size.  Then mix in the raisins or chocolate chips.
  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  • Whisk egg and milk together and stir into the flour mixture.  Mix until just combined:  Don’t over-mix or your scones with be dense and heavy.
  • Turn the (rather soggy) dough onto a floured surface and pat until it is a 1/4 inch thick.  Now add topping:  Spread milk over the top of the dough with a pastry spoon, then sprinkle on the sugar and the pinch of oats for decoration.
  • Cut scones out with a biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased baking sheet, slightly apart.
  • Bake until the cones turn golden, about 8 – 10 minutes.
  • Enjoy while they are still warm.

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Herbal Household Remedies: Beans

Beans are so healthy, they are worth stocking up on!

Beans, be they white, black, pinto, mungo, lima, fava, or kidney beans, as well es lentils, chick peas, black-eyed peas, split peas and any other kind you can come up with from the legume family, are healthy for so many reasons.

The ancients already knew that beans should be a staple in your diet if you wish to look healthier and need to maintain your vigor and vitality.  The latter is probably due to the high Vitamin B-15 content of beans:  They are a strength-giving food.

Beans should also play an important role in your diet if you need to watch your cholesterol levels and triglycerides.  Beans keep too much fat from accumulating in the circulating blood.  In order to re-introduce more beans into your regular diet, consider eating oatmeal for breakfast three days a week, and bean soup for lunch several ties a week – just don’t add ham or the sausage.  This combination should be an ideal grain-legume mixture to fight cholesterol buildup.

Besides, beans can help lower blood sugar levels, and thus should be a regular choice of (pre-) diabetics.  Since high cholesterol levels and triglycerides often go hand-in-hand with diabetes, with beans you have a chance of killing two birds with one stone, as the saying goes: Beans included into the diet at least twice a week has a good chance of lowering blood sugar levels due to the fiber contents of each bean.

Recipe Ideas with Beans

Since it comes in handy to have cooked beans ready in the fridge for various reasons (see below), we usually soak 2 cups of Great Northern beans in a big saucepan over night, and boil them the next day together with some salt and a piece of beef bone until the beans are soft.  Then we give the bone to the dogs and keep the beans refrigerated for various further uses:

  • A quick lunch can be prepared by boiling some of the beans with some fresh or frozen vegetables and possibly some leftover lunch meat or a crumbled piece of leftover bacon.
  • If you like tortillas, cooked beans can be turned into re-fried beans quickly by adding some chili powder and possibly some additional vegetables and cook it all down to a paste.
  • In addition, the Italians know how well beans go with pasta: Mix your pre-cooked beans with any kind of cooked pasta and serve with your favorite sauce or (traditionally) as a soup, and you will be surprised how tasty Pasta e Fagioli are.  This way, you will also lower your carb intake when having a pasta dish, something many diabetics are concerned about.

This article does NOT talk about green beans, though.  They are tasty and healthy as well, but do not technically belong to the legumes just yet because they are the unripe fruit and protective pods of the beans and are counted among the vegetables instead.

beans

 

Disclaimer: The author is not an medical professional, nutritionist, or dietitian. Content on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for legal or medical advice, or medical treatment or diagnosis. Consult your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms and before using any herbal product or beginning a new health regimen. When wildcrafting or foraging for plants, do so ethically; be accompanied by an expert; and always have absolute certainty of plant identification before using or consuming any herbs. By using any or all of this information, you do so at your own risk. Any application of the material provided is at the reader’s discretion and is his or her sole responsibility.

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