Fresh sourdough bread!
I grew up and have lived in Northern California my entire life. One of my favorite places to visit has always been San Francisco. There are so many things to do there, but I never go to the “City by the Bay” without visiting the Boudin Bakery on Fisherman’s Wharf. I shamelessly eat an entire sourdough “bowl” filled with clam chowder, then waddle on over to the store to buy a loaf (or two or three) to bring home.
I tried to make my own sourdough by catching the wild yeast in the air in a slurry of flour and water, but was never satisfied by the taste of the sourdough. It just wasn’t what I was used to. I do plan to try this again, however, because I found out that it wasn’t supposed to taste like the San Francisco Sourdough! Each region around the world has it’s own “wild” yeast floating around, and each bread will taste different! Some will taste more sour, while others will rise faster! Then, I found out that you can actually buy the San Francisco Sourdough yeast and “grow your own”!
That’s exactly what I did. I had previously bought my Kombucha starter through Cultures for Health and saw on their website that they had quite a few different fermented items for sale, including sourdough. The company offers sixteen different sourdough yeast varieties, including ones for spelt, rye and brown rice. But I was after my favorite, which is the San Francisco variety!
When I got the yeast packet, I decided to just dive right in and get the yeast activated. It was simple enough – especially since I wasn’t having to “catch” a wild yeast – which made me feel a bit more confident. I followed the instructions that came with the yeast packet. I had to buy some water, because our tap water has both chlorine and fluoride (ick), which can kill the yeast. Our well water on the future homestead is good and pure, without chemicals or excessive minerals, so I will bring home a gallon or two of that water the next time we go up.
One thing I have learned so far is that it’s a good idea (for me, at least) to write the time on your sourdough container. That way, you won’t forget when you last fed your sourdough. Also, beware! This stuff is like Gorilla Glue! Seriously! Wipe up any spills immediately and wash off spoons and jar rims right away, otherwise you will have to soak and then scrub. Also, a word to the wise – it doesn’t smell anything like you might expect! That’s why I had thrown out my “wild” sourdough attempts – it really has a strange smell to it. Not that real sweet “yeasty” smell that you get from the commercial yeast packets we are all used to. And it wasn’t really “sour” either, but more alcohol-ish, but not really like beer either. I was worried that I had contaminated the sourdough with my kombucha. Apparently, I hadn’t. However, if you are fermenting several things at the same time (kombucha, apple cider vinegar, sourdough, even vegetable pickles), it’s wise to keep everything at least five feet apart!
Oh… one more thing – these little yeasty beastys like to escape! I put my quart jar of sourdough into our entertainment cabinet where it is always warm due to the electronics, then came back several hours later to find sourdough dribbling over the rim of the jar, down and over the shelf and then to the floor! That’s when I went out and bought the half gallon size of jars. 😉
Once I got the sourdough bubbling well, and had fed it four times, I was ready to make some bread! I followed the simple sourdough recipe that Cultures for Health have on their website. Word of warning: the sourdough takes a LOT of kneading! 20 minutes! The
first time I did the kneading, my husband helped. Now, I just turn on TV and mindlessly knead while watching! Hey, don’t judge me – at least I’m multi-tasking! Once kneaded, the bread must rise for 4-12 hours! Yup, it takes a lot longer to raise sourdough than it does the “regular” kind of bread, but of course a lot depends on the air temperature. When we have a fire going, it takes about 4-5 hours for the bread to rise. But, in a cool kitchen (about 65 degrees) it may take overnight, or as long as 12 hours! You just need to get used to your sourdough to figure out how it will work for you.
Let me tell you, baking that first loaf of bread was pure torture. It smelled so good while it was baking (our mouths were watering and our tummies growling) that when it was done we couldn’t wait for it to cool down, like the instructions stated. We were like ravenous vultures tearing into the bread! It was so good! Not quite as sour as the San Francisco Sourdough that I’m used to, but very good just the same. Apparently I need to let my sourdough “sour” a bit more to get that rich sour flavor, by feeding it one more time before I cook with it. I have also read that as my sourdough “matures”, it will get more sour. Also, I think the crumb is just a bit too fine, so perhaps this first batch didn’t rise enough or maybe the oven wasn’t hot enough. These are all things I just need to learn with my sourdough! I don’t mind practicing. 🙂
Of course, I couldn’t stop there. The Cultures for Health website has oodles of recipes, so my next dish was pizza. This was easier and faster than the bread because you don’t have to knead it so much or even let it rise for hours. However, when I rolled it out on the cookie sheet, I thought I had it thin enough, but it was still just a bit too thick for our taste. We don’t like doughy pizza dough, but are more partial to the thin crust types, so now I really roll it thin. What is great with this recipe is that you actually cook the dough before you put the toppings on it, then finish it in the oven – which gave me a great idea! I could make several pizza crusts, bake them, and then freeze for future meals! One caveat, however, is that they take up a lot less room in the freezer if you make square or rectangle crusts, then stack one on top of the other!
What was next? Crackers! Bacon, Rosemary and Cracked Peppercorn Crackers! These were really good. Again, the recipe is on the website at Cultures for Health. Luckily I have an old overgrown rosemary bush out back, so I was able to harvest my own rosemary – can’t get any fresher than that! The bacon flavor comes from bacon grease, not the actual bacon, so if you want to make these crackers, save your bacon grease! These were really good with a little cream cheese spread on top. Yum! But, where the recipe says to roll very thinly, they mean it! I really didn’t get mine thin enough the first time, and though they tasted great, the crackers just didn’t have any crunch. They are better when they crunch!
Finally, I wanted to show you my Olive and Parmesan sourdough bread. Well, I wanted to show you the bread, but before I could take a picture of the final product, it disappeared! Yes, this one is that good. Here is another tip I would like to share with you: don’t add the olives right away. They get torn into quite a few small pieces while you knead the dough. Knead the dough for a good five minutes first, before you add the olives. You might also consider adding whole olives (the recipe calls for sliced), because even by adding them toward the end of the kneading, they still get torn into smaller pieces.
I hope you try making your own sourdough, if you haven’t yet! There are tons of blogs and recipe websites out there with instructions on how to “capture” your own “wild” yeast. Or you can do like I did and start with a proven source of sourdough yeast. Either way, I am sure you won’t be sorry.
And for those of you that are gluten intolerant: apparently fermenting the wheat makes the gluten more tolerable! There are those who cannot eat “regular” white bread, yet can eat sourdough bread. Of course, if you truly have celiac disease, you want to be cautious, but read this article first – you may be surprised: Gluten Intolerance & Sourdough Bread from Livestrong.
For my next batch of sourdough, I am going to make the smaller boule type sourdough shapes so that I can make a sourdough bowl and add some salmon chowder to it! One recipe that I have been looking for (can’t find the original blog) is actually using stale sourdough (is there really such a thing?) to make stuffing. I would also like to find a recipe for a french herbed sourdough using herbes de provence, but actually using the individual spices and not the herbes de provence already mixed together. Do you have a favorite sourdough recipe?
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