Old Faithful

This past week I resurrected my sourdough starter...I've had it in hibernation (i.e. refrigeration) for the past few months during the cold months. The starter on the right (7/99) is the oldest of them...7/99 stands for July 1999. After a few feedings it came back to life strong as ever. I made a traditional Pullman loaf...the house was a little cool and it still rose fully in about 4 hours.

Sourdough Starter

Unbleached all-purpose flour (the least processed brand available)

Whole wheat flour (same as above)

Spring water

In a glass bowl, combine 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour with 1-1/4 cups spring water. Mix thoroughly and cover the bowl with cheesecloth, secure the cheesecloth with string or a rubber band. Allow this mixture to sit at room temperature for 48 hours, then stir in an additional 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup spring water. Replace the cheesecloth and allow the starter to sit for and additional 48-72 hours. If after 4-5 days there is no sign of yeast activity, grayish-black liquid appears on the surface, or the starter develops an unsavory aroma, discard it and begin again (remember that it will smell somewhat sour when active, this should not be confused with spoilage). Once the starter is active it will need to be fed every twelve hours (or much less if refrigerated). Simply use a portion (give a portion away, or at the very least empty some down the drain) and replenish it with fresh water and flour. After an additional 3 or 4 days of feeding, the starter should be active enough to use in any recipe calling for such.

Sourdough Bread

Yield: 1 loaf

2 cups sourdough starter (room temperature and visibly active)

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1-1/2 cups bread flour (approximately)

In a medium bowl, combine the starter, honey, oil and salt; mix thoroughly. Stir in the whole wheat flour and 1-1/4 cups of the all purpose flour; mix the dough until it is thick enough to handle, then turn it out onto a work surface. Begin to knead the dough, and if it seems too moist work in the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled loaf pan, or shape into a ball and set on a baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a lightly floured cloth and let rest until almost doubled in bulk (depending on the strength of your starter this may take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours). Preheat an oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the bread in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is dark brown and the loaf sounds hollow when the bottom is lightly tapped. Cool the bread on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing.