My schedule filled up shortly after my last sourdough post. I had some extra classes to teach and those classes were at a different location, which added significantly to the amount of time I had to carve out of other activities. So it goes. However, I didn’t forget. In fact I kept remembering and was racked by guilt each time! It was terrible! Pity me.
The starter itself has been chugging right along. It has proved resilient in the face of temperature swings as well as missed or irregular feedings. As it turns out, it’s also a great motivator. I keep a larger jar in the fridge to store the starter I remove at each feeding. Naturally this eventually fills up, so if I don’t make something with it, I have to start throwing out starter. That would be a cryin’ shame for sure. Thus, I bake.
The first thing I tried to make, the weekend after my first post about this, was sourdough bread bowls. Since sourdough starter has naturally occurring yeasts, it is, in theory possible to make bread using it alone as a leavening agent (as opposed to adding yeast or baking powder). The downside of doing this is that the dough takes a very long time to rise. Like ten hours or more.
It is winter here, and while it’s nothing like a winter in the northern US it does get into the single digits Celsius, occasionally down to freezing.
Most Brazilians wouldn’t know insulation and double-paned windows if they tripped over them, so most homes, ours included, are not insulated. Thus, when it’s cold out, it’s cold in. As a result I ended up with some very dense sourdough half-domes, not anything you could carve a bowl out of. They were tasty, no doubt, but they were also bricks.
After that I made a couple quick breads and mulled over the virtues of sourdough purity versus the practicality of using some yeast to make sure I got a good rise and that it didn’t take half a day to happen. I can report that sourdough pancakes and quick bread with some copa (a sort of mild salami made here) and green bell peppers in it are delicious. I also made a pizza-ish crust that I ended up using to make pot pies. For those not familiar with pot pies, they are basically pies with meat and vegetables in them. It’s similar to shepherd’s pie, but smaller.
Finally though it was time to make a yeast bread again. My practical side had won out and I had picked up some yeast. In keeping with a simple, low risk plan, I made a basic “San Francisco” style sourdough. And believe me when I tell you that suppressing my urge to fiddle with the recipe was not easy. The majority of my cooking is fiddling and off-the-cuff stuff. Discipline paid off and I was rewarded with a nice, hearty sourdough. We loved it and within a couple days both loaves were gone.
Next I tried the same recipe, but using some whole wheat flower – the ratio of whole to white flour was probably about 3:2 – and a bit more yeast to make sure it rose enough. Success again. It had a lovely taste and was practically a meal in and of itself. Heavy, but not dense in the way the failed bread bowls were.
Last week I was shopping at a different grocery than normal and discovered they carried quinoa flour. The price was not bad – just a little more expensive than the whole wheat – so I picked some up. Tuesday (the 27th) I made bread from it. It was the best yet, both in taste and appearance. No doubt both because of the nature of the flour itself and the fake I was getting a clue or two about how to make bread. I used the same basic recipe as the last two breads, but substituted quinoa for half or a bit less of the white flour. It produced a bread with a delicious, rich flavor and a wonderful texture. It’s excellent plain but even better with a bit of butter. I think I will save a little of the next batch to make french toast, since I have a feeling french toast from this bread will be amazing.
(I have no idea what makes it light versus not.)
Now that I had a few basic batches of bread under my belt, I decided to get more experimental. The first experiment, which is rising as I write this, is corn flour bread (again, about 40-50% corn flour with the balance being white) with roasted garlic and flakes of sun-dried tomato. Sadly it will be done baking right before I need to leave to teach a class, so I’ll have to wait a few hours before getting a chance to taste. Oh, the humanity!
The bread was not bad, but not great. The taste is very good but it is a bit dry and dense (though it did rise). I think I need to alter the ratio of corn to wheat flour in the wheat direction.