A couple of months ago, I was entrusted with some sourdough starter that had been grown on grape must in LaBrea, California, over twenty years ago. The friend, who gave me the rare gift, in a glass jam jar along with some cursory instructions for its care, reminded me that the starter is a living thing.
I actually feel a sense of responsibility towards it – I don’t want to be cause of the starter’s demise after its twenty year plus lifespan and it’s long trip across the continent and north of the border to Eastern Ontario.
Every other week or so, I feed it as per the instructions – equal parts of flour and water – give it a good stir and place it back at the front of the top shelf in the fridge where I see it on a daily basis.
I had looked previously, several times, at various recipes for creating a sourdough starter but they’re surprisingly complicated and needy. If you Google creating a sourdough starter – you’ll come up with websites that offer you pages of description about the multi-step creation process.
It’s so much easier to get some from a friend! If you live in the Kingston area and want some starter – I’d be happy to get you going with your own jam jar of starter. If you don’t live in Eastern Ontario – you might want to have a look at the friends of Carl Griffith’s website- they offer a free dried starter sample for Carl Griffith’s Oregon Trail Sour Dough Starter to anyone who sends a self-addressed stamped envelope. This sour dough starter originated in 1847. While you are on the website – take a moment to look at the beautiful, touching story of Carl’s life.
I am just starting to investigate sourdough bread recipes and will get more ambitious as I go on. For the first couple of loaves, I used the bread machine and experimented until I came up with a straightforward recipe that works. Because we make almost all our own bread – our bread machine is in near constant use. It’s easy, efficient, and economical. Plus we know exactly what we are eating. And, we wake up to the irresistible smell of fresh bread a couple of times a week.
In order to maximize the many health benefits of sourdough bread, the bread should have a longer rise period than the bread machine allows for. Some sourdough recipes do not require any yeast at all – but if you make yours in the bread machine you will need to use some yeast though it is a fraction of the normal amount used for a regular bread machine loaf.
There are huge benefits to eating sourdough bread. A study by Professor Terry Graham at the University of Guelph concluded that “sourdough bread has more health benefits than any other type of bread.” Period. Even some people on gluten restricted diets can manage sourdough bread thanks to the fermented starter which breaks gluten down differently.
The first few loaves made in my bread machine have produced spectacular dense, slightly chewy loaves with the distinctive sourdough tang. I’m eating a slice right now, toasted and buttered, along with a cup of strong black coffee and I have to say – this bread is as good as or better than sourdough bread from high-end bakeries. It’s perfect and could not be easier.
Thank you Jennie – for the jam jar of starter! You really started something….
Straightforward Sourdough for the Bread Machine
¾ cup warm water
1 cup sourdough starter
2 ⅔ cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ tsp salt (I tried using less but less is not more in this case)
1 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
Add the ingredients to the bread machine in the order listed above. Select the normal white loaf setting (if you have an option for a darker crust – you may want to choose this but it is not necessary). Hit your start button and away you go!