Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Wonders of Sourdough

(I'm going to pretend that it hasn't been almost a week since I last posted. We'll just gloss right over that...)

We all know I like to make my own bread. I've been attempting it from time to time since my late teens. It didn't become a regular habit, though, until the last couple of years. And, in the past year, we have come to eat almost entirely homemade bread (in fact, now when my mother-in-law brings us bakery bread from town, I find it so bland that I often use it for bread pudding - its ideal use). In improving my bread baking skills, I have tried all sorts of recipes from many sources. One of my favorite bread books, though, is The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Reinhart. It's a great book. There are some wonderful recipes in it, and if you've gotten a good grasp of the basics of bread baking, it's a great source of information to better your technique. In it is a very in depth discussion/recipe section on sourdough breads and the starter needed to make them.

I made some starter months ago, and because there is much thrown away in the process of making this starter, and I just can't throw away food that easily, I froze large amounts of it. I just assumed that one day, it would come in handy. In fact, I have killed my previous starters (because you have to actually feed these things like children to keep them alive) out of laziness and lack of know-how. Well, I recently pulled a batch out of the freezer. I made tons of bread from it all in one day, in an attempt to not waste any. It worked, and we had several varieties of bread to munch on and freeze for later. Since then, I've been faithful about keeping my starter alive and have found, to my utter delight, that there are more things that just bread that you can make with a sourdough starter.

This topic wasn't covered in Reinhart's book, but I recently order a book on "country living" (nothing like the Country Living magazine - we're talking info about how to live off the land out in the country). The book has a great wealth of information, and scattered throughout, there are recipes. There are several pages dedicated to sourdough. In them, I found several yeast bread recipes, just as I expected. There were also some little surprises. Things like sourdough pancakes, sourdough soda bread, sourdough apple sauce cake and sourdough spiced oatmeal cookies. We had the pancakes for breakfast the other morning, and they were really quite delicious. Intrigued by the cookie recipe, I slightly modified it for no sugar (since I like to watch my diet when pregnant - only want the good stuff for the baby) - I pureed dates with grape juice, in case you're wondering how to get the sweet flavor without all that sugar - and baked some up. Delish. Seriously. My mother was skeptical about the cookies, but I figure that the idea behind adding the sourdough starter is about the equivalent of adding buttermilk to a recipe, and with very tasty results (just ask my kids - Lambchop #2 is currently throwing a huge fit about the fact that I set a limit at two).

So, if you make your own sourdough starter for bread baking, you may want to search around for other uses for it. The great thing about baking cookies and pancakes with the starter (aside from the yumminess part) is that I have no need to throw any starter away when I feed mine (you have to remove a certain amount of the starter before adding in more flour and water to refresh the thing).

Oh, and in case anyone has noticed that I've gone a REALLY long time without mentioning knitting on this supposed knitting blog, it's only because I can't seem to sit still long enough to work on anything. I have gotten a little way through a baby sweater I'm making for Lambchop #3 (yeah, I figure that's what we'll name the baby), but other than that... nothing.

We (the fetus and I) are making great progress on organizing/cleaning the house, though. The kitchen is almost entirely in a bizarre state that I believe is referred to as organized. I've got a few final touches still left, but it's really almost there. We've also been working on the bathroom/laundry room a bit, too. When the kitchen's done, we'll start there in earnest and make better progress. So, my advice to anyone wanting to organize their life is this: 1) go read Organizing from the Inside Out 2) after allowing the details of the book to settle in, get pregnant. That's pretty much my secret, and it's amazingly effective.