Friday, October 5, 2007

Magic In A Jar

What you see here is your basic household magic jar. Not too big -- holds about a quart, I guess -- wooden lid with a rubber gasket so it will seal tight if you tamp it down -- bas relief basket weave and assorted fruits on the lower half. Altogether an attractive item.

Useful, too. See, this is just right for providing a safe home for my newest family member. What you see bubbling away behind that glass is a new batch of sourdough, a most magical substance, indeed.

We might as well think of it as a family member because sourdough is a living organism and one should care for it as carefully as any other pet. Different sourdough starters have personalities every bit as individual as the people who own them, believe me. I won't go so far as buying it shoes and sending it to school but, hey, I can give it a name.

Not right away, of course. This is a baby batch and we haven't hung out enough to know each other all that well yet. So far, though, we're getting along just swell. The kid has been really cooperative and, youngling though it is, even productive. It was only born yesterday and already has managed to produce two terrific loaves of bread. Bread so good, I might add, that I've already eaten half of one of the loaves.

Any of you who know anything about sourdough know that's awfully early in the cycle to be using a starter in any baking projects. I can get away with it because this is not a "wild yeast" starter. This is a regular baker's yeast starter. As such, it allows me to hit the ground running. The flavor of the bread, while wonderful, was not "sour." In fact, many sourdough breads are anything but sour. Herman, or Friendship, bread is, after all, nothing more than a variety of sourdough.

In fact, the term "sourdough" is really comparatively recent, starting with our Gold Rush. The starter itself has been around for thousands of years, in all different cultures. Some batches have been handed down through the generations for so long, they ought to be designated as National Treasures. What stories they could tell!

Although I will be building a wild yeast batch of starter, in the meantime it's great fun to use this more domestic one to learn new tricks. I just discovered, for instance, a method called "stretch and fold" which takes the place of kneading dough. The amazing thing is, the stretch and fold is gentle to both the bread baker and the dough -- and the finished bread is every bit as light and fluffy and fantastic as that which has had the daylights kneaded out of it. I was amazed.

If you Google "stretch and fold" you'll get all kinds of explanations and even YouTube videos that are very helpful, so I won't inflict my as-yet-imperfect understanding on you. There is a whole big sub-culture of sourdough enthusiasts online so there is certainly no difficulty in getting information about this hobby -- or obsession, as the case may be. In fact, there's so much information, it's a bit overwhelming at first.

That's okay. With my trusty starter at my side, I'll sort it out. In fact, tomorrow I think I'll check out that recipe for sourdough gingerbread. There's something special about gingerbread once the weather starts getting nippier, don't you think? Gingerbread and whupped cream. Manohman.


John Bailey said...

That really does look like splendid bread, Dee. I shall have to look into this sourdough thing -- it's not part of my background and now I'm wondering what I've been missing.

bonnie said...

Oh the lovely smells that must be wafting from your home! Now load up a basket and go door to door and you will have a new industry as well. My door would open. :-)

Dee said...

Good morning, you two! Have some sourdough toast with your morning cuppa?

John, maybe I can help with the sourdough research. I've decided to do a series, starting today (Saturday) when I begin my wild yeast batch. Sort of a "learn together" gig. Bonnie, you will be in charge of taking the basket door to door!

Wendy, NC said...

Dee, you're trying to re-awaken my inner bread maker. She may yet come out to play, if the high temperature for the day ever gets below the mid-eighties around here. Mother Nature, or whoever is in charge these days, hasn't looked at the calendar recently.

Mage And George said...

It's lookin good kid. You are so adventuresome. I'm just going out to lunch with my daughter. No bread here.

Dee said...

Wendy, I certainly hope your inner bread maker comes out to play. Actually, with the high temps, now would be a good time to build a sourdough starter. (wicked wiggle of eyebrows)

Mage, enjoy lunch with dotter, and check out the bread sticks. We just might do some of those and we need patterns as benchmarks.