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Secrets Of Sour Dough

I think the first secret about sourdough bread is that it was not discovered in California or Alaska.  I will admit that the tallest tales and most vivid history seem to come from those areas, but the use of wild yeast as a starter for breads and beer goes way back to Egyptian times.  The name "sourdough"  was a nickname for old miners who carried the starter with them wherever they went in their search for gold. Now it is important to remember that the East Coast was populated well before the West and most of those delicious sourdough creations had their origins right here in old New England.  So promise me one thing.... the next time one of your friends or neighbors comes from home from a trip to the West Coast and hands you a loaf of stale sourdough bread that was purchased at the airport and tries to tell you of the great new discovery let them know where it all began!
Some of the hardiest peasant breads brought to this country by immigrants from Europe use the same sourdough starters that were saved from one baking to another in the form of a bowl  of "Sponge" which was the starter mix with flour and water.  Great breads like Russian rye, pumpernickel and Italian Scali were all transplanted  to America this way.  A good starter mix with different types of flour can create these wonderful breads.
Once you have mastered the basics of sourdough you'll be amazed what that bubbly pot can do!  I am including recipes for both water and flour starters and for milk and flour starter I have found that milk gives a sharper flavor.
Once you have prepared your starter, try to use it at least once a week.  If it is not used for several weeks simply discard about half the batch mix together equal parts of Flour and milk  and add it to the starter let it stand a few hours until it's full of bubbles then cover and store in the refrigerator.
Many people have the same Starter working for as long as 20-30 years. The one I am currently using has been working for well over 40 years. By the way your Starter can be used for making wonderful pancakes, muffins, waffles and cakes in a future article I will  pass along some of those recipes.
Starter: yeast method
2 cups water                                                            2 cups flour
one package dry yeast                                              1 tablespoon sugar
Combine ingredients in a crock or glass container(do not use metal). Mix well.  Cover with a cheesecloth and let stand in a warm place for 48 hours.  Mixture will be full of bubbles and ready to work.
2 cups milk
2 cups flour
Place milk in a crock or glass jar.  Allow stand at room temperature for 24 hours.  Stir in the flour and mix well.  Cover with a cheese cloth and set outside for a few hours.  Return the mixture to a warm place inside and allowed to stand for 3 to 5 days or until it is full of bubbles.

To use the starters, always add equal parts of flour and water to them and allow them to stand at room temperature until they reach the bubbling stage.  Then remove a cup of starter ,add one cup water and one cup flour to it.  Mix well and store in the refrigerator for future use.  You are now ready to follow your favorite sourdough recipe with the remainder.
1 cup warm water                                                          3 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups starter                                                           2 teaspoons salt
4-5 cups flour (unbleached)                                             2 Tablespoons olive oil
Mix together the water,starter and 3 cups of flour.  Make sure they are well blended.  Cover the bowl and allow to stand overnight in a warm place.  The next morning the mixture should be very foamy, add the sugar, oil andsalt to the batter, then add enough flour to make a smooth dough.  Knead well by hand or machine.  Form two loaves and place in a greased and floured bread pan.  Allow to rise until doubled.  Bake in a pre heated  400 degree oven for about 30 -40 minutes.  Turn out the bread onto its side and allow to cool on a rack.




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