So a month ago I made a Sourdough Starter using similar method to the one found in The New Basics Cookbook, which should be in your cookbook library if it isn’t. Lukins and Rosso offer up a quick way to make an amazing tangy sourdough with reliable results. The basis of their recipe is the use of buttermilk which will impart an instant tangy familiar sourdough flavour without having to harvest wild yeasts, allowing you to develop a starter more quickly and without the possibility of having it mold, or go bad. I’ve altered their starter (actually, I’ve made it before and just went off memory when I did it this time). Instead of using regular buttermilk, I (have used hard cider) made a hot water (110º) and mashed unsulfered thompson red raisins (making like a raisin juice kind of substance, trashing most of the pulp and keeping some for nuance) and added powdered buttermilk, some raw honey.
So I have one cup of horrible smelling raisin buttermilk juice and to it, I add one cup of bread flour. Set that aside in a glass container with plastic wrap loosely covering it and leave it for a day. If you want, you can add some yeast to it to ensure you successfully achieve the act of creating “life” in a jar, or take your chances and see what kind of yeast you’re living with!
(If you choose cider, try to get an organic or natural- stay away from Potassium Sorbate or other preservatives, as it can kill your yeast enterprise. Harpoon is all natural, Sammy Smiths and maybe you’ve got a local cider? I think Harpoon is the cheapest best tasting Cider on the market.)
So after 24 hours of sitting out on your kitchen counter, you should notice some activity- a little or a lot of bubbling is evidence of your success. No bubbles, means, dump it and start over, and if you didn’t add yeast, try doing it on your second batch (1/4 tsp will do). Toss the “bitch” (Bourdains affectionate name for bread starters) in the fridge with a loose cover so it can breath- I use loose plastic wrap on a 1 quart jar (like a ball or old spaghetti sauce jar) and just place the jar lid on top. Now, you can let that funk sit in your fridge for a week and then add an extra cup of flour and of water to it to “feed the bitch” (Bourdain, again). If you want to use starter right after you make it and skip that last step, initially- just use 2 cups of funk water and 2 cups of flour to start your bitch. Now, here’s the irony in Bourdain’s name calling- you, the owner of said starter are now responsible for feeding this baby once a week, empty half of the starter from the jar (stir in the hooch first- that’s a low alcohol liquid produced by your yeast, and another sign that things are working, it also adds to the sourness, and is harmless) and use that approx. 1 cup of starter for making bread, adding a cup of warm water and flour back to the jar and stirring it in. Now you don’t have to make bread with this every week, but you do have to maintain it. So you can empty half the jar into the trash or use it, but don’t dump it down your drain or disposal because it WILL muck up your plumbing. By feeding it, now you’re the bitch (ha!), you’re providing the yeast with fresh flour to consume along with a drink of water. *a note on water- what you put in is what you get out, so use bottled or filtered, that’s the secret to your local pizzeria, italian, or french restaurants amazing breads.
Now all you have to do is add a cup of warm water to your cup or so of starter, 2-3 tsp of salt (very important, don’t forget it) and 3-1/2 to 4 cups of flour. This last part is a judgement call- you want your mixture to come back to form somewhat and that’s how you know you’ve added enough flour. The dryer or wetter your starter is will affect the amount of flour you’ll need. Wet dough is OK, but too wet and it may not rise enough and it will be hell to deal with once it rises, like dealing with a bowl of old elmers glue (it just happened to me). So just make sure you add enough to ensure your dough holds it’s shape and then put it somewhere kind of warm for 24 hours (maybe less, but not likely). It should, in this time, double in volume and have some bubbles on the top. From there you scoop it out onto a floured surface, sprinkle some flour on top as well and fold it a few times gently and shape it into a ball (it will probably be quite loose- and that’s ok). Place it on a floured cloth (I add oat bran or wheat bran to the cloth as well to absorb some moisture and keep it from sticking) and cover it with a cloth. Let it rise again- 4-8 hours or so and then gently flop it into a preheated (450º) Creuset or stoneware covered casserole and bake it for 30 minutes covered, remove the lid and let it bake another 15 minutes until it’s brown. Remove it from the pot and set it on a folded kitchen towel or better yet, a cooling rack for at least a half hour. If you listen carefully, you can hear it crackle as it cools…