Ok, Renee, here you go, finally.
I have a collection of sourdough starters in my fridge, and met a collector of sourdough starters. She coveted my over 500 year old Rye Swiss starter that I smuggled back with me a few years ago. I have yet to get back to the rest of the pictures/stories from our Weston Price Swiss farm tour trip, but will do so soon.
I have had off and on luck with making sourdough bread. For the rye swap, Renee mailed me some of her over 100 year old American Pioneer starter, which she had dried and put in an envelope. She told me it was super active. It is.
For the past month or so, I have been really practicing on making a pretty perfect loaf of bread, which is a stretch for me, but I think I really have it down now. I compiled the recipe from several friends advice and techniques, and adapted things for what I like to use and have. This is what has worked for me.
First of all, the fragrance and depth of flavor of this starter is nothing like my other starters, really wonderful. Thank you Renee, and I look forward to getting to work on the Swiss Rye starter and make the rye bread like you do. Here goes.
I have found that keeping my starter on the counter does not work well for me, even if I am making bread everyday. It is very active and I can’t seem to catch it at it’s peak when it is in room temperature. Now I only keep it in the fridge.
I begin in late morning, or early afternoon.
Take the quart mason jar of starter out of the fridge.
It is nice and bubbly.
I take a table knife and stir the starter well. The consistency is thick and slippery.
Pour out a heaping cupful of starter and put it in a big mixing bowl (one that has a lid is best.)
Now feed your starter. I have yet to order good organic flour in bulk, so for now I just use organic white flour from the store. Is organic really important? Yes, very. All commercial flour is “enriched” with bromide and other nasties, and of course conventionally grown grains are sprayed with chemicals, and glyphosate (roundup) which you cannot wash off. (Bromide is a halide, and will displace iodine in your thyroid, causing further widespread iodine deficiency and thyroid disfunction, and other illnesses. Your thyroid needs iodine to make all of your hormones…)
I highly recommend this book on Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It by Dr. Brownstein, and his other books as well. Very helpful for information on breast and prostate cancer, thyroid issues…
Anyway, now feed your starter with organic flour, about 1/2 cup I guess.
Then add filtered water, stir until it is soupy, put the lid back on and put in the fridge.
Now add one cup (heaping) of kefir to the mixing bowl.
Then add, two teaspoons of Real Salt or a good mineral salt, two tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar, and one tablespoon maple syrup. You could use honey instead of maple syrup, but my unfiltered raw honey does not pour and I am too lazy to warm it up so I can stir it in.
Stir all the wet ingredients together with the table knife.
Now add three heaping cups of flour. (organic, remember?)
(NB: I have not had success with whole wheat, so this is white flour. As far as the kefir goes, I do use it in almost everything, and raw kefir lasts forever in the refrigerator. I have tried this without the kefir, and the bread is not as good as with it. I am almost out of my kefir from Eleanor, and when that happens, I will have to come up with a new recipe without it, until May when Lilian has her calf. The apple cider vinegar, I also use in everything, and can’t find all the research I looked up why it is a good addition for breads, but it works well for this bread.)
Now for the amazingly, lazy, easy part. No messing up your mixer, and no kneading!
Start in the center with a small stirring motion with your already used table knife, and stir in one direction.
Continue stirring in one direction, in the center, and gradually it will form a rough ball. It is easier to stir this with a table knife, or the opposite end of a long wooden spoon. If it is a wide spoon or spatula, it is hard to stir.
All this stirring takes about 1 minute. Then you are done!
Now you just cover your bowl with plastic wrap or a lid.
Mine has a lid, and I spray the lid with warm water and let it drip off before placing it on my bowl.
I put the bowl on the floor, because we have floor heating, but when the floor is not warm, I set it on the wood stove, unless that is too hot.
Just put it somewhere fairly warm, but don’t stress over it. If it is too cool, it will just take longer to rise.
I let it rise until mid morning, or even mid afternoon, depending on how much it has risen, and how much time I have. 18 hours usually. (Real sourdough, with this much fermentation time, creates many beneficial bacteria… and rids the grain of phytic acid, and other benefits. Many people allergic to gluten or bread… can eat traditional sourdough with a long fermentation.)
When you are ready, and the dough has risen, it will be wet and sticky and bubbly.
Take a dough scraper or something, and scrape the sticky dough out of the bowl.
and onto a thickly floured surface (about 1/2 cup of flour)
Put some flour on top of the dough, and fold it over a few times with your dough scraper.
Now I lightly knead the rest of the flour into the dough. It is very soft and easy to knead, and it takes about 2 minutes. The sourdough will feed off of this little bit of new flour for the second fermentation rising.
Now for a great trick for the second rising. Take your bowl you have been using, and you do not need to wash it, and put a piece of parchment paper in it. Place your lightly kneaded dough in it and drizzle some olive oil on the top.
Rub the olive oil all over the dough, to keep it moist.
Put the lid back on the bowl and put back in your warm spot. I usually do this mid morning, and let the dough rise a second time for 4 to 6 hours, or longer.
It will double in size.
Take a cast iron pan that has a lid, and put it in a cold oven. Preheat the oven and pan to 500 degrees.
It helps to have a second pair of hands at this point, but not essential.
Take the smoking hot pan out of the oven, take the lid off, and carefully pick up the risen dough by the parchment paper, and set it in the pan. If I remember, I take kitchen shears or sharp scissors and snip x’s in the top of the dough so it won’t split. Put the hot lid on and put it back in the oven.
Lower the temp to 450 degrees, for 28 minutes.
When the 28 minutes are up, take the lid off and set the timer for 5 more minutes to brown the top and make a good crust.
Let cool on a rack.
I find the best way to cut a round loaf of bread, is to cut each side evenly. That way a dutchman bread eater won’t just keep cutting into it with slices getting bigger and bigger, and then smaller and smaller.
Then we have hot fresh bread for lunch or dinner, and it is wonderful for days to come, but only usually lasts one or two days.