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Tag Archives: sourdough

Starter: Lesson 1

January 29, 2009

bread-scapeYou have begun a starter, or levain, and have been living with it for a week, it is time to put it to work. 
 A starter can be used in any bread recipe, adding a small amount, perhaps 1/2 cup for a recipe that would yield two loaves.  The starter is somewhat liquid, so take that into consideration when adding additional water.  
If you do not have a basic bread recipe that you like, go the Levain Bakery website, levainbakery.com, click on recipes and there you will find a delicious formula for a crispy french baguette, to which the 1/2 cup of the starter can be added with the warm water.  A french baguette is traditionally very light and crispy, the addition of the starter will add a bit more density to the loaf as well as a different dimension in flavor.  Both the french and sourdough baguette ane wonderful, just different.  
After using starter you can continue to “feed” it with flour and water and keep covered and it will grow and live for years!  
Next week, naming your starter!

Fresh Start(er)

January 22, 2009

While the nation and pratically the world is basking in the glow of the inauguration of a new President and the opportunity for a fresh start, my mind wanders to a fresh start of a different kind.  Rather, a starter to be exact.   And, I wonder how many of you have not only baked with and maintained a starter, but actually started one.
By definition a starter is a natural leavener developed by capturing wild yeasts in a dough or batter simply consisting of flour and water.  Starters can be made from so many things, I think the one with which I had the most fun I used apples and raisins.  As a matter of fact, we find starters so facinating, we went so far as to name our beloved bakery after the french word for a starter, Levain.
A starter can be used to totally leaven a bread or in conjunction with a fresh yeast, which can give a baker more control over the rising process.  A starter, or levain, if well maintained and fresh, will not only add a different dimension of flavor to your bread, but also to the crumb and crust of loaf.  Beginning a starter is not difficult and really fun.  Here’s how:
 No real measuring needed (love that):
 In a plastic or stainless bowl combine flour and water to make what should resemble a thick paste.
 Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for several days. 
 Continue to observe the mixture as it begins to breakdown, become a bit watery and bubble.   That bubbling is mixture becoming a starter!  It is eating (so to speak), digesting and giving off gases; thereby growing.  You can maintain the starter by “feeding it” flour and water, stirring and recovering.
 Next week, what to do with your new pet!

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