Money can’t buy the feeling you get when something you’ve struggled with finally comes together and exceeds your expectations. But $8.95 can help you get a little bit closer.
You may recall that Kate of Food Babbles and I, in our first year of First on the First, attempted sourdough, with quite abysmal results. It was absolutely heartbreaking. I intended to give it another go, but the project had been pushed aside so many times that eventually I forgot about it. Until now.
When the King Arthur Flour catalog arrives in the mail, it’s almost like Christmas. I grab a glass of wine and a ball point pen, ready to start making my wish list. Ink soon fills the catalog, plans forming of what I could do with all this baking booty. Now all I need is Santa Claus to make those dreams come true… or a sugar daddy.
In a recent edition, I noticed something… different. It may have been there before, but I must not have been paying attention. Regardless, King Arthur Flour had the answer to my prayers… my long forgotten prayers. There, so innocently nestled on the page, was a simple little plastic container filled with what could change my life–sourdough starter. Fresh, no less. I was aware of powdered varieties that could be mail ordered, but this was the first time I saw live, thriving, juicy, wet starter that could be delivered directly to my door. This surely would be the solution to my sourdough problems!
The folks at King Arthur Flour so generously hooked me up with some and I got to work. I have a history of issues with keeping things alive that do not vocalize their needs, but I was determined this time would be different. I could handle a little water and flour once or twice a day, right? I even had a nifty little sourdough crock in which to store it, so it wouldn’t get lost in the refrigerator. The logo would remind me of the contents, and therefore reduce the likelihood of it withering away in neglect. Piece of cake.
King Arthur Flour takes their customers seriously. Their relationship doesn’t end when the order is in your hands. They include instructions to help you get off to the right start, and their website hosts a plethora of additional information to help you along the way. There are even videos, in case you’re a more visual learner. If all else fails, you can always utilize live chat support or a quick telephone call–it’s that simple. They’re there to guarantee your success.
I kept my handy-dandy sourdough starter instructions on the counter during the 3 weeks I worked with my starter, just to be sure I was following protocol. For the first couple of days, I only fed it (and dumped, as directed–which I hate doing, as it seems so wasteful, but you must do it in the beginning). Once my starter was thriving, I was able to refrigerate it between feedings. This is a necessity for the busy person working full-time outside the home. While I love baking, I don’t have as much time during the week to indulge in it. Luckily, my sourdough starter was there waiting for me when I was ready, only asking for a bit of flour and water and a little bit of time to be at its best.
I started with the Rustic Sourdough Bread recipe, which is included in the instructions that come with the starter. This could not have been easier! Since I already possessed a baguette pan, I lined it with parchment paper and let the shaped loaves rise in it before baking them in the same pan. They weren’t quite so rustic in shape, but with 3 of them to share, they were eagerly eaten. Many commented that this was the kind of sourdough bread you share with those who are put off by the sourness; that it’s a great introduction to sourdough with a much milder tang.
Next I moved on to recipes utilizing what you’d normally discard when feeding. I hate throwing away anything that’s perfectly good. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy the Classic Sourdough Waffles or Pancakes. You need to start it the night before you plan on baking, but there is no waste. The waffles bake up light and fluffy with a satisfying crunchy exterior–I’ve never had anything quite like them. A little bit of tang so you know they’re sourdough, but not overpowering. And they freeze and reheat well (which is excellent because I ended up with 22 of them!). The kids enjoyed the leftovers as breakfast on school days, a rare treat.
Sourdough Pizza Crust is another way to use discarded sourdough starter. We had enough dough for 2 thin-crusted rectangle pizzas and it was a dream to work with. I’ve always had problems working with pizza dough, having it tear before I could work it to the right thickness. I learned that you need to give it a couple rest periods to let the gluten relax, and then it will be so much more cooperative when you’re stretching the dough. The verdict? Crispy, crunchy, with a pleasant mild tang. Probably the best pizza dough I’ve had yet.
One of the times I fed my starter, I took the discarded portion and used it to produce a second starter. I’ll admit it was due to a fear of messing up my initial starter, but this turned out to be most fortuitous. I fed it with rye flour for the first feeding, then switched back to all-purpose flour. The rye starter developed a much more potent tang, much like what I’d expect from traditional sourdough bakery bread. I used this starter to make the Bread Machine Sourdough Bread and it was amazing! It was only supposed to be a 1.5-pound loaf without any doming, but it rose to fill the pan completely and even domed. Both times I made it. The second time I prepared it was after work. I removed my starter from its slumber in the fridge in the morning, fed it, and left it on the counter, so it would be ready when I returned home. Upon arrival home, I threw the ingredients into the bread machine and was well on my way to fresh bread. Nothing like the smell of baking bread to ease the stress of a long work day.
I could go on and on about all the successes I’ve had–Buttery Sourdough Buns, Sourdough English Muffins, Sourdough Cinnamon Buns–but I think I’m going to give you a chance to reap the same rewards at home instead. Because I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit by now, wondering when you can get started on your own sourdough success. And this sourdough starter will ensure that you have it!
King Arthur Flour has graciously offered to send one of my readers their very own Sourdough Starter, King Arthur Flour Stoneware Crock, and a coupon for a free bag of flour–a starter sourdough kit, if you will. Then you, too, can see how easy sourdough can be!! This is a fantastic set that will set you up for a lifetime of sourdough happiness.
The giveaway will be open from today, April 3, 2013, through 12 midnight on April 10, 2013 (the start of the day) and is open to US residents only.
Okay, now that we have that squared away, how about those Sourdough English Muffins? Have you never had homemade English muffins? Then you’re in for a treat! They freeze quite well, so you can make a big batch and have breakfast ready for the family for the week…or two. And, like I said, you won’t have to discard your discard (ha!) because this will let you use it up nicely. Perhaps this will be the first recipe you make when you win? Good luck!
Sourdough English Muffins
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 cups warm water 110°F-115°F
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
- 1 cup sourdough starter fed or unfed; fed will give you a more vigorous rise
- 7 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1/2 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
- 1/4 cup 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 Tablespoon Himalayan pink salt
- semolina for coating
- Combine all of the dough ingredients, except the semolina, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- Mix to form a smooth dough, but watch your electric mixer carefully; it was a tough load on mine. The dough should be soft and elastic, but not particularly sticky; add additional flour if necessary.
- Remove the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover, and set it aside to rise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it's noticeably puffy. (I use my enameled cast iron for this; the lid is a perfect cover and it conducts heat well, so if you rise in a warm oven, it works even better.)
- For most pronounced sour flavor, cover the bowl, and immediately place it in the refrigerator (without rising first), allowing the dough to chill for 24 hours; this will develop a more intense sour flavor.
- After the dough has risen, gently deflate it, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, and cover it, letting it sit for a few minutes to relax the gluten.
- Using a sharp knife, divide the dough in half.
- Working with one piece at a time, roll it out to 1/2" thickness and cut in 3" rounds. (If you don't have biscuit cutters, you can use a drinking glass dipped in flour.) Re-roll and cut any remaining scraps. Repeat with the remaining half of dough.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with semolina and evenly place the rounds on it (12 per sheet). Sprinkle them with additional semolina, cover with plastic wrap, and let them rise until light and puffy, about 45 to 60 minutes. If the dough has been refrigerated overnight, the rise time will be about 2 hours.
- Heat an ungreased skillet (cast iron works great for this!) on the stove over medium heat and carefully transfer the rounds (as many as will fit without crowding) right-side up (small rounds allowed for 5 to cook at a time; larger ones limited me to 4).
- Cook the muffins for about 5-7 minutes on each side. The edges may feel a bit soft, but that's OK. Be sure to flatten with a pancake turner after each side has cooked for 1-2 minutes, to keep them from puffing up too much.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature for 4 or 5 days; freeze for longer storage.
Disclosure: King Arthur Flour provided me with a sourdough starter, stoneware crock, and coupon for a free bag of flour for review. They will be providing the same to the winner of the giveaway. All opinions and photos remain mine, unless otherwise noted.