The Return of Sour Dough – Night One

Day One - sponge, starter feeding and grains

For those of you lucky dogs and ducks that inherited a piece of my multi-million dollar sourdough starter, here is the first blog post in the series discussing how to actually bake a sourdough bread that will gain back your spouse’s respect, as your kids and friends would bow in front of you and address you as “Your Royal Majesty”. This series is a remastered version of the original Sourdough Chronicles I wrote a while ago.

Remastered because the initial recipe took three days to make it. This one will take only two. In fact a night and 2/3 of a day. So start this first step at night before you go to sleep. Shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to prep it. If it does there’s something wrong.

The Starter is Your Pet!

Considering that you successfully went home, fed your sourdough as instructed by adding 1 cup of flour (un-bleached) and 3/4 cups of warm water, left it for at least 8 hours at a 75 F degrees to happily bubble,  gave it a meaningful name (like Bart, Earl or Osborne) made a cozy place for it in the fridge, kiss it goodnight, it’s time to get started.

You will have to think of your starter as a pet because in fact it is. It contains billions of living micro-organisms that are responsible for transforming carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols. They are responsible for the nice holes in your bread crumb, and of course taste. But these puppies get hungry, so you will have to feed them. You don’t need to do it often but in case you aren’t baking for a good amount of time, then make sure you feed them once every month.

How to feed it? Simply by tossing about 1 cup of it in your trash then replenish it with 1 cup of non bleached flour and 3/4 cup of warm water. Mix and let it sit covered on your counter to bubble away for about 8 hours. The consistency should be like that of a pancake batter. Back in the fridge it goes.

But why tossing that 1 cup away and why not use it to actually bake bread? I bake bread about once a week, making 2 loaves each time. So I always use the baking occasion to feed my pet!

The Sponge

If your starter has a dark liquid accumulated on the top when you take it out from the fridge after a long time, don’t despair. That is only the water that surfaced after those days in the fridge. Just mix it together and it will become nice again.

mix ur starter

The “sponge” is nothing else but a mother dough, or a pre-ferment, that helps yeast bacteria to develop the enzymes, improving this way the bread’s flavor. It is also known as Biga, a more firm version or Poolish which is a wet sponge, more like that of a pancake batter consistency.  We’ll use the Poolish version with this sourdough bread recipe. You’ll need:

    ¼ cup warm water
    1 cup starter
    1 cup unbleached flour

Mix the ingredients together, cover with plastic film and leave on counter for 6-8 hours till bubbly.

the sponge mix ur sponge

Meanwhile, replenish your starter by adding:

¾ warm water
1 cup flour (non bleached)

Mix, cover in plastic wrap and leave it on the counter next to your sponge for 8 hours. They are friends so they can keep company for each other while fermenting.

feed ur starter

Grains and Such

This is the part where you improvise. In my case I added 3 tablespoons of each of the following grains:

coarse cornmeal
oatmeal
steel cut oats
wheat bran

Mix these up together in a bowl and ad about 1/4 cup of water only to hydrate them. Cover in plastic and well, you know the story — place the bowl next to the sponge, and fed starter for the same amount of time. They make a nice trio, don’t you think?

grain selection hydrated grains

Ok, that’s it for tonight. Now go to sleep.

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