HotDogBunsSo back in August 2010, I wrote about my adventures in sourdough. Well, it’s now been two years (can you believe it!) and my starter is still going strong. I thought I’d give an update, and include a bunch of recipes.

I keep the starter in the fridge, in a container with the lid cracked, and a plastic bag over the top of the whole thing. I’m trying to let it off-gas if it needs to (in a closed container, the pressure can build up and blow off the top or break the container), but keep it relatively humid and away from other fridge odors. About every two weeks to a month, I pull it out and use it 3 or 4 times over the course of 3 or 4 days, to keep it fed and active.

HamburgerBunsI feed my starter equal parts water and white unbleached all-purpose flour by weight. Whatever I take out to use, I replace with new water/flour. I try not to remove more than 1/2 of the starter at any one time. I use it/feed it about every 24 hours while it is out of the fridge. Every couple of months, I dump it all in a bowl, weigh it, scrub out the container it lives in, and put it back into its original container. I try to keep about 600 grams on hand at any given time.

The first thing I usually make when I revive it from the fridge is something that I don’t need to rely on the starter to rise. Muffins and pancakes are good examples. Then over the next few days, after the starter is good and warm and active, I make a batch of hamburger buns, hot dog buns, pita bread, pizza crust (I freeze it and use it like a Boboli pizza crust for a quick dinner), English muffins, or a loaf of bread. Then I feed it one last time and immediately put it back in the fridge to await the next cycle.

Note that if your starter has been sitting a long time, it will separate and a gray colored liquid will settle on top. This is not a bad thing. Just stir it back in before using (I use the handle end of a wooden spoon to stir my starter – don’t know why, but it works for me). I also find that my starter is a little thicker or thinner each time I use it, likely due to the length of time it’s been sitting and slowly drying out in the fridge, so adjust bread recipes accordingly if the dough seems too sticky or dry.

Required for some recipes: pizza stone, pizza peel, English muffin rings. Recommended for all recipes – a good scale. I use an Oxo. While I’ve included volume measurements for those who don’t have a scale, baking by weight is SO much more accurate.

Sourdough Muffins (this is a variation of this recipe – so I won’t post detailed directions. Basically, it’s just substituting the starter for some of the milk and flour – and adjusting the leavening to take into consideration the acid of the starter).

  • 1 cup sourdough starter (250 grams)
  • 1 cup flour (all-purpose or whole wheat, your choice)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on other ingredients)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla or other extract
  • up to 2 tsp spices
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup milk, depending on other ingredients. You want a moist, but not runny batter.
  • 1 cup dried fruit/fresh chopped fruit/veg and/or nuts

I mix the starter in with the oil and egg, then add to dry ingredients. This will make for a moist, slightly sour tasting muffin with a more cakey texture.

Sourdough Pancakes (this is a variation of Alton Brown’s “Favorite Buttermilk Pancakes” – my favorite pancake recipe)

  • 1 cup sourdough starter (250 grams)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour (whole wheat or all-purpose)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp melted butter

Mix all dry ingredients. In separate bowl, mix egg, starter, milk and melted butter. Combine into batter. Makes about 9 pancakes. Since pancakes are usually one of the first things we all learned to cook, I’ll dispense with instructions. Consult any good basics cookbook (Joy of Cooking, Fanny Farmer) if you don’t know how to fry a pancake.

Sourdough Pizza Crust

  • 300 grams sourdough starter (about 1 1/3 cup)
  • 225 grams whole wheat flour (between 1 1/2 cup and 1 2/3 cup)
  • 75 grams water (about 5 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (or 1 tsp regular salt)
  • 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten (not absolutely necessary, but makes dough more stretchy)
  • optional – parmesan cheese, herbs, garlic

Mix all ingredients and let stand for 20 minutes so flour can absorb water. Knead for 5 minutes (I use my stand mixer). Round dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature until it starts to rise – usually a couple of hours (this is not an absolute necessity – if I’m in a hurry, I just form into crust at this point and bake. I’m not picky. I’m just looking for a good sourdough flavor).

Put your pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven (you do have a pizza stone, right? How did I ever live without one?). Preheat oven to 475 for at least 30 minutes. Divide dough into two pieces and hand form into flattened circles. Roll out on floured board until you get the size you desire. (I like a thin crust, but also look for something that will fit into a large zip top bag for freezing – 12 to 15 inches is about right). Place dough on well floured pizza peel (basically, a big wooden spatula) and slide dough onto hot pizza stone. Bake for about 5 minutes. Poke any dough bubbles that rise up to release steam. Let cool and store in freezer. When ready to make pizza, thaw crust for a few minutes, top with toppings (go easy here – too many toppings make for a soggy crust), and bake on a sheet pan for 10-15 minutes at 425 degrees.

Could you put your toppings right on the raw crust and bake? Sure you could. But I find that I get much crisper more consistent results if I prebake the crust first, then top and bake again. I just don’t think home ovens can get hot enough to take a crust from raw to crisp when it has a bunch of wet toppings on it.

Hamburger/Hot Dog buns
See previous recipe for volume measurement equivalents

  • 300 grams starter
  • 225 grams whole wheat flour
  • 75 grams water
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 1 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients and let stand for 20 minutes so flour can absorb water. Knead for 5 minutes (I use my stand mixer). Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. For hamburger buns: Tuck edges of dough under towards bottom center, all the way around, until a nice disc shaped ball is formed. With the disc in your hands (play with your food), work your way around the dough, smooshing the dough into a larger disc shape until it is about 4 inches in diameter (or however large you like your buns) and about the same thickness throughout. For hot dog buns: Begin as for hamburger buns, but once you have a smooth top, begin to fold in and stretch into hot dog shape, until buns are about 6 inches long.

Place each bun on a parchment lined sheet pan, and cover with plastic wrap. When buns have risen to an adequate size (usually 5 or 6 hours for me – I sometimes do this right before I go to bed and bake as soon as I get up). Brush with an egg wash (1 egg + 1/4 cup water mixed) and top with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or dried onion if desired, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Use within a few days or freeze. To thaw, place in a 300 degree toaster oven for about 10 minutes.

Sourdough Pita (a combo of several recipes. For more advise on baking pitas, consult this post by Farmgirl Fare). See previous recipe for volume measurement equivalents.

  • 300 grams starter
  • 225 grams whole wheat flour
  • 75 grams water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten

Mix all ingredients and let stand for 20 minutes so flour can absorb water. Knead for 5 minutes (I use my stand mixer). Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Pull edges of dough under towards bottom center, all the way around, until a nice disc shaped ball is formed. This creates a drum-like surface to the dough, which later will trap steam. Don’t just roll dough into a ball. You must pull the dough around the edges toward the bottom to form the drum.

With the disc in your hands, work your way round the dough, smooshing the dough into a larger disc shape until it is about 4 inches in diameter. Do this with each piece. Then, starting with the first one you worked, roll dough out until it is about 5-6 inches in diameter. Keep each finished piece moist by covering with plastic wrap or a damp towel.

Put your pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat oven to 475 for at least 30 minutes. Using a large spatula or pizza peel, place four pita on the hot stone, and watch as they magically puff up. It doesn’t take long (see video below). Bake for about 5 minutes total. This will usually give you a pocket – but honestly, I just wrap them around whatever I’m eating whole. I do love me some pita bread tuna salad sandwich.

Sourdough English Muffins

EnglishMuffinsPrebakeI love English muffins. Thomas’ English Muffins, to be exact. All those nooks and crannies. So not surprisingly, I became somewhat obsessed with making my own, to the point of buying two sets of English muffin rings. Most recipes call for making them on a skillet, which I was not willing to do.  I ultimately ended up modifying a recipe, yet again, from several recipes for English Muffins posted by Alton Brown. Are these as good as Thomas’? Not quite. But I’m also missing out on these yummy ingredients:

Preservatives (Calciumpropionate, Sorbic Acid), Calcium Sulfate, Soybean Oil, Wheat Starch, Mono- and Diglycerides, Datem,  Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Ethoxylated Mono- and Diglycerides, Dextrose, Wheat Sour, Guar Gum, Lactic Acid, Fumaric Acid, Azodicarbonamide, Whey, Soy Flour, Caramel Color, Acetic Acid, and Sucralose.

  • 10 oz sourdough starter by weight (about 1 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat powdered milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 5 oz (1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp) warm water
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

In a bowl, combine the starter, powdered milk, sugar,  salt, canola, and warm water, stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the flours and beat thoroughly with wooden spoon. Batter should be thick and stretchy. Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm spot for about an hour.

Place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of a sheet pan, then place 8 muffin rings. Generously spray rings with nonstick spray. Scoop the dough into the rings, filling about half way (I use a disher, which is another kitchen gadget I don’t know how I ever lived without), until the dough is evenly spread between the rings. Cover with second piece of parchment and let sit in a warm place until rings are almost filled, up to several hours depending on the starting temp of your batter and house.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

EnglishMuffinsLeave the parchment in place and set a second sheet pan on top. Bake muffins for 20 minutes, then remove the top sheet pan. Continue to bake until the muffins reach an internal temperature of 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, and are lightly browned, about 5 to 10 minutes more. Split with a fork and eat or freeze within a couple of days.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2012, where we’re miles away from exhausting all the possibilities of sourdough starter, but find that the classic “sourdough” biscuits come out too cakey for our tastes. Anyone local who would like to try their hand with sourdough starter? I’d be happy to share.