Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It Starts With Starter

The best tasting bread starts with a bubbly piece of bacteria. Sourdough is nothing without starter yet it's hard to come by. Home bakers  have to inherited it from a family or friend - or so it was thought. The truth is anyone can make their own sourdough starter. The surprise  - is isn't just for the bread either.Almost any baked good can have it as a vital ingredient.

Sam Sifton explored and experimented with this wonderful  bunch of fermentation in today's New York Times Food section. The idea of using a starter is not new. It's how all home bakers baked bread even as late as a century ago . Many think it's the bread itself, but sourdough actually refers to the process.Most people usually "inherit"it , either from a friend or relative who inherited it from one of their friends or relatives.Some starters go back to the late Forties. However now it can be bought , from farmer's markets to etsy.,the online flea market where people can buy anything homemade. What home bakers do need to know is that a starter is a living being and it should be treated as such As Mr. Sifton suggests think of it as a pet turtle, It needs to be tended to regularly .It needs to be fed , sometimes every  two to three hours,if it;s to be used frequently. If it's in the fridge and not being used. then it needs to be tended to every week. Starter also has to be taken out too when fed, usually for one to two hours .An equal mix of water and flour is what keeps the starter alive.

For those home bakers who want to get started with starter, the best bet is acquiring it from someone..  Besides etsy and farmer's markets , it can be bought from Cultures For Health and King Arthur's Flour websites. However starter can be made at home too.It can be as simple as flour and water mixed together , then  letting it sit in a covered bowl at room temperature until it bubbles and blooms. The process can be sped up with the addition of grapes as baker Nancy Silverson advised years ago on Julia  Child show or with a few ounces of unsweetened  pineapple juice according to Peter Reinhart, author of "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." It then has to be fed.. Many obsessive bakers feed theirs daily and even use them daily (along with naming them, William Butler Yeast, Roxanne, and Sky pilot to name a few. Mr. Sifton doesn't believe in naming his livestock as he puts it).The good part about starter is that it can be used for other baked goods. Use it before feeding to make an overnight sponge to be used for pancakes nd waffles.It's also good for pizza crust, giving it depth as pizzeria owner , Anthony Falco's of Roberta's in Brooklyn can attest.It can also be used for rye bread too.

If home baker's are up to the challenge of "owning " starter then they should. It does need tender loving care but it does pay off.There's not only crusty, tasty bread but waffles , pancakes and even sourdough pizza!

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