Thursday, August 18, 2016

offer to Lem's Levity readers: free sourdough starter

This is impressive sourdough starter. It is powerful, strong, fast, and its flavor is fantastic. You may have it for free. 

I will mail an ample tablespoon to you. Email your address to

boure AT AT comcast Dot Dot Net. Obviously repair that address. I will not keep your mailing address nor use it or sell it. Scouts honor.  *holds hand on Scout Handbook* 

If you'd like to try your hand at sourdough by taking this offer you'll  miss the most amazing and fun part. It really is fun and I think exciting to collect your own starter and that has the advantage of originating from your own location. And you can be careless in handling forevermore because your local airborne organisms cannot contaminate your own sample. Over time eventually they will invade. 

It's childsplay. And it's done by various means. This sample is strong because I totally overdid the whole collection process on purpose.  

Chefs simply add water to flour to pancake-thick batter, a flour slurry about a cup, and let it sit in a jar for a few days at room temperature. The organisms present on the flour will activate and by the third day a few tiny bubbles appear. They always do. I've done it a dozen times at least. It is a reliable method. In that case the organisms originated from the place where the wheat was grown. Most likely Nebraska. It is a solid technique. Wheat fields are yeasty places.

This starter slurry was left outside so it has those organisms from the flour plus any blowing around in the atmosphere carried to it by wind shoving them into slurry out there. I wanted it to rain into my slurry, a few times. I left it out there for a whole week unnecessarily. I was very careless with handling, debris also flew in too, bits of grit, tiny twigs, a few bugs had to be picked out. It stank. (But not so bad as the samples collected in Hawaii in just a few hours. Hawaii's conditions are incredibly rife with yeast and bacteria that makes its own type of sourdough) One tablespoon is used to inoculate a new batch of pancake-thick slurry and the bread dough developed from that. This is the fun part. When you see your slurry come alive to full on bubbling, well, it's just amazing. 

The first time I called my science teacher friend and put on Igor's voice, "It's alive!" 

What I will do is prepare another batch of wet slurry from full on bubbling mixture, very wet dough without salt, bring it to full bubbling state and spread it out on a baking tray. Allow it to dry, scrape it off, process it to powder, seal in a sandwich bag and mail it to you, if you would like to have this incredibly powerful and fast and delicious starter. Much stronger than the San Francisco starter that you can buy. Understand though that you can do the same thing at your place. 

These bits shown above have been languishing in the freezer for the last two years. I used one teaspoon and mixed it with 1/4 cup water and enough flour to make the pancake-thick slurry. Covered the small bowl and let it sit for three days to reactivate. 

It came back to life overnight showing a few bubbles on top the next day, on day two there were many more bubbles, pictured above. Day three the bubbles popped and slurry thinned. Today is day three, I added more flour to thicken the tiny batch to nearly proper dough and it doubled in size and filled its bowl to the top.

A loaf of bread can be made directly from that using only this sourdough culture. 

My intention was to use a small portion of fermented slurry to flavor regular bread using regular yeast and that is what I did tonight. But my small portion grew completely out of hand. I used only half. The rest is fed a tablespoon water and fresh flour and put in the refrigerator. The culture is so strong that cold storages does not hamper it. It will continue to rise in there. It's on! This culture will take over the world if I let it. 

Even diluted this way the sourdough the baked bread is stronger than the loaves that I buy. I don't know what the commercial places are doing but they don't come even close to my own 100% sourdough. No contest. I win. Hands down.

When I told this to the workers at Tony's Market nearby, they're all foodies there and interested in this sort of thing, they didn't believe me. I gave them a loaf and it blew their minds when they ate it. They had no idea you can make bread with the flavor unique to your own place. But you can. And if you're sufficiently careless and let the collecting go for a week, refresh the collection as you go, add water if it dries out, now and again, just try to keep it wet and stir in the dried edges, then it can be powerful as this.

A mere tablespoon is taken from that  mess of a collection and used to inoculate a fresh batch that is brought to full bubbling. And there is your new culture, made powerful by the hardship it suffered, and unique to your place. 

Sourdough rises much more slowly than commercial yeast does, that is a selected organism isolated for being particularly farty. But this Denver culture is nearly as fast. It should take about 8 hours to rise once the culture is going full blast, all the other cultures I collected other places do, but this one is much faster than all the rest. The bowl today puffed up in four hours. I was stunned that the culture is that active.

Now my entire apartment smells of baked sourdough bread. 

All this for a mortadella sandwich. An enviably delicious and simple bologna sandwich. There is nothing else like it. And I'm not exaggerating for dramatic effect either.  I diluted this bread on purpose, and I did not have the final dough ferment as serious bakers do to develop the sourdough flavor further. It's not needed. I  just got on with baking a loaf.And it's still stronger sourdough flavor than you can buy from a bakery. Any bakery. Were I to ferment a finished loaf as sourdough books tell you to do, then the bread would become too acidic. It would take the whole project too far. 

In liquid terms it would be Guinness on steroids. 


rcommal said...
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Evi L. Bloggerlady said...

Great post Chip and funny comment rcommal!

chickelit said...

Won't there be an uprising during transit?

Trooper York said...

That's very generous of you Chip.

I know there a couple of our commenters who want to offer free sour grapes so maybe you can set up a swap.

Chip Ahoy said...

This is Lem's Leaven innit.

rcommal said...
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rcommal said...
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