Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A Sourdough Story Of Sweet Friendship During Covid

I'm back!  Sorry for my prolonged absence but I've been suffering from lack of motivation lately.  Is anyone else having the same problem?  I'm also trying to spend as much time outdoors as I can as it  keeps me from thinking about the problems facing us now.  My priorities are being with our small, immediate family, working in my garden, golfing with my husband and baking when it's raining.

Speaking of baking, I wanted to tell you about a wonderful and very kind baking story that happening during the time we were in lock-down this past spring.  I've met so many wonderful bloggers over the years and one of them is Kitty from Kitty's Kozy Kitchen. We share a loving of baking and being with our grandchildren. Kitty loves tea cups and having tea parties with her granddaughters! About 20 years ago, Kitty was given a live sourdough starter from someone she knew who had brought it back from Arkansas in a cooler.  It was called a Civil War Starter. Kitty has kept it alive all these years and continues to use it to this day. 

At some point, Kitty mentioned her starter in one of her blog posts.  I asked her if she would consider sharing her starter with me.  She said she would be happy to share it but she didn't think a live starter would survive being sent from Texas to Wisconsin. I remembered reading about a way to save sourdough starters for future use by drying it out and found a great tutorial on how to do it at King Arthur Baking Company's website.  I asked Kitty if she would be interested in trying it.  Of course, she did and, within a very short time, I received Kitty's dried starter!  When I opened the zipper bag of dried starter, it smelled so fresh and good!

The same King Arthur tutorial on how to dry the starter also gave instructions on how to revive the dried starter and soon I was on my way into the world of COVID sourdough bread baking (along with countless other bakers in the world who weren't able to find dried yeast on the grocery shelves for so long).

Kitty's starter and recipe from Arkansas were different from the usual starters you might find online in that none of the starter is ever discarded.  After feeding, it is divided in half.  One half to use for baking bread and the other half returns to the refrigerator for next time.  It's also different in that sugar is added to maintain the starter and in the bread recipe.

Here is Kitty's sourdough starter after a feeding.  As you can see, it makes a lot of starter! At it's peak, it contains five to six full cups of starter. I have to tell that you Kitty was so patient with me because I had so many questions about the starter and recipe. ♥  She is such a kind person!

These were the first loaves I made with Kitty's starter!  The starter makes three full-size loaves of bread. If you look closely, you can see that I added walnuts and cranberries to the loaf in the center.  All were delicious and smelled and tasted wonderful!

I was able to bake 2 or 3 times more times with this beautiful starter and, then, I decided to try to decrease the amount of starter.  I started by trying to decrease the recipe by one-third. I didn't want to make so many loaves at one time as it's just my husband and I at home and I was going through a lot of flour.

That was when things started to go wrong.  The starter seemed okay at first.  The first rise would be fine but after the loaves were formed they did not rise very well.  I tried twice to revive the starter but it still didn't do well and I had two baking failures.  When I performed the starter 'float' test, it wasn't floating.  Perhaps this starter likes it better in the south :)

Back to square one!  I did have more of Kitty's dried starter so I started over from scratch.  This time, I decided feed the starter in the conventional way and in the proportions of the King Arthur starter instructions.  I decided to keep some with a much smaller amount of added sugar, and created another starter without any sugar at all as an experiment.

The first bread I made with my newly revived starter from Kitty was this whole wheat loaf from, who else, King Arthur.  I had asked a friend's daughter who bakes a lot of sourdough bread for her family what recipe she was using and she pointed me to this one. It is delicious too! And now, my new "Kitty" starter makes one loaf, which is perfect for us.  

"Kitty" on the left has no sugar.  "Kitty" on the right has just 1 tablespoon of added sugar when it's fed. The one with the sugar in it seems to perform slightly better than the one without the sugar.  Perhaps that's because it was used to having sugar in it for 20 years!

Now that I have a more conventional starter made from Kitty's original starter,  I now also have the flexibility to use the discard when I feed it.  There are some great recipes that use discarded sourdough starter!

The first thing I tried were popovers.  Oh my, these are so good!  A little butter and preserves on a Sunday morning make having discard so appreciated. I've made Sourdough Parmesan Popovers...

 and plain Sourdough Popovers. 

The plain popovers are so delicious with a little butter and preserves and make a special weekend breakfast treat. 

The other recipe I've made with the discard is this Sourdough Coffee Cake. Both my husband and I loved it!

Rather than bake it in a square pan as the recipe indicates, I decided to make 4 mini loaves so that I keep one out and put the rest in the freezer.  The crumble topping is delicious.  The coffee cake would be wonderful with homemade blueberry sauce.  Another great weekend treat!  There are many more sourdough discard recipes that I look forward to trying.  

So, my adventure in sourdough baking continues, thanks, in whole, to the kindness of Kitty going out of her way to dry her starter and send it to me.  My starters are doing very well in their new format and I feel confident I can keep Kitty's Civil War Starter alive and well for a very long time to come!  

The timing with the Pandemic stay-at-home order could not have been better as we couldn't see our family and friends and, even now, we are still are not able to resume our former social activities.  It really does help the mind and soul to be able to have fun in the kitchen creating with Kitty's sourdough starter.   

The recipe for the Whole Wheat Bread and links to the sourdough discard popovers and coffee cake below.  

If you have any questions, or would enjoy receiving a packet of Kitty's starter, please let me know, as I still have 5 vacuum-sealed packets to share.  I prefer to ship within the United States due to shipping costs.  I would also be happy to try drying some of my current starter for anyone who would like to try sourdough baking.  Happy Baking!

Click on links to find recipes for Sourdough Popovers and  Sourdough Coffee Cake 

Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Printable Recipe with my Tips and Edits

Makes 1 loaf

1 cup (227g) fed and risen sourdough starter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (255g) lukewarm water
2 cups (226g) Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup (113g) AP Flour
2 tablespoons (14g) honey
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons (25g) neutral vegetable oil (I like using Avocado oil)

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients, and mix until a loose dough forms.

Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes. Turn out of a lightly floured surface and knead until fairly smooth.  It should be slightly sticky. Depending on how wet your starter is, or the humidity in your kitchen, you may need to add 1/3-1/2 cup more flour.  Only add enough flour to be able to form a cohesive, somewhat sticky ball of dough.   

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with a tea towel, and let it rise until almost doubled, about 60 minutes or so. I like to turn my oven on to preheat for one minute, and then turn the oven off. This will make a warm but not too hot environment perfect for the dough to rise. Place the bowl inside the oven. It usually only takes 60 minutes for my dough to double in size with this method.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold the dough onto itself pulling from the outside and folding toward the center.  Do this several times. Turn it over and shape it into an 8" log, and place it in a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.  I use an oven safe glass loaf pan

Cover the loaf with a tea towel and let it rise until it has risen about 1" over the rim of the pan, (using the 1 minute preheated oven tip above, for about 60 minutes). Towards the end of the rising time, carefully take the loaf out of the oven without jarring it,  and preheat the oven to 350°F

Bake the bread for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and a digital thermometer inserted into the center registers 205°F to 210°F.

Remove the bread from the oven.  Let it rest in the for about 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool. I have taken the bread out of the baking pan and placed it back in the oven for about 5 minutes to get more browning on the sides and bottom.