11.29.2012 The Beast in the Bowl

The cold weather is upon us and my appetite has shifted from BLT’s to soups. Thick, hearty soups that warm the soul. And with my soup, I want a hearty bread that will sop up the juice without disintegrating. Such breads are best made with a biga, otherwise known as a sourdough starter. About three weeks ago, I mixed up the beginnings of a biga using a recipe in a bread magazine I picked up a while back. It used potato water, potato water being a couple of boiled potatoes mashed into a puree and thickened with flour. Despite following the directions precisely, my starter did what potatoes do – it turned gray. It wasn’t mold, just oxidation and totally unappealing.

Ewww! Sourdough is not supposed to look like that!

This little setback lead me to sourdoughhome.com and now I am using their instructions for the care and feeding of a starter. (Since most of my bread books are still in storage in the ga-barn.) Sourdoughhome.com says it takes 30-90 days to get a stable starter established. I think I am just about there.

Clockwise from top left: Sourdough Rye started yesterday for tonight’s dinner, Sourdough sponge for tomorrow’s loaf; and the biga itself – fed and bubbling nicely only minutes after its feeding..

To get there, I now have this bowl on my counter and it is home to my new beast. Like the other beasts on the farm, I have to feed this one every day. (Technically, I should be feeding it twice a day, but that’s a lot of flour and while we can eat a lot of bread, we can’t eat that much. Besides, it’s been cool enough in the house that fermenting things takes a bit longer than normal.) Each morning, I toss in some water and some flour. By evening, it’s doubled in size.
To keep it a manageable size, I made a few things with the starter while it was immature and wasn’t smelling quite right.  I didn’t like them much. The flavor was off. But yesterday, the aroma was just as it should be and I mixed up a sourdough rye that ripened overnight and baked up rather well today.  It was bold and wonderful.

As long as I keep feeding my beast in the bowl, it’ll only get better from here.


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