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.
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.
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.