One of my latest kitchen experiments has been baking with a sourdough starter. I have been baking all our breads, pizza doughs, pastries, cookies, cakes, etc from scratch now for over 2 years. One of the many ways in which I vote for better food with my money daily. Not only is baking from scratch cheaper than buying, but most recipes whether bread, cake, or pretzels, three of the recipes I am going to share with you today, have under 10, and more often, under 5 ingredients, no preservatives, corn syrup, or weird chemicals. I challenge you to find that at your grocery store!
I had also heard that many people with gluten sensitivity (not Celiac) did better eating baked goods made from true fermented sourdough than baked goods leavened more commonly with yeast. I waited until our big move to experiment with sourdough, as once you have a starter, you have to feed and maintain it to keep it healthy and alive. So now, besides 2 dogs, a cat, 10 chickens, kefir – both dairy and water, kombucha, and yogurt, I have added sourdough culture to my feeding schedule! I can’t say with certainty if it is the sourdough or the spelt flour I have switched to that allows me to enjoy breads and the like without feeling like I have a hangover the next day. I still eat all of these things sparingly, although my dear husband, who is a major carb addict, seems to be enjoying his daily bread without any side affects. It took eating this kind of bread, for him to realize that he was having a bit of a problem with the other kinds.
Anyway, sourdough is extremely versatile, and not all sourdough starters are created equal. You can try to capture your own, or you can purchase one. I decided to start by purchasing one from Cultures for Health. Several weeks later, I got another one from Erik a friend who sells hand roasted coffee at our local farmers market. He traded me sourdough starter from Ischia, Italy and kombucha for some Viili culture. I think I got the better deal.
I started experimenting by baking bread from the book Baking with Sourdough by Sara Pitzer, from Storey Publishing and then tweaked it a bit, to make it more to our liking. After I figured that out, I started playing around with various herbed breads, which is how I came up with the Za’atar Spice Bread Ring.
After I had that under my belt, or better yet, in my stomach, I wanted to try something I had never heard of – Sourdough Chocolate Cake, from the same book, which I also tweaked. This cake was really fantastic and probably one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever had. We are not big cake eaters in this house, so I can affirm that it froze well, and also lasted in the fridge for about 2 weeks. I am sure you could have a lot of fun with this recipe, including making various kinds of icing. Roberto liked spreading nutella on his, and I enjoyed mine plain or sometimes with a schmear of almond butter.
Most recently I tried making Sourdough Pretzels, all the same ingredients (except honey in place of sugar) but tweaked the method a little bit to allow all the flour to ferment. The pretzels turned out being more like pretzel shaped bread, than actual pretzels. I got a lot of helpful suggestions on facebook like adding sparkling water or lemon juice for better rising. So I think I will have to try again. Although Roberto likes them, since he can grab one, kind of like a roll to have with meals, without needing to slice anything.
I have continued on experimenting with making sourdough spelt pizza dough, buckwheat pancakes and crepes, as well as muffins. The pizza dough, pancakes and crepes have become staples in our house (look for these recipes soon), while the muffins still need some work. But the wonderful thing is, each week I have to feed my starter, which means at least once a week I should bake something and so I am trying to keep creative. I have been yeast baking free for almost 3 months! I definitely encourage you
to try your hand at it too. If you would like to try and catch your own starter, my blogging buddy Michelle over at Big Black Dog has a great post about it!
I am going to share THREE recipes with you today. For one, I want to show you just how diverse sourdough is – it is not just for bread! And also because my mom is coming to visit for a few weeks, and my posting rate may be a bit slower these next few weeks – so I wanted to keep you busy while I on vacation!
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