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Biscuits and gravy were always a favorite breakfast at Mitchell Hall during my Air Force Academy days (maybe during Dad’s as well?).  I made this version of the southern breakfast classic as part of a Mother’s day breakfast, and it was much better than the Mitchell Hall version.  Okay, that’s not saying too much, but this really was good.  Maybe not the most healthful meal we’ve had, but it was good for the soul if not the arteries (sorry I didn’t take any pictures). Read the rest of this entry »

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Sorry for the lack of pictures.  We’re having camera problems that we’ll hopefully resolve soon.

Aubrey, who always turned up her nose at biscuits in the past, has been requesting them after trying some at a friend’s house recently.  Since my sourdough starter was feeling neglected, I thought I’d look for a sourdough biscuit recipe and try making some.  I found a recipe that was simple and had good-looking pictures (here), and made my own modifications, increasing the amount of starter (mostly because I decided to halve the recipe after I prepared the starter), and substituting milk for the water and melted butter for the oil.  The original recipe made 12-15, but I cut in half to get an amount we would eat in one sitting, since biscuits are best warm out of the oven.

These turned out really good!  They were soft and light, almost as much like a dinner roll as a trasitional biscuit, with a really nice (but not too strong) flavor from the sourdough.  These were easy to make, delicious, and actually healthy (or at least not too unhealthy).  They are mostly just flour and water/milk, no sugar, and only a tablespoon of butter, less than your typical biscuit.  So yeah, we’ll be making these again. Read the rest of this entry »

This was our first try at sourdough bread with our new starter.  The recipe is based on the Vermont Sourdough formula from Jeffrey Hamelman’s book, Bread, by way of this blog post on the Wild Yeast Blog.  I’m pretty sure I forgot to add the salt after the autolyze period (something didn’t taste quite right too me, and I didn’t figure it out until later).  Everybody loved it anyway, and I’m sure it will be even better next time.  I’ll refer you to the link above for the recipe, but hereare a couple of notes from our experience:

  • When you first mix together the dough, it will seem very dry.  I added a bit of extra water at this point, but that was a mistake.  Once the dough autolyzed and the water fully absorbed, it was actually a very wet dough (perhaps too wet with the extra water I added.)  It was the smoothest, stretchiest, most wonderful feeling dough I’ve ever worked with.
  • The recipe calles for rye flour, which I substituted with whole wheat flour, since that’s what we had.
  • Make sure you steam the oven when you bake it (she has a link to more detailed instructions).  This is critical in order for the bread to rise well in the oven and to develop good color and a crisp crust.

Loaves proofing before baking

Here are the kids enjoying the sourdough bread with Amie’s fresh blackberry jam.  Yum!

Jeremy's House of Pancakes

This is a great way to use your sourdough starter if you’ve tried raising one.  I think we all agreed these were the best pancakes we’d ever made.  They are very light and airy, with all the bubbles produce by the wild yeast, and the flavor was fantastic.  The tanginess of the sourdough and the maple syrup used for sweetening pair very nicely.  If you have a starter going, just let it build up for a day or so before you make these (rather than discarding excess starter), so that you have enough to make these.  Makes 14 pancakes.

You can see how bubbly and light the batter is

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of ripe sourdough starter (feed it the night before so that it’s ready in the morning)
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 2 T. oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1.2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Wisk it all together, cook them on a hot griddle, and serve hot with butter, syrup, jam, or whatever you like.  Then throw away your box of Bisquick 🙂

Look at those lovely bubbles!

Here’s a fun microbiology experiment you can do at home: cultivate wild yeast and a certain bacteria called lactobacillus in a culture of flour and water.  Once you have a healthy colony of these little buggers, you can use them to make all sorts of great stuff.  The yeast eat the flour and fart out little bubbles of gas, which cause bread to rise.  Meanwhile, the lactobacilli eat the sugars in the flour and convert them into lactic acid, which provides that tangy sourdough flavor.  The process we followed to raise the starter can be found here

The basic idea is to mix together equal parts (by weight) of flour and water, and let it sit on your counter.  You have to feed it more flour and water periodically so that the yeast have enough to eat, which means you’ll need to discard (or make something with!) some your starter at each feeding, so that you don’t accumulate too much.  You’ll need to just discard the excess at first, until you have a stable, usable starter.  This took about 10 days for me. 

Early in the process you may get a rise from a type of bacteria called leuconostoc, which is not harmful, but undesirable (and stinky).  This will go away after a day or two as the good yeast and bacteria grow to dominate and crowd out everything else.  If your experience is like mine, you’ll see initial activity (bubbles and rising) and stinkiness from the bad bacteria, which will die out and give way to a dead period where nothing seems to be happening.  If you stick with it, however, your starter will come to life with a pleasantly sour aroma (Isaac says it smells like bread), bubbling and rising until double within 8 hours of feeding.  At this point you have a healthy, stable starter that you can use to make bread and other things with.  You’ll want to use the starter when it is “ripe” or “mature”, that is, at full rise between 8 and 12 hours after feeding. 

The starter requires consistent care and feeding, like a pet (these are living creatures you’re raising, after all).  If you are going to use it often enough, you can keep it on your counter and feed it every 12 hours.  Otherwise, you can keep it in the fridge for up a week before pulling it out and feeding it again (leave it out for 8-12 hours until doubled before putting it back in the fridge).  You will need to give it one or two 12-hr feeding cycles at room temperature before it’s ready to use again for baking.

Sourdough English Muffins

The first thing we tried making were Sourdough English Muffins, following this recipe.  You cook these on a griddle, like pancakes.  We had some trouble cooking them all the way through, and they came out a bit dense and chewy.  I saw some people suggest baking them for another 5 minutes or so in a 350F oven to ensure that they bake all the way through, which should help.  Nevertheless, they had a wonderful flavor, and the chewiness was pleasant, albeit different than what you expect from an english muffin.  Aubrey especially loved them.  We’ll give them a few more tries and post a recipe once we’ve got it perfected.