More than 20 years ago my dad decided to start sourdough. I'm not entirely sure why he decided this other than he and my mom have always been interested in 'traditional' cooking. So Dad did a bunch of research and began his starter. And we've been enjoying it ever since. The original batch has had children and grandchildren - some lives at Bead Lake in NE Washington, some in Vancouver WA, some in Santa Fe NM and of course we have some here in Battle Ground. The starter gets used in pancakes, bread, biscuits and pizza crust (yep, pizza crust - recipe to follow).
Now, I know through doing some online research that there are real sourdough snobs out there. To them only pure sourdough is real sourdough. I'm not one of those people. To me sourdough is just another form of preserving food. So, if you are a sourdough snob, you shouldn't keep reading - you will be offended. If you're not that into the purity of sourdough, carry on.
Sourdough is a living culture that you use to create breads. You have to keep your sourdough alive so it will rise - this living thing is called 'starter.' Starter is really easy to make and once you have it, if you keep it healthy, you'll have it forever (actually I don't know if 'forever' is accurate but I know for a fact it will last more than 20 years). All you need to make starter is flour, warm water and yeast (I warned you snobs - if you kept reading even after being warned, I am actually suggesting you use commercial yeast in the starter). In glass bowl, mix one cup unbleached flour with one cup warm water and one teaspoon yeast. Cover loosely with a dish towel, and leave in a warm place for a few days until it's bubbly and smells sour. If it's not getting all bubbly (see picture for what it should look like), then discard one-half the mixture, add 1/2 cup four, 1/2 cup warm water and 1/2 teaspoon yeast - cover and leave for a couple more days. When you get a nice starter going, put it in a mason jar, set the lid on (don't screw down) and put in the fridge. After 2 days the yeast will go dormant and you can screw the lid on. That's it.
Every two or three weeks you need to feed your starter - it's a living culture after all. The best way to feed it is to use it. The night before you want to make something, scoop the starter (and hootch that has formed on the top) into a glass bowl. Add 2 cup unbleached flour, 2 cup warm water and 1-2 tablespoon sugar (snobs beware, I just said sugar). Mix thoroughly, cover loosely with a towel and leave in a warm spot over night. Next day, you should have a bubbly, smelly, yeasty glop called "sponge" - yummmm! Now, put a cup or so of the sponge back in the mason jar. This is your starter for next time. With the rest of the sponge, you are ready to make breads. I love pancakes and bread from the bread machine, but the most unique is pizza crust, which my brother and his wife came up with. Here is the recipe:
By Mike and Joy Correll
makes 2 pizza
Make a sponge in a glass bowl by adding to your starter 3 cups flour, 2 cups warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let sponge rise for 8 hours (Joy says in Santa Fe it only takes 4-6 hours, but up here in the Pacific NW it takes longer). When the sponge is ready, put 1 cup of it back into the mason jar - this is a very important step, if you forget then you have to make starter again.
To the remainder add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and stir thoroughly. In a separate bowl mix together 1 cup flour, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 heaping teaspoon salt and 1 heaping tablespoon sugar. Mix dry ingredients together and then add to the sponge. Add more flour (usually 2 to 3 cups) until you reach a doughy consistency that isn't sticking to the sides of the bowl anymore. Split the dough into two balls. Use olive oil to grease your pizza stones. Place dough on stone and roll out until it overlaps the edge of the stone by about an inch or so (you may have to sprinkle some flour onto the dough to keep it from sticking to the roller). Hint - rotate pizza stone while rolling the dough. The crust should be about 1/4 inch (or less) thick because it will rise a lot during baking. Add toppings, whatever you like. Bake for approx. 30 to 45 min. at 350 or 375 F depending upon how crispy you like it. Viola-sourdough pizza!