I almost had a disaster the other day. My cleaning lady was in the kitchen and I just caught her in time as she was about ready to rinse out a bowl that appeared to have nothing but a little white substance in the bottom. Mind you, the bowl was covered with a dish cloth, but when she looked underneath, she didn’t see anything special and was ready to clean the bowl.
It was my 44 year old sourdough starter!!!!
Let me backtrack. My husband and I and our three children lived in India from 1970-1972. At that time, it was impossible to buy good bread and it was also difficult to find yeast that was reliable. So I did some research and decided to make a sourdough starter.
It was easy enough to make. You need raw milk (I used water buffalo milk), a cup of flour, a wooden spoon and a glass or pottery container (never use metal bowls or spoons).
I mixed the milk and flour together and covered it with a dishtowel and left it at room temperature for about five days. You want it to be about 80 degrees…..not too hot and not too cold. If it starts to dry out during that time, add a little lukewarm water. Once it has a good sour aroma and starts to bubble, it is ready to use.
I always keep about two cups in the refrigerator. Most recipes will call for a cup of starter. When I want to use it, I take it from the refrigerator, let it get to room temperature and after I take the cup for my recipe, I add a cup of flour and a cup of water. I let it sit overnight until it bubbles and then I have my two cups again to put in the refrigerator.
My most recent almost disaster occurred when I realized I had not used my starter for a while. When that happens, it is apt to get black on top…….not to worry. It has happened to me many times. I pour off the liquid that has formed on the top, then take a wooden spoon and scrape off all the black. I keep cleaning my spoon each time and scraping until I get down to the white dough. In this case, I was practically at the bottom of the crock when I got to the clean starter. In fact, I only had about two tablespoons.
But that is fine, I just mix it with two tablespoons of water and two tablespoons of flour and let it sit overnight until it bubbles. Then the next day, I add four tablespoons of flour and four of water and keep this up until I have my two cups once again.
My starter was at the two tablespoon stage when Maxi thought it was just something left over in a bowl. Thank goodness I caught her in time!
Sourdough starter can be used for any bread recipe. The night before, mix a cup of starter with about 2/3rds of the flour called for then, in the morning, proceed with the recipe. You can eliminate the yeast.
I use my starter for French bread, other breads, waffles, pancakes, English muffins and, our most favorite, Sourdough Chocolate cake.
I would be devastated if I lost my starter……it has been like an old friend all these years.