Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ~ CK Chesterton

Howdy Yall! It's time to lick your lips and drool as we discuss yummy vittles and Texas testaments to taste!

I hope you enjoy your time with us. Please be sure to drop by and leave a message or a hello. We want to know how to better serve you!

~Blue Zebra

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Summer of Sourdough

I tend to catalog the passing of time by key events that happen within each year. Just as 1969 is remembered as the "Summer of Love" to so many American baby boomers, 2007 will be remembered by me as the "Summer of Sourdough." I gave birth to a one ounce jar of odorific yeasty joy about two months ago after determining that I would no longer be held hostage by my fear of yeast and breadmaking in general. Armed with a set of tongs, a clothespin for my nose and a pair of safety goggles I began my intrepid experimentation with sourdough starters.

I believed with enough perseverance and patience (neither of which is my strong suit), I could breathe life into inanimate flour and water. And I did! Along the way however, my starter, nicknamed Sir Stinksalot went through many phases before he became a bonifide sourdough levain. Some of his nick names have included such heralded titles like General Chaos, Mister Meaner and just general, all around, "Stinky" for short.

I am no authority on sourdough and am certainly not an acclaimed baker, by any means. I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of cook and in my experience that type of attitude rarely bodes well for baking. Baking is an exact science as much as an art. Working with yeast is even more of an artful science and when you get to the subset of natural levains or natural yeasts like sourdough, the bar rises exponentially and almost exists in a completely alternate world. I am happy to say, however, that with the exception of several unintended "door stops" and "bricks" and a few over-zealous toxic spills resulting from overly-risen preferments onto innocent counter tops, there have been very few casualties in this combat zone I call "The Sourdough Wars." Mostly we've just had many loaves of mediocrity and the biggest reward thus far is being able to make the claim that I am baking bread that only costs about $0.25/loaf. Compared to $3.00/loaf - that's gotta be worth somethin', right?

B usually knows when to shut up and take one for the team. I think it's a certain "get off of my cloud" look I wear that warns him I might possibly be in the throws of channeling Elle May Clampitt or something. He says very little about uber-dense bread and brickets loosely referred to as biscuits. He is a good sport. And clearly he loves my attempts at penny-pinching. They are usually as successful as my zany and impractical get-rich-quick schemes and ideas for new businesses...um, which isn't "very!"

I was particularly pleased (not to mention blown away) this morning to have succeeded so spectacularly with the English Muffins pictured above. I got this recipe from a friend of mine, Katie, who participates at another site and she makes wonderful bread or at least, she makes wonderful pictures of bread! Tending to trust her accounts as accurate, I'm thinking if this recipe is any judge, she DOES make excellent bread.

The texture of the crumb is moist and light at the same time - unexpected, really. They have enough body to act as a great "delivery system" for yummy things like egg, bacon and cheese while still retaining a delicacy you just don't find in a store bought English muffin. I made homemade egg mcmuffins for breakfast and they tasted soooo awesome! My McMom would be proud. Mickey D eat your McHeart out! Here's Katie's recipe:

Katie's Sourdough English Muffins
Makes about 12

1/2 C starter (mine is a 100% hydration "white starter" from all-purpose flour)
1 C milk
2-3/4 C AP flour
1 TBSP sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
Semolina or cornmeal, for dusting

Combine starter, 2 C of flour and milk in a large bowl. Stir to combine, cover with plastic wrap, and leave out for 8 hours or overnight. After the overnight rest, add remaining flour, sugar, salt and baking soda and mix well. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 4-5 minutes. Roll out to 3/4" and cut with a biscuit cutter into rounds. You can re-roll the scraps, but you may need to let the dough rest before cutting more muffins from them. Place muffins on a piece of parchment dusted with semolina and let rest for 45 minutes. Spray griddle or skillet lightly with spray oil. Heat griddle to medium and cook muffins for about 6-8 minutes on each side, or until browned on the top and bottom and cooked through. These have great griddle spring and rise quite a bit during the "baking". Split with a fork and enjoy with your favorite topping! I don't even toast them if I want to eat them right off the griddle--they don't have that raw taste that store bought English muffins have.

Blue Zebra NOTE: I rolled my muffins out to 1/2" and set them on a parchment paper lined pan that had been sprinkled with cornmeal. Let them rise to a little less than double in about 45 minutes to an hour. The recipe made 12, as promised. I used a cast iron skillet to cook them. They fit 3 to a pan and I'm able to control the cooking better than I can in stainless or on the cast iron griddle. I don't use any oil, just the age-worn "seasoning" that remains on the cast iron. I cook them over medium to med-low for about 2-3 minutes per side. You have to have the heat strong enough for a good rise but low enough so they don't burn on the bottoms. Once done, remove them and place on a cooling rack. When all 12 are finished, I pop the rack directly onto my baking stone in a pre-heated 350 degree oven and finish cooking them for 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool. Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' from the oven, right Pillsbury Doughboy? Enjoy!
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