While most of the country is enjoying the bounty that the end of summer brings our farmers markets are bare and our fields empty. I’ve been watching you harvest pears with a watery mouth and pangs of jealous. September in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas is our least productive time.
But our time will come.
In fact while the rest of the country prepares for winter we are planting. In another few months when the north has long digested it’s last ripe peach we will be hauling in vine ripened tomatoes. But for the moment we are hungry and stepping outdoors still feels like entering a giant oven.
The solution, of course, is to stay inside and bake in a real oven, with the air on.
Last year ago a friend introduced me to baking with sourdough. Prior to her instructions sourdough sounded like a code word for an ancient mystery food that I was sure would be impossible to use. I heard rumors that it was alive, and even worse, needed to be fed? I was intimidated.
At that time I didn’t know that until the 1950’s nearly all bread in America was baked with sourdough. The invention of commercially produced yeast caught on for it’s ability to raise bread quickly and more consistently than household starters but millions of loaves had been and are still being baked without it.
Sourdough for all practical purposes is a pot of water and flour that has become inhabited by natural bacteria and yeast. When it is mixed in with new flour and water the sourdough starts to eat and begins turning that flour into an edible treasure.
Sourdough has several advantages over conventional yeast breads. First and most important is the flavor. Fermentation (fancy work for a specific type of digestion) of the sugars in flour by the cultures in the sourdough create new and unique flavors which will vary from starter to starer. This process also reduces both the sugar level and gluten level in wheat products. While bread leavened with sourdough still does not qualify for your low carb or gluten free diet it is notably easier to digest for people with sensitivities. Sourdough also helps to break down phytic acid ( a naturally occurring substance in wheat known to make digestion difficult) and helps to release micro-nutritients making them more available for us to digest. Plus sourdough stays fresh longer and the flavor actually improves as it sits on the counter for a few days.
Sourdough has its particularities and the process of baking does take longer but it isn’t any harder than any other type of bread baking. My starter only needs to be fed once every three weeks, so I simply bake every three weeks and make three loaves of bread and stick them in the freezer. At that time I can also feed my starter extra if I want to do any other baking. So here are some ideas to get you inspired.
Top 7 favorite sour dough recipes:
- Make your own sourdough starter: It is not as hard as it might sound, or buy one here.
- Basic Sourdough Bread: This isn’t actually the recipe I use. Mine is a hand me down photo copy, but honestly this one is simpler and I might try it next time.
- Pancakes: These are the best. First of all these are the only pancakes I’ve been able to consistently cook without them burning or sticking. They are light and fluffy and don’t leave you feeling over stuffed like conventional pancakes. It is worth having a sourdough starter just for these. I use butter instead of Olive Oil as this recipe calls for and I don’t add water, but I suppose it depends on how thick your sourdough starter is. I usually make extra and stick some in the freezer.
- Biscuits: This first recipe is for a long ferment, which means you have to plan ahead but you get more of the benefits of sourdough. This recipe doesn’t include a ferment time, they are fast, easy and delicious.
- Pizza Dough: Easy and consistently good. I also make these ahead, bake them for 5 minutes or so and then freeze to use when we want to make a quick pizza.
- Crackers: Easy and always a treat.
- Pasta: Making your own pasta sounds like a gourmet food, but seriously it is only three ingredients. A pasta maker is great if you have one but you can also roll and cut rustic noodles by hand. I dry them and then store them in the back of my fridge.
Let me know what you think and send me a picture of your latest sourdough creation!
This post was inspired by my current read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.by Barbara Kingsolver as part of the Liturgy of Life Reading Group series. We would love for you to join us.
For more blogs featuring lists of 7’s check out this link up.