Sunday, July 18, 2010

Maintaining a sourdough starter...

is easier than one thinks. Once you have an established sourdough starter, all you have to do is feed it regularly. Depending on how often you want to bake, you want to 'refresh' it a day before you plan to bake. To refresh a starter, add in equal parts flour and water to your starter. Mix it well, it should have the consistency of thick pancake batter.

Where should one store a sourdough starter?

If you plan on baking fresh bread daily, you can just leave your starter on your counter. I would recommend a plastic container with a lid. You take out what you need for baking, and 'refresh' with equal parts flour and water, stir well and cover. It will be ready for your next day's baking.

For those who are weekend bakers like myself, I store my starters, yes, I have more than one, in the refrigerator. By storing the starter in the refrigerator, it stays fairly dormant, and need only to be 'refresh' once a week. A sourdough starter is pretty resilient, only way you can really kill it is by heat or by soapy residual left on your container or mixing spoon. I use a wooden spoon that is hand washed with no soap and only for the purpose of stirring my sourdough starters. Another tip is to leave wood utensils out of the dishwasher, wood acts like a sponge and tend to soak up all the soapy detergents in your dishwasher.

If you neglect your sourdough starter, when you open up your container, it will have a layer of watery gray liquid that smells like alcohol. It's still alive, it just need to be refresh. So simply pour out the watery liquid, throw away half of your starter and refresh it by adding in equal parts flour and water. It should wake it back up and you will be able to bake the next day.

How do I know if a starter has gone bad?

Your starter should have a clean, sweet smell, if it smells like mold or there is green and black stuff growing in it, throw it out. Somehow, a bad strain of yeast got into your starter and it is no longer fit for making bread.

Is bread the only baked item we can make with a sourdough starter?
The answer is no, there is so many possibilities, it is only what you limit your self to. I found a wonderful Sourdough Chocolate Cake recipe from King Arthur flour, you would not believe it was made with a cup of sourdough starter in it.
From Sourdough Chocolate Cake

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

It has been a busy baking weekend, we made 2 different cake recipes for a 4th of July BBQ party. Our two cake recipes came from 2 different sites, King Arthur Flour and California Olive Ranch. Both have excellent websites filled with delicious recipes for cooking and baking with their products.

The first cake we made was a Yogurt cake recipe from the California Olive Ranch website. This was my first attempt at making both cakes, the recipe called for a full fat yogurt, we used a Greek Style yogurt flavored with honey and strawberries from The Greek Gods. The honey and strawberries yogurt complimented the lemon zest well, so if you decide to follow the recipe on their website, it will also go well with the strawberries.

For the Sourdough Chocolate Cake Recipe, the complete recipe with directions and photos is available on the King Arthur Flour website. I did not used their recipe for making the icing, our family enjoys a more decadent indulgence in dark chocolate ganache rather than a sugary icing made with powdered sugar. Instead of baking it in a sheet pan, we baked ours in a bundt cake pan. Not much was changed from the original recipes aside from reducing a 1/4 cup of sugar from each cake recipe, we ended up with 2 delicious cakes that our family enjoyed.

Olive Oil Yogurt Cake

* 3/4 cup sugar
* zest of 1 large lemon
* 1 1/2 cup cake flour
* 2 tsp baking powder
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 3 eggs
* 3/4 cup full-fat yogurt (Greek style yogurt)
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 1/2 cup Light Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350F degrees, reduce to 325F after cake is put into oven.

For the cake:

1. Lightly oil the sides of a 10" round pan with olive oil and place a parchment paper circle at the bottom of the pan.
2. Zest the lemon into the sugar. Use a fork or your fingers to rub the sugar and zest together to release the oils and fragrance into the sugar.
3. Whisk together the eggs, zested sugar, yogurt and vanilla.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the egg mixture and stir. When the mixture looks fairly well blended, add the oil and stir to fully incorporate.
5. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, test with a toothpick or skewer, it should come out clean.
6. Cool the cake on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes and invert out of the pan. Remove the parchment and let cake cool on rack completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight if you like.

Mango Mousse and sliced mangoes with fresh berries for topping
* 1 cup heavy whipping cream
* 1 Tbsp sugar
* 1/4 cup full-fat yogurt (Greek style yogurt) (Honey and Strawberry flavor)
* 1/4 cup Mango puree
* 2 large ripe mangoes
* 1 cup fresh raspberries
* 1/2 cup blueberries


1. Peel and slice mangoes. With a knife cut as close to the pit on both sides as possible. Set the 4 panels aside to be sliced later.

2. Trim off the remainder of the flesh from the mangoes and put in a blender or a bowl to be pureed.
3. Pour the heavy whipping cream into a chilled bowl and whip until foamy, add in sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Fold mango mixture and yogurt into whipped cream.
4. Spread 1/2 of the mixture on top of the cooled cake and put the remainder in a piping bag fitted with a large star piping tip. Chill in refrigerator.
5. Chill cake in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
6. Decorate cake with sliced mangoes and berries. Pipe the cream mixture to decorate the cake.
7. Chill cake in refrigerator for 30 minutes, slice and serve.

Happy baking!