Monday, May 03, 2010

My first sour dough starter adventures...hahah

I have been taking cooking classes at the Co-op the past few months. A few weekends ago I took a class on how to make Artisan breads at home.

Here is how it went...

My cooking classes have been going on for the past few months. Only a few of them were actual hands on classes, the rest were more like something from the food network. I get to watch an accomplished Chef at work, just inches away from them, smell all the wonderful smells as they cook stuff, then eat what they make. So I guess they are observational eating classes??? Hahaha

Well what ever you want to label them, I am learning a ton. I have enjoyed them so much.

I won’t go into all the cooking ADVENTURES I have had as a result of them, but will share my latest.

My last class was on how to make artisan breads at home. The instructor was sweet, bubbly and knowledgeable.(see pic below) Well to be honest it sounded more like algebra then bread baking to me, but I persevered as best as my little brain could.

Now I fancy myself a pretty good cook at times. No not on a consistent basis, but that’s my own opinion. I thought I would not have a problem understanding breads since I have made lots of quick breads before, but this one really was a stretch for me.

We began with a sour dough starter. Yup, here begins the confusion. I dare say I had the hardest time grasping the whole concept. (thank goodness I was not the only one)

How much do you keep? How do you get it? You feed it when? With what? So that was the beginning. To be honest it’s as if every other word of hers was registering, but the full string of information was missing some notes. Hahah (sounds like a bad song)

Then we get into the kneading, of which she does not do. I was happy of that. And her use of baking vessels was remarkable and I was right on top of that. Yesiree. My new cool Le Cruset dutch oven was ready to be used! (although she had a very ingenious way to use a terra cotta clay pot as a cooking vessel....I loved that)

The process is intense. The teacher even let us come up and play with a big ball of dough ourselves to learn how to SLAP IT, roll the back, tuck it in and all that. Was pretty cool too. Then you got to keep that ball of dough you just abused and take it home. THEN you got to keep a little 1 oz container of her sour dough starter. It was a new pet to now keep alive and feed every day. (visions of the TV shows of teenagers in home economics class with a plastic doll baby with a timer inside, having to keep it alive as a class project, and how a few of them KILLED the baby are running through my mind now)

The teacher, after being pummeled with my un-ending questions of I DON’T GET IT YET, gave me two containers of sour dough starter in case I killed one. (the other students only got one) Hahahahahahahaah

So home I go with a baggie of her dough ready to be baked (yes the one I played with in class), and two little plastic containers of starter with 5 pages of instructions.

As of today, I have not killed it. However after the first day, my starter developed a tanish clear liquid on top. (again see photo below) I freaked and thought it was dough bleeding - or dough dying. I went straight to the internet and typed in “sour dough starter help”. Then proceeded to read that if you do not feed your starter sufficient amounts of flour and water on a regular basis, its stops growing and creates this liquid that has a slight alcohol smell. I also find out they call it, affectionately, HOOCH. Yup you read it right, Hooch.

So I run furiously to now FEED AND WATER my starter and now it’s happy. My house is warm so it likes to be fed often. It bubbles and gurgles and is very happy. No I have not named it yet.

Now out of the fear of killing it, I created several clones of my starter. I have two of them on my counter and two in the frig and one in the freezer. I mean if it dies your SOL! However I did find out I can mail order it from San Fransisco. How did the pioneer woman do this stuff back then????

Oh and yes I made some bread! THAT TOOK TWO DAYS….and the first loaf was pretty burnt. (more like a hard hockey puck) The second loaf was kinda flat, sour and dense. The third loaf was not too bad actually! In fact it was rather remarkable in the scheme of bread baking, for me anyways!

Some day, we will be able to take pictures and add a “scratch-n-sniff” feature as easily as can be…I want to be around when that technology is available. I mean just think of the stinky possibilities! ~ p.hawkins

I have to say I had a BLAST! The teacher, who was extremely knowledgable about cooking and bread in general was fantastic! Here she is with HER bread that we were going to eat while she continued to teach.

My sour dough starter with the hooch on it. (yes that scared me)

Here is the bread I did finally make myself. They look pretty good huh?

My first loaf. well this was the teachers loaf. I didnt know I was supposed to tuck the parchment paper inside the dutch oven!

This was the first loaf. My oven runs hotter than usual I found out and the bottom burnt. But that was my first hard hockey puck. It does get better, I promise.

Here is my first loaf that I made all the dough myself and baked myself. A little dence but oh so good!

I still have my starter going hopefully I shall make more bread soon! Maybe this weekend. Will see.

p. hawkins