Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cellular Respiration-or, if you prefer, The Makings of Really Good Bread.

This post comes a little later than I had expected, but I wanted to be sure that I got it right.  This being my first recipe post, and me being a bread lover, it seemed most appropriate to share a bread recipe.  A gluten, dairy and egg-free sourdough bread recipe, to be precise. 

Ain't she a beaut?
What's there left for it to be made of, you might ask?  (Or, at least, that's what one of my friends asked me via Facebook as I documented my work.)  Well, not much, and therein lies the magic of this recipe; it can be as simple or as complex as you please.
Before I get into the details, though, it is important to note that I did not develop this recipe entirely on my own.  Rather, I offer a variation of the sourdough bread recipe from the Art of Gluten-Free Baking, along with additional tips and tricks that I have discovered along the way.  Now, on to the recipe sharing!
The first thing to do is grow a sourdough starter.  Sourdough bread, like most other breads, is leavened by yeast.  Unlike most other breads, however, sourdough utilizes wild yeasts.  A sourdough starter is, figuratively speaking, the net with which one may catch wild yeasts from the air.
Now, here's where the simple part comes in: a sourdough starter can be made with just flour and water--about one cup of each should do.  It is important to use filtered water, since tap water often contains chemicals like chlorine, added to keep out micro-flora like our yeast friends.  As far as the flour goes, yeast seem to like fattier, more protein-filled flours the best, but any type will work as long as it contains starch.  I like to mix a big bag of 2 parts navy bean flour, 1 part teff flour and 1 part brown rice flour, as per Nourishing Foodways' flour blend, and use that to feed my yeast.
Mix your flour and water together in a wide-mouthed jar or a pot, and let it sit on your counter.  You'll want to cover it with a loose-fitting lid or a clean dishtowel; the idea is to attract wild yeast while keeping any bugs out.  I also added a fourth cup or so of honey into mine, to further entice the little yeasties, but it isn't necessary.
Continue to feed the starter with a one cup each of water and flour, once or twice a day as you think of it.  Within a few days, you'll notice bubbles pucker and pop when you stir the starter.  It will begin to smell rather like sour cream, and the air in the jar/pot will feel warm.  Congradulations!  This evidence of cellular respiration signifies the maturity of your sourdough starter!  In other words, you are ready to begin baking.
You can't really see the bubbles in this picture, but you'll notice them when you stir your starter.
When you use your sourdough starter, you'll want to make sure there is always a little bit left so that you won't have to go through all the trouble of attracting yeast every time you want bread.  At this stage, don't feel too bad if you forget to feed the starter for a day or two at a time.  It should be pretty stable, especially if you feed it whole grain or otherwise oily and protein-y flours.  If you know that you won't be able to feed it for a length of time, or if you do not wish to bake with it for a length of time, you can store it in the refridgerator and feed it a minimum of once a week.
Seeing as how this post has already become quite lengthy, I will walk through the rest of this recipe in my next post, which I will publish posthaste!  Until then, by all means, waste no time in starting your own sourdough starter.
Linked to: Sunday School 3/3/13 at Butter Believer, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday 3/5/13 at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, and Party Wave Wednesday 3/6/13 at Holistic Squid