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Old Fashioned Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Starter

Boil three or four potatoes in a non-metallic pot until they disintegrate, and cool them to room temperature without draining. Stir vigorously to make a gruel of the softened potatoes, adding water if needed to make about 2 cups of liquid. Combine the potato gruel with 2 to 2 1/2 cups of flour and 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar in the sourdough pot and mix with a non-metallic spoon. The starter should be thick and creamy but not stiff. You can thin it with water or thicken it with flour when necessary. If a few lumps remain, the sourdough bubbles soon will break them up. If you need to use your pot for other purposes, transfer contents to a glass bowl.

Cover the pot or bowl loosely with cheesecloth and set it in a warm place to encourage fermentation. When the mixture begins to bubble after a day or two, nourish the sourdough by stirring in another half cup each of flour and water. Add another teaspoon of sugar, too, and let the pot stand again. The starter is ready to use when it is full of bubbles and gives off a good, clean sour aroma. In temperate climates this usually takes 3 to 5 days.

Maintaining Your Starter

Sourdough maintenance will soon become automatic. Leave at least a half cup of starter in your pot after measuring out what you need for a recipe. Rebuild your sourdough by adding equal amounts of flour and water to the pot, stirring in 1/2 cup of each for every cup of starter used. After a few hours in a warm place the starter will be bubbly again.

Store your replenished pot in the refrigerator, covered, but not sealed shut, and use it at least once every two weeks. For longer storage it can be frozen. Cold will make the starter sluggish. Revive it the night before it's needed by stirring in a little flour and warm water and letting the pot stand at room temperature while you sleep. Add an occasional spoonful of sugar if your starter needs perking up.

A clear liquid forming on top of your pot is natural; just stir it back in. If mould forms on the starter or if it turns colour, toss it out and begin again. Occasionally you should transfer the starter to another container while you scrub your pot or bowl.

Avoid using metal bowls or utensils when working with sourdough. Prolonged contact with acids in sourdough starter will corrode metal surfaces. Bread may be baked in metal baking pans with no ill effect, however.

Sourdough Bread
Makes 2 loaves

Sourdough breads may rise up to three times and can take 12 hours or more to make, but they’re worth the wait. You can hurry them along by adding ¼ ounce of dry yeast to the warm water.

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups lukewarm water
5 to 7 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cooking oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon soda

In a large non-metallic bowl, combine starter, water and 2-3 cups of the flour. Stir in sugar, oil and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and let the sponge rise in a warm place until doubled, about 6-8 hours.

Stir sponge down, sprinkle evenly with soda and add enough of the remaining flour to make a dough stiff enough to clean the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10-15 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, lightly oil top of dough, cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place 3-4 hours.

Punch down, turn out onto floured board and knead firmly about 10 times. Divide dough in half and form into 2 loaves. Place in greased 9" x 5" loaf pans and let dough rise until it reaches to tops of the pans, about 3 to 5 hours. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until medium brown.

Print Page Version

Sourdough information is from "Early American Life", magazine, Feb., 1984

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Copyright © 1999-2012 Robin L. Russell